Katrina Fridges, 10 Years After

Photo by Donna Bonner

David Beriss
University of New Orleans

It would be hard to not notice that the tenth anniversary of hurricane Katrina is upon us here in New Orleans. I have been trying to think of ways that this blog might be used as a platform for thinking about the last decade. What is it that anthropology—specifically, the anthropology of food—might have to say about how things have turned out here? I am going to try to write a few short blog postings that can help answer that question. These are mostly personal reflections, but there is also some actual research behind some of my observations. I will try to indicate when that is the case.

Mostly, I want to evoke some of the scenes that have shaped the experience of the last decade in terms of food in New Orleans. I could start, for example, with the sublime meatball sandwich I had at the Italian Pie (a local chain) at the corner of Magazine and Joseph streets in mid-October 2005. Sublime largely because it was there and available in a city in which most of the restaurants were still closed. Or the stunningly good shrimp po’boy I ate at Crabby Jack’s soon after I returned, possibly in the company of my colleague Martha Ward. To this day, that post-exile shrimp po’boy stands out in my mind as the best po’boy ever. Eating in restaurants then was an opportunity to reconnect with friends and with strangers while getting a sense that the city was really coming back to life. But there was also a practical reason why people, even people who did not live in flooded neighborhoods, had to eat out in the beginning. There simply was not a lot of food available in stores (if the stores were open).

And whether or not your house flooded, in all likelihood, you did not have a refrigerator. In 2006, in an online discussion, someone posted a very theoretical query about refrigeration and technology. I was inspired to write a very short (not very theoretical) response that summed up our refrigeration issues. In thinking about the “Katrinaversary” (a word I did not make up), I remembered that note and dug it up. Given the importance of technology like refrigerators for making our contemporary food system possible, I think it is worth recalling what the failure of that technology meant back in 2005. Here is the note, more or less as originally posted, with a few additional thoughts:

Photo by Donna Bonner

Photo by Donna Bonner

Here in New Orleans, refrigerators became, after Katrina, the site for many reflections on identity, decay and waste.  They stank and were teeming with maggots.  Several weeks without power, it turns out, reveals that your refrigerator is not actually well sealed against bugs.  It also reveals that things like meat eventually turn to liquid if left to their own devices, without refrigeration.  Actually, many other things concerning the place of refrigeration in our lives were revealed that most of us would have been happier not knowing.

Anyhow, most people (and many restaurants) found it impossible to fully clean the refrigerators, so that even in the unflooded parts of the city, all last fall the streets were lined with hundreds of thousands of discarded refrigerators (I am not exaggerating — scale is important to this story), most of them duct-taped closed, in order to prevent the putrid contents from walking off.  The mostly white exteriors proved to be an irresistible canvas for commentary about everything from FEMA and President Bush, to Saints owner Tom Benson (who had threatened to take the team from the city permanently), the mayor, and, of course, the general funkiness (not the good kind) of the fridges themselves.  If you search on Google, you will find many collections of photos of these fridges available on the web.  Here are a few links to some collections of pictures:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Fridges_damaged_by_Hurricane_Katrina

http://www.flickr.com/photos/84995794@N00/sets/1733550/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/unapologetic/sets/1092465/

One thing that is hard to express in writing is the overwhelming smell that hung over the city during most of the fall of 2005.  We call it the Katrina smell and, if you were here, you recognize it immediately.  I guess it is the smell of death and decay on a large scale.  It is not a nice smell.  It was accompanied by large numbers of what I am told are called “corpse flies” buzzing about the city and even inside your house (if you had one).

Those of us who have houses mostly have new refrigerators by now.  Our relationship to those beautiful new machines has been transformed, I think.  At least mine has.  But that is another story.

Mardi Gras, 2006. Photo by David Beriss

Mardi Gras, 2006. Photo by David Beriss

Let me conclude with a sense of how that relationship has changed. Before 2005, I suspect I was like a lot of other Americans, using the fridge and freezer to store a lot of food, some of which we might not get around to using for quite a while. No more. In the last decade, we have become very much of a “just in time” family, keeping only enough food around for the week. There is too much danger of having to toss the entire contents of the fridge (and waste both food and money) to keep much more than that around. What we do have in terms of surplus, we are quick to share with our neighbors when the power goes out. The last time we had an extended power outage here (Hurricane Isaac, 2012, I believe), we had a series of dinners and parties with our neighbors over a few days in which we all tried to exhaust the contents of our refrigerators. Then we threw the rest out, unplugged the machines, and left the doors open. When the power eventually returned, the refrigerators mostly worked. And they were maggot free. Which is priceless.

