Several months ago, I wrote about how writing is rhythm. Not long after that my website froze – I didn’t post anything for a while. Great way to make an argument, uh? My digital disappearance doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing though. On the contrary. I am incredibly proud to present to you… MY BOOK! Yes, I wrote a book! It’s titled The Taste of Home. Heritage and Food in Flanders between 1945 and 2000 (original: De Smaak van thuis. Erfgoed en voeding in Vlaanderen tussen 1945 en 2000) and you can read more about it at the end of this post.
It all started in 2013 after my Ph.D. defense. My supervisor, Peter Scholliers, advised me that if I wanted to build a strong academic CV, I needed to contact a publisher and turn my dissertation into a book within the next two years. But I didn’t feel like revising my Ph.D. just yet. Those final writing months had been very draining; I didn’t feel inspired at all to pick up my manuscript and rewrite it for an audience that wasn’t a Ph.D. commission. At the time, I needed a break from my doctoral research.
Two years after my defense, it was time. I reread my manuscript and drafted a revision plan. I wanted to turn a voluminous dissertation of 500+ pages into a concise book of about 200 pages. And I needed a publisher who liked my idea. I wrote a book proposal and sent it to three different publishers in Belgium. The first two liked the idea but didn’t think the endeavor would be lucrative – according to them the target market was too narrow. The third one almost immediately accepted my proposal and set up a collaboration.
In September 2016, my publisher submitted my revised manuscript to Belgium’s University Foundation (UF) that would have it peer reviewed. In case of a positive review, the UF would also provide funding to cover (part of) the publication costs. After ten nerve-wrecking months, the UF finally sent me the reviewers’ reports and their recommendation for publication. “After a round of revisions, the manuscript can be accepted for publication.”
And so I spent the summer of 2017 revising my Ph.D. once more. My energy levels were below 0 by then. But I did it, I persevered. I provided the UF with an exhaustive revision report in September 2017 and they gave me their approval the next day. My manuscript was officially accepted for publication!
A few weeks later, my publisher sent me the author’s contract and immediately started working on the book cover and proofs. Things were getting real! Although I can’t say I enjoyed the proofreading phase much. As a perfectionist I just couldn’t stop second-guessing hyphens, italics, brackets,… It was nightmarish and for a minute I thought the entire project would turn to smithereens in this final phase. Because of me. I couldn’t let that happen… Mid-January, I submitted my corrections.
And then THE e-mail came. “Anneke, we have great news. Your author copies will be delivered next week. You can come pick them up or we can mail them.” I will never forget the moment I walked into the publisher’s office and opened the box containing 10 copies of a brand new book with my name on it.
In the end, it took me almost 4,5 years to turn my Ph.D. into a published book. I know that the time lapse doesn’t benefit my academic CV, so it’s a good thing I’m not in academia anymore (more about that later). I am glad, however, that I took the time to rethink my work. My research question is much clearer and my argument much stronger. I don’t think I would have been able to pull that off if I would have started the revisions immediately after finishing my Ph.D. Sometimes, research needs time, to get clearer and better. Like a stew, if you will. Doesn’t it taste better the next day? Food for thought for another blog post. Let me conclude by saying that even though it wasn’t an easy proces, I learned a lot along the way and I am proud of the result.
About The Taste of Home. Heritage and Food in Flanders between 1945 and 2000
In The Taste of Home. Heritage and Food in Flanders between 1945 and 2000 I investigate how food heritage is constructed. Building on a quantitative predicate analysis and qualitative close reading of three women’s magazines published in Flanders after the Second World War, I explore how different ideological and socioeconomic frameworks translate into food heritage. I position my analysis against the backdrop of the globalization and industrialization of the food chain, the postwar political and socioeconomic developments in Belgium and the quest for a Flemish identity after 1945. Through the lens of themes such as food preservation, festive food culture and regional gastronomy, I investigate how different communities give meaning to food heritage. As such, my book touches upon two disciplines that are currently booming, namely food studies and critical heritage studies.
First and foremost, I want to thank Vrije Universiteit Brussel for funding my Ph.D. research and for financially contributing to the publication of my book.
I also thank the University Foundation for enabling the review process and for co-funding the publication of The Taste of Home.
Very special thanks to Universitaire Pers Leuven / Leuven University Press for the great collaboration: to Veerle De Laet who believed in my book from the moment I contacted her, to Beatrice Van Eeghem who coordinated the proofreading process, and to Annemie Vandezande who coordinated both the cover design and the publicity.
Finally, I am forever indebted to Peter Scholliers for his never-ending support. He’s an amazing supervisor and I am happy I will be able to give him a copy of my book before his retirement in September.