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Filed under disaster, katrina anniversary, New Orleans, refrigeration, technology

Culture & Agriculture Tech Fellowship

A note from our colleagues at Culture & Agriculture about an intriguing opportunity:

The Culture & Agriculture Section of the American Anthropological Association aims to expand its on-line and social media presence. We wish to highlight the research and policy engagements of our members as well as to promote our peer-reviewed section journal, Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment (CAFE), within and beyond anthropological audiences. To this end, C&A has created a position for a tech savvy, anthropology scholar/practitioner to manage our site and, in conjunction with the Board and the CAFE editors, initiate new forms of electronic outreach. We envisage this position as particularly appropriate for an Anthropology doctoral candidate or new PhD with interests in agrifood systems, the environment, and digital media, but encourage anthropologists at any stage with appropriate background, skills, and predilections to apply. The position carries an annual award of $1500.00, with a possibility for renewal. Application materials: Please send a current CV with names of at least two referees (both academic and work-related preferred), and a letter of interest outlining relevant skills and experience. The letter should include suggestions for digital projects or activities to heighten and extend the appeal of C&A and CAFE. Examples of previous work are also invited. Please send materials to Lisa Markowitz (lisa.markowitz@louisville.edu). Deadline for applications is September 15, 2015.

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Filed under AAA, culture and agriculture, Food Studies

Second International Conference on Food History and Cultures

Call for Sessions and Papers:

Second International Conference on Food History and Cultures

26-27 May 2016 – Tours (France)

The European Institute for Food History and Cultures (the IEHCA, Institut Européen d’Histoire et des Cultures de l’Alimentation) is organizing the second of its henceforth annual international conferences, to be held on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 May 2016 in Tours (France).

The event falls within the scope of the continuation of initiatives carried out by the IEHCA for the past twelve years through its editorial policy, its support for research and its efforts to facilitate networking opportunities among Food Studies researchers.

The success of last year’s conference, highlighted by the participation of almost 120 researchers, has reinforced our desire to ensure it becomes an annual gathering and benchmark event. The conference is organized in partnership with the Food Studies team at the François-Rabelais University in Tours and the UNESCO Chair – “Safeguarding and Promotion of Cultural Food Heritages.”

All proposals pertaining to Food Studies will be considered and all researchers are welcome to make a submission (doctoral, post-doctoral, research lecturers, independent researchers, etc). In essence, the conference is multi- and cross-disciplinary, covering all historical periods.

Unlike last year, this communication is first and foremost a call for sessions: submissions to present thematic panels will be reviewed and selected as a priority. Individual submissions will be evaluated in a second phase.

Each session will last an hour and a half, and each panel will require a moderator and two to four speakers. Three is the ideal number (with papers lasting twenty minutes each).

Submissions should be in French or English and state the following:

  • general theme of the session;
  • names of the moderator and speakers;
  • Brief CV (max. 250 words) of all of the participants
  • institution(s) (if applicable);
  • title of the session;
  • contact details;
  • a 250-word abstract per paper.

The person submitting the proposal can be the moderator. If they are also one of the speakers, they should either choose a moderator themselves or will be assigned a moderator by the organizers.

The eventual individual submissions should provide:

  • title of the paper;
  • a 250 word abstract
  • a brief CV (no more than 250 words
  • contact details.

All submissions will be reviewed and selected by the IEHCA’s academic committee.

Papers can be presented in English or French.

Please do not hesitate to pass this information on to colleagues who may be interested.

The closing date for submissions is 30 October 2015.

Replies will be sent around the 15 January 2016.

Submissions should be sent to Loïc Bienassis (loic.bienassis@iehca.eu)and Allen Grieco (agrieco@itatti.harvard.edu)who will also be able to answer any questions.

PLEASE NOTE: although conference participants are not liable to pay a registration fee, no expenses will be reimbursed.

Academic organization :

IEHCA (European Institute for Food History and Cultures, Tours)

LÉA (Food Studies team, François-Rabelais University, Tours)

UNESCO Chair Safeguarding and Promotion of Cultural Food Heritages (François-Rabelais University, Tours)

IEHCA logoLEA logoUNESCO Chair logo

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Filed under anthropology of food, CFP, Food Studies, France, IEHCA

Letters from Camp: A Reflection on the 2015 Annual Meetings of ASFS and AFHVS

Madeline Chera
Indiana University

Madeline Chera is a PhD candidate in Anthropology with a focus on the anthropology of food. She is the student representative on the ASFS board and a 2011 winner of the Christine Wilson Award from SAFN.

The annual American Anthropological Association (AAA) meetings give food and nutrition anthropologists a much needed break at the end of the fall semester and invigorates our minds enough to push through grading final papers in dreary December. However, there is another conference that many of us attend, which takes on an air more befitting summer vacation. It’s somewhat akin to a scholarly summer camp, with critical thinking and good food. It is the joint annual meetings for the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) and the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society (AFHVS). Compared to the AAA meetings, it is much smaller, the feeling is more intimate, and the vibe is decidedly jovial. This year’s meetings took place over five days from June 24 through June 28 and packed in ten concurrent panels during each of twelve sessions, but there were plenty of opportunities to meet the same friendly faces throughout the weekend, whether it was at panel presentations, before the keynote, or over drinks.

This is a conference for our (i.e. SAFN’s) kind of people: those interested in exploring the local food culture with their minds and mouths, eager to collaborate in a spirit of conviviality, and ready to discuss a wide range of issues, from class and colonialism in the food system to the ins and outs of fried candy bars (my co-panelist, Christine Knight, actually covered both of these topics in her presentation on media representations and Scottish identity!). However, despite the affinities in interest and the numerous shared values of the conference-goers, one of the benefits of this event is that the participants are not all alike–and not all like us. Although SAFN does have a prominent presence at the ASFS and AFHVS meetings through numerous presenters and sponsorship of two sessions and one of the socializing (and snacking!) opportunities this year, this annual conference is not just a SAFN meeting. The meetings of ASFS and AFHVS are a valuable opportunity for SAFN members to spend time with other scholars of food and agriculture and with professionals in related fields, and to gain exposure to different methods, areas of literature, pedagogical techniques, and topics of investigation. In fact, this opportunity was highlighted in the guiding motif of the meetings. Chatham University’s Falk School of Sustainability and its Food Studies Program hosted the conference this year in Pittsburgh, a city known for its iconic bridges, and the conference theme, “Bridging the Past, Cultivating the Future,” gave a nod to the power of these structures to join together otherwise disjointed entities. The meetings united sociologists, historians, nutritionists and dieticians, philosophers, psychologists, political scientists, media studies and consumption studies scholars, environmental and agricultural scientists, entrepreneurs, non-profit staff, activists, writers, chefs, and–yes–anthropologists.

Any worthwhile conference aims to build bridges between colleagues and across existing research, as well as to cultivate ideas that steer the work that will come afterward. This one just had the good sense to set out these goals explicitly from the beginning, and it had the implicit bonus ambition to help us savor summer with the jubilant vibe–as much as any academic conference can really have–that is the hallmark of the ASFS/AFHVS annual meetings. The following are a smattering of my personal highlights from this scholarly summer camp:

  • Staying with a Falk School alumna and her housemates in the beautiful Highland Park neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Not only was this a financial benefit to me as a penny-pinching graduate student, but also I got to explore and learn about the city from the perspective of a local residence and residents. I got their tips for a nearby coffee shop and tasted some cherries from their CSA, and then I had the opportunity to hear about how Pittsburgh’s food and sustainability scene impacted their lives as people who aren’t researching such issues full-time. Although it was brief, the chance to be just a bit more embedded into the context of the area made the experience richer for me.
  • Networking with fellow graduate students. Another student was staying at the house with me, and we were able to chat over last minute tweaks to our presentations. During the day, we kept running into each other in between sessions, and in turn, introduced each other to the people we had met. The size and set up of the conference this year, as in other years, was conducive to repeated exposure, which fostered familiarity and led to some potentially fruitful as well as thoroughly enjoyable connections. From discussions with graduate students, I was able to learn about the structures of other food-focused graduate programs, get insight into areas of research I never would have considered previously, and generate ideas about how to market oneself in order to find desirable work (g. When is using a tool like Good Food Good Jobs helpful and when is it not? And how does one manage the feast-or-famine cash flow of consulting work?).
  • Discussing alternative-to-academic career paths. I was part of a group of several graduate students who had all put in proposals for roundtable discussions about professionalization. In the end, our sessions were combined into a super-panel of women with advanced degrees who are not employed primarily as professors but continue to do work related to food and agriculture in some way. The participants had worked as market researchers, writers, and entrepreneurs, and in a food policy council, state extension services, a university, other non-profit organizations, and private business. Each of them traced out her own study and work trajectory, and then they all answered questions from the audience. The discussion yielded tips for translating the skills honed in graduate school to those hiring in the non-academic world and about where to look for positions. Participants also explained their experiences with job training in different types of positions, and assessed the usefulness of more schooling in different scenarios. This session affirmed for me the wide applicability and value of the grant writing, communication, data analysis, project management, and storytelling skills that my professors have helped me develop and to see that there are many ways to apply the content based knowledge of the field right along with these skills. It was heartening to see these professionals maintaining their scholarly ties through participation in the conference, and they were very kind to provide group mentorship in that form.
  • Rubbing elbows with VIPs, who treated me as a peer. Most of the time I can play it somewhat cool, but the glimmer of our own food scholar stars has not worn off for me yet, and I still get a bit excited when Esteemed Professor X listens to my paper and even asks a question, and when Recognized Expert and Author Y chats with me casually by the coffee carafe. So, I get excited fairly frequently, because this conference is usually one in which the friendliness of the group makes it easy to strike up conversations, with undergraduates and senior professors alike. The tone was one of genuine interest and mutual support, and the names from my Food Studies qualifying exams list were not only encouraging my work and the work of my fellow grad students, but also sometimes inviting us to dinner with them! Students echoed the collegial sentiment, and everyone created an environment in which new ideas could be tested out with a response as positive as that given when forthcoming book chapters were read.
  • Catching up on the latest in the field. Given that I am a borderline book hoarder, the fact that I only brought a carry-on bag with me was an important wallet-saving buffer between me and the collection of exciting new literature for sale at the conference. Many of the volumes were written or have been reviewed by conference attendees and they represented a slice of what is new in the studies of food, agriculture, and society. However, the more cutting-edge material was in the sessions themselves, where I heard about a wide range of topics, including the complicated relationships between contemporary chefs and new media; the politics mediated by travel writing and botanical classifications in the colonial period; and the assessment of behavioral and attitudinal changes of students as a result of participation in food studies programs. If only I could have been in ten sessions at once, maybe I would be totally up-to-date!
mad mex burrito

Enormous local burrito.

Alas, I could not be in ten sessions at once, so I resigned myself to absorb what I could and then enjoy the cruise-like-but-better part:

  • Eating delicious and thoughtfully selected food. It probably comes as no surprise that this crowd loves good food, so there were plenty of opportunities to socialize over delicious and well-curated food and drink, including local stand-outs Wigle Whiskey, Rivertowne beer, Venturi yogurt, and the culinary creations of Chatham students. One of the best things I had was a single fresh peach put out with the morning coffee. I got the sense that the conference organizers’ list of recommended dining options nearby had been deliberated over carefully and vetted by more than one expert. It all added to the excitement and enjoyment that punctuated every coffee break and the end of each day.
  • Sporting my collection of fruit-themed earrings and seeing one of my best friends for the first time in over a year.

    Chera selfie

    The author, with earrings and Leigh Bush.

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Filed under AFHVS, anthropology, ASFS, Food Studies

New Book: Teaching Food and Culture

Teaching Food Big CoverHere at SAFN we seem to be in the midst of a great rethinking of the ways in which we teach about food and culture. Which makes sense — interest in food and related issues is growing rapidly in anthropology and in other disciplines and we have seen the development of many new interdisciplinary programs in food studies. We are, therefore, pleased to announce the publication of a new book on this very topic. “Teaching Food and Culture,” (Left Coast Press) edited by Candice Lowe Swift and Richard Wilk, is a collection of twelve chapters by anthropologists focusing on strategies they use when teaching about food. Hopefully, we will be able to publish a review of this collection in the near future. In the spirit of full disclosure, many of the people involved in this project are SAFN members and one chapter was co-written by SAFN board members David Sutton (our glorious nominations chair) and David Beriss (your blog co-editor). Meanwhile, here is a blurb about the book from the publisher’s web site, which you can visit to learn more.

“With the rapid growth and interest in food studies around the U.S. and globally, the original essays in this one-of-a-kind volume aid instructors in expanding their teaching to include both the latest scholarship and engage with public debate around issues related to food. The chapters represent the product of original efforts to develop ways to teach both with and about food in the classroom, written by innovative instructors who have successfully done so. It would appeal to community college and university instructors in anthropology and social science disciplines who currently teach or want to develop food-related courses.”

And here is the table of contents.

Part 1: Teaching Food

Chapter 1: Introduction: Teaching With and Through Food, Candice Lowe Swift and Richard Wilk

Chapter 2: Interview with Sidney Mintz, Candice Lower Swift and Richard Wilk

Chapter 3: Relating Research to Teaching about Food, Penny van Esterik

Part 2: Nutrition and Health

Chapter 4: Teaching Obesity: Stigma, Structure, and Self, Alexandra Brewis, Amber Wutich, Deborah Williams

Chapter 5: Are We What Our Ancestors Ate? Introducing Students to the Evolution of Human Diet, Jeanne Sept

Chapter 6: Just Milk? Nutritional Anthropology and the Single Food Approach, Andrew Wiley

Part 3: Food Ethics and the Public

Chapter 7: Teaching the Experience and Ethics of Consumption and Food Supply, Peter Benson

Chapter 8: Ethnography of Farmers Markets: Studying Culture, Place, and Food Democracy, Carole Counihan

Chapter 9: Using Volunteer Service in Courses about Food, Janet Chrzan

Part 4: Food, Identity, and Consumer Society

Chapter 10: Teaching Restaurants, David Sutton and David Beriss

Chapter 11: Developing Pedagogies for the Anthropology of Food, Brian Stross

Chapter 12: Teaching Communication and Language with Food, Amber O’Connor

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Filed under anthropology, anthropology of food, Food Studies, pedagogy

“It completely changed my mindset” Clara Broomfield with a Student’s Perspective on the Course “Food and Culture”

Lauren Moore
University of Kentucky

Last week, we heard from Prof. Aimee Hosemann about her class “Food and Culture.” In this interview, we have the opportunity to hear from Clara Broomfield, a student in Hosemann’s class. Broomfield discusses the use of popular media in the classroom, and how incorporating popular media can increase students’ ability to think critically about the media they encounter daily. She also reflects on effective ways to engage students about food, making a lecture hall a more dynamic learning environment, Canvas, and the textbook Eating Culture.

If you would like to participate, or would like to nominate an excellent instructor for the interview series, please email LaurenRMoore@uky.edu.

Lauren Renée Moore: To start with a fairly general question, what did you take away from this class?

Clara Broomfield: My perspective on food has completely changed from before I took the class. I was talking to some other students, and they felt the same way. There are just so many things I wouldn’t have thought to consider when discussing food. Like, you really have to think a lot about race and language use. Also, there’s a big emotional aspect that didn’t really occur to me before. When you’re dealing with food, you really have to pay attention to the fact that you’re dealing with peoples’ livelihood and culture. It’s very emotional, and so I think taking this class really highlighted that aspect for me—which was a big revelation for me.

LRM: Was there a particular assignment, lecture, or reading that really revealed that for you?

CB: It was definitely cumulative, but I could feel it from the very beginning, because we had these things called commensality practicums. When we would talk, I remember… the first one, we sat down and started talking about the cookbook that we wanted to do. We were all just eating, and then everyone started to jump into this discussion… we started to share stories about our memories and our experiences with food. We worked our way around to food in the prison system and the idea of food security, and I just remember that experience was really intense, because you could tell that people were engaging on a level that was more than just academic. I think that was where I really first began to be aware of the emotional aspect.

LRM: Did you feel like Prof. Hosemann guided this conversation, or was taking you to any particular point?

CB: I think it started that way, but then she sat back, ate her kale salad, and was like, “You know what, these kids got this. I’m just gonna let them do what they need to do.”

LRM: Do you think that approach to the discussion was effective?

CB: It really was. I think that was something she tried to do with most of her classes. She may have had end goals—she’s one of those sneaky people, like that. She’ll get you to go where she wants you to go. But she always was really open to letting [the students guide the discussion] and setting aside her own agenda, which I think was helpful.

You never knew what was going to happen in that class. You’d walk in, and who knows what we would be talking about. Obviously there was a syllabus, we’d start there, but that wasn’t necessarily where we would end up, and it was an exciting process.

LRM: You’ve taken other classes in a lecture hall format, and I wonder if this course uses that lecture hall space in a different way than other classes?

CB: One thing I have not seen any of my other lecture classes do: Prof. Hosemann may be up there lecturing with the PowerPoint, but the whole time, she’s asking you questions. It’s almost like a discussion format rather than a straight lecture. You’re integrated a lot into the lecture. Everyone in the class has the opportunity to speak and say things, and if you have an idea that isn’t directly related, you’re totally okay to share that—and it may change the entire trajectory of the class.

The way she did that back-and-forth between what was on her slides versus what we were thinking is very different from any other lecture class I have taken, where it was just ‘sit down and listen to a person talk for an hour.’

LRM: How does that impact your experience of the course?

CB: I think it motivates you, because the class depends on the student interaction. You make the class what you want it to be. If you don’t come prepared, and if you haven’t done the readings, you might just sit in silence for 10 minutes and she’ll wait for someone to say something. It puts pressure on you to engage with the material, which is not something I felt at all in any of my other lecture classes.

LRM: She waited for 10 minutes for someone to speak?

CB: I warned my friends before they took the class: you have to do the reading. If she asks you a question and she wants you to answer it, she just waits for you. It might not be for 10 minutes, it might be for 60 seconds, but it felt like forever. Certainly long enough for someone to speak up. I always thought that was interesting…she wasn’t going to let you get away with not wanting to answer the hard questions.

LRM: Do you feel like more students read in preparation for this course as compared to other courses you’ve taken?

CB: Absolutely. Sometimes, we would even discuss the readings outside of class. On the other hand, I’ve had classes where I haven’t done any of the readings, because I didn’t have to. I did every single one of her readings, which is a lot. They were interesting, relevant, and enjoyable to read.

LRM: Did you find the readings challenging (beyond the page length)?

CB: Absolutely. They were challenging in a lot of different ways, depending on the subject matter. For example, we read this one piece, and it included transcriptions of children having discussions with their parents over dinner. I remember reading those and just getting angry reading them, and frustrated! A lot of times, the pieces she would give you would piss you off, or they drew some kind of intense emotion that you were not expecting.

LRM: That was Paugh and Izquierdo’s piece. What pissed you off about it?

CB: I think it was… it wasn’t just me, that was the funny thing. Several people had that reaction. It was just reading them, and seeing where the parents were screwing up and being hypocritical, and also just seeing the morality issues there… it was just frustrating to read, especially since many of us had been in that situation, and we kind of conjured up those memories of being a kid and wanting to have the lemonade but having to drink your milk, and that whole frustration. That one [reading] really got to me. I just felt for those kids.

LRM: I wonder if there were any other readings that stuck out to you ask much as this one did?

CB: There are so many different ones… definitely another one that we talked a lot about was the mock spanish article, it was Rusty Barrett’s article on Chalupatown, “Language Ideology and Racial Inequality: Competing Functions of Spanish in an Anglo-owned Mexican Restaurant” and working there. It stuck out to me because I have had a very similar experience, and many students expressed that as well, having similar experiences with these issues of race and language surrounding food.

LRM: Can you tell me about the textbook? Many courses use the Crowther textbook Eating Culture, but I’ve never heard about it from a student perspective. 

CB: That’s an interesting question. I kind of went back and forth with this textbook. I’m glad that we had it, because it definitely provided a theoretical backbone, which I think was necessary and I couldn’t really get from other places. There were parts of the book that were super engaging, and there were other chapters that were just dry and dense… it depended on the section.

LRM: Which sections were particularly dry, or that you felt like you could do without?

CB: I think I could have done without the sections on cooking, probably. Other bits and pieces throughout as well. Part 5, “Digesting,” about food insecurity, wasn’t as interesting as it could have been.

LRM: What from the textbook was great?

CB: The section on eating in and eating out, for sure. Also, the section on edibility. I really enjoyed talking about “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and our classifications of nutrition and health—I think that was really interesting. I really, really enjoyed the “Theoretical Trifle” at the beginning. The whole idea of setting a dinner party… You could use that piece alone in a class, as an introduction.

LRM: You mentioned that the course made really good use of Internet resources and contemporary materials. Can you talk about that?

CB: I think one of the things I enjoyed is that any time Prof. Hosemann would have a PowerPoint, it would always be filled with these memes or something off the internet that was ridiculous but that fit really nicely with what we were talking about. I remember that, in the beginning, we were talking about different dietary practices. We were going over some of the fit-spo or pro-ana (pro-anorexia) stuff, she had interesting memes about thigh gaps and things I was so used to seeing on the Internet, but had never really looked at with a critical eye.mybeforeandafter I really enjoyed that she pulled that stuff out. But also, throughout the class, students would send in links or things from the Internet, and she would then share it with the rest of the class. I remember her sharing this parody video of what happens when two stereotypical white hipsters go to an Asian food restaurant and try to order food, and I just thought it was hilarious. She took the things we saw on the Internet, and she used them as course material, which I think was a really interesting way to talk about food.

LRM: This particular video, for example, how would she use that video?

CB: She would play these things in class, and we would talk about how we felt, and she would relate it back to the concepts that we were going over in class. I also remember her using one of Amy Schumer’s video’s, the “I’m so Bad” video. It was when we were talking about fat talk, and the ideas of health, and how food played in with gender.

She played that video, and said, “Okay—what do you think about that?” We started a discussion about how we felt about that video, what we saw in it, the things we saw it was playing off of in society. She would frequently do things like that—find these little clips and bits on the internet, or memes or quotes, and throw them out there for, “Well, what do you have to say about this?” I think it was enjoyable because it was totally unpredictable.

LRM: Do you feel like this helped you look at things on the Internet more critically?

CB: Oh yeah, absolutely. Pretty much everything I find on the Internet these days—because my Twitter and Facebook feeds are filled with food-related things—every time I see something, like this rap about being gluten free:

Normally, I would have found that really funny. Since I’ve taken this class and am looking at things critically, I now think, “Wow, maybe this isn’t the best way to present this particular dietary practice.”

Another example, she brought in this quote that I’d actually seen on my Twitter feed. It said, “If it comes through a car window, it’s not food.” Well, that showed up on her presentation the next class. Before, I would of thought, “hey, yeah, I kind of agree with that.” But now, I see classist undertones. So it’s completely changed my mindset.

 LRM: Tell me about the commensality practicum.

CB: The basic premise is that, instead of her standing up there to lecture, we all eat together. A lot of class is about what happens socially when food is involved, so I think it was important to play that out in terms of our classroom environment. It definitely changed the whole atmosphere in class when people ate and shared food with one another. It created bonding moments, and gave you the opportunity to have a more free-flowing conversation, so I think those were some of the best days we had in class.

For one of the practicums, we decided that everyone would bring in the recipe they were making from the class cookbook to try them out. We had this big eating fest, and had the weirdest combinations of food—we had everything from pancakes to roasted silkworm larvae to borscht. That day was so successful that the next week we decided to throw a class brunch. People dressed up, and brought breakfast foods, and one of the students who has a gluten free artisan waffle-making business made waffles for us. We had A Year in Burgundy playing in the background, and we were all sitting around eating. We became a kind of tight-knit group, and it all centered on eating one another’s food.

LRM: Did Prof. Hosemann have any day-to-day practices that were particularly effective?

CB: She definitely comes in with a plan, and she tries to put on a little bit of a performance for you. She uses really interesting narrative strategies to get people to engage. She may tell us a personal story, but she may tell it in a very specific way, highlighting certain aspects to spark a specific conversation. You would have no idea that she was doing it unless you went back and talked to her about it, so I think that was interesting. She would always sneak around and use these strategies to get people to discuss things that maybe they wouldn’t want to discuss before.

Also, she made sure the whole semester to include us in her practices. She would ask for our opinions on how she was teaching. For instance, and she would ask us, “do you [students] think that professors have ethical responsibility in dealing with food?” That then plays into how she teaches.

She made herself vulnerable, I think, when talking about food. She kind of let her guard down and let that difference in status level between student and professor drop. She sort of said, “we’re all in this think-tank together.” That was an interesting way to do it, rather than feeling like someone was talking at us, or food evangelizing. She made sure to… I don’t know how to explain it, but she made sure not to force opinions on us, which I liked. She never forces views on anyone, which is kind of different than some of my other professors. She made it seem like, “hey, this is how I feel about it… how do you feel about it? Maybe that will change how I feel about it.” It was an interesting dynamic.

LRM: Do you feel like that’s an effective way to approach students?

CB: I think it’s much more effective than other modes of teaching because it puts responsibility for learning on the student. Especially at larger universities and in larger classes, people tend to check out and not really actively learn. By doing that, she made the class more engaging, more bearable, more interesting… it sort of reflected back on you. If you didn’t understand something, you had a lot to do with it—it wasn’t just because she didn’t explain it well.

LRM: I know that this course uses Canvas, and I wonder if you could offer a student’s view on positive or negative ways of using Canvas in a course?

CB: Most of my classes are very Canvas-heavy, which I think is helpful. I like being able to submit papers and get responses back on Canvas, and you have a lot of access to your classmates through Canvas. I think that aspect of it needs to be utilized more.

LRM: Have you had classes that have facilitated or required student interaction (with one another) on Canvas?

CB: None of them have required it, though I think that’s a really great idea. More professors should do that. I don’t think a lot of people are aware of the functions of Canvas. In this class, other students would open up discussions or share links—but a lot of that interaction happened outside of Canvas, too. We actually created a Facebook group, which happens in a lot of other classes. That interaction is happening; it’s just not through Canvas. For many of my other classes, particularly my freshmen intro classes, a lot of them have Facebook groups. I don’t know if other universities use Facebook, but I think it’s common to have some kind of online group-making experience for classes at many different universities.

LRM: What did you think about the cookbook as a component of the course?

CB: That was one of my absolute favorite things that we did, and I think a lot of students would agree. We get this cool cookbook that we can utilize forever, but we also get to read these recipes, stories, pictures, and anecdotes… I think it’s something she should definitely keep if she were to do this class in the future. It was awesome.

LRM: What did you contribute?

CB: I ended up submitting… I have a family cookbook from about 20 years ago, that my grandmother put together with an introduction. So I submitted my all-time favorite chocolate cake recipe from that book, and included my grandmother’s introduction. Then, for kicks, I submitted a funny recipe: my family’s smothered squirrel recipe. I included family jokes and anecdotes with that. It’s a real recipe, but we don’t really eat it in my generation.

LRM: Is there anything you would add, or any suggestions you might have for others who are teaching food courses?

CB: For others, I think I would say: they should not make it about their opinions on food. Because I remember we even talked about a professor who used her class to spread veganism. We all came to the consensus that it’s not okay. Many of us felt that, if you’re teaching a food class, it’s important to be very open-minded, and to let the students also express opinions.

And then, the other thing I would say is that, even when you’re not teaching a food-specific class, you can use food and food issues in other classes. Another university in Austin is using food issues as the set-up for their composition classes. Whenever they have to write, they’ll write them on food issues. You don’t necessarily have to be teaching a food-specific course to talk about food. I think food needs to be integrated into larger contexts, because it’s so important but unfortunately gets ignored a lot in the academic sphere.

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Filed under anthropology of food, Food Studies, teaching

Food and the French Empire

French cultural studies

A special issue of French Cultural Studies (26:2) on “Food and the French Empire” is available for free through July at http://frc.sagepub.com/content/current.

Here is the table of contents:

Food and the French Empire
Guest editor: Sylvie Durmelat

• Sylvie Durmelat  “Introduction: Colonial culinary encounters and imperial leftovers”
• Blake Smith “Starch wars: Rice, bread and South Asian difference in the French Enlightenment”
• Nessim Znaien “Le vin et la viticulture en Tunisie coloniale (1881–1956): Entre synapse et apartheid”
• Christophe Lucand “Le commerce des vins de Bourgogne à la conquête des concessions françaises en Chine au début du XXe siècle”
• Van Troi Tran “How ‘natives’ ate at colonial exhibitions in 1889, 1900 and 1931”
• Lauren Janes “Writing about cannibal diets and consuming black Africans in France during the first half of the twentieth century”
• Rufin Didzambou “Le ravitaillement en vivres importés et ses incidences dans les chantiers forestiers du Gabon pendant la période coloniale (1920–1960)”
• Marie Caquel “L’impact du protectorat français sur l’industrie du poisson au Maroc”
• Tess Do “Le Palais du mandarin (2009) de Thanh-Van Tran-Nhut : Espace culinaire vietnamien et récupération postcoloniale”
• Robyn Cope “Gagging on égalité: French culinary imperialism on the island of Reunion in Axel Gauvin’s Faims d’enfance
• Angela Giovanangeli  “ ‘Merguez Capitale’: The merguez sausage as a discursive construction of cosmopolitan branding, colonial memory and local flavour in Marseille”

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Filed under Colonialism, Food Studies, France, history