Author Archives: reblack

Postdoctoral Fellowships in Food Studies

The Culinaria Research Project at the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) invites applications for two postdoctoral fellowships in the field of Food Studies, to work directly with the range of faculty at UTSC working in food studies. These fellowships are open to scholars who have completed a Ph.D. in Food Studies or any related field in the humanities and social sciences, by the time of appointment and within the last five years. The appointments will be for one year, starting in the summer of 2015. Salary will be commensurate with qualifications and experience. The fellowships are renewable for up to two years contingent on performance. Additional details about the position are offered below, and information about the Culinaria Research Centre can be found at: https://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/digitalscholarship/culinaria/

Position 1 – We seek applicants with primary research experience in one or more of the following areas: urban food security; food and diaspora; urban food activism; food and urban livelihoods/labour; and urban agriculture.

Position 2 – We seek applicants with primary research experience in either or both of: food and sensory experience; and/or critical approaches to nutrition discourses and practices. This position will appeal to emerging scholars with a background in Science and Technology Studies or other humanistic or social science approaches to diet, nutrition, and foodways.

Fellows will interact with faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, and food professionals across a wide range of disciplines. They will also be associated with the Connaught Cross-Disciplinary/Cross-Cultural Seminar “City Food: Lessons from People on the Move” and the Culinaria Research Project (https://www.utsc.utoronto.ca/digitalscholarship/culinaria/). This on-going research collaboration introduces the concept of ‘city food’ to examine the cultural, economic, and nutritional significance of food in diverse cities. Through collaborations between academic and non-academic partners, the seminar promotes transnational research on the politics, poetics, and economics of food in civic life in the past and present. In addition to engaging in collaborative and independent research, fellows will assist in planning and administering the seminar, and other events through the duration of the fellowships. Fellows will also have the opportunity to co-edit a book and a digital project on seminar themes.

Fellows are expected to be in residence at UTSC for both academic years and will be able to conduct research at the University of Toronto libraries and the Culinaria Kitchen Laboratory. UTSC, located in the richly diverse eastern end of the Greater Toronto Area, is part of the tricampus University of Toronto.

Applications should be submitted by 15 March 2015, but review of applications will begin immediately. Applications should include: 1) a cover letter; 2) a curriculum vitae 3) three letters of reference from supervisors or professors sent separately; (3) a writing sample; and 4) a statement of current and future research interests that explains how their research contributes to the goals of the City Food project. Applications, including letters of reference, should be submitted to culinaria@utsc.utoronto.ca. Questions regarding the positions should be directed to Jeffrey Pilcher (jeffrey.pilcher@utoronto.ca) or Daniel Bender (debender@usc.utoronto.ca).

All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply. However, Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority.

Employment as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Toronto is covered by the terms of the CUPE 3902 Unit 5 Collective Agreement.

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Book Review: Secrets from the Greek Kitchen

greek kitchen

Review of

Secrets from the Greek Kitchen: Cooking, Skill, and the Everyday Life on an Aegean Island.

By David E. Sutton
2014
Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Reviewed by Rachel E. Black, Collegium de Lyon

David Sutton’s latest book delves into home kitchens on the Greek island of Kalymnos to focus on cooking as an important daily activity in and of itself. Cultural anthropologists have used cooking and eating as windows on gender relations, religious beliefs, social identities and so forth, but the idea that people place genuine significance on cooking and eating because taste, skill and knowledge matter is quite a refreshing approach. Building on his previous book Remembrance of Repasts: An Anthropology of Food and Memory (2001), Sutton addresses not only questions of memory associated with food and culinary knowledge in Greece but also the ways in which cooking is a powerful daily lived experience. In particular, the author looks at the ways in which culinary knowledge is passed on (or not) in a matrilineal society, how this knowledge adapts to new technologies, and how the cook embodies cooking tools that are tied to ever-changing social lives.

The introduction tells us how Sutton came to study cooking on Kalymnos and why this is an important topic. In addition, the author places his work in the broader literature on objects, the senses and skill. He also makes a call for more ethnographic research on cooking, pointing out an important lacuna in the anthropology of food literature. Sutton talks about research methods and the use of video to capture cooking methods. Reference to these videos clips, which are available on the University of California Press web site, throughout the book give it a multi-media dimension that bring to life the ways of doing and the cooking spaces in Kalymnian homes.

The first chapter “Emplacing Cooking” starts off with general background information about Kalymnos and how Kalymnians shop, cook, eat, and think about food. Chapter two changes gears to focus on the role of tools in Kalymnian kitchens. Here Sutton gives the interesting example of the way Kalymnians cut food in their hands rather than using a cutting board on a countertop. The author explains that at first this skill seemed to be a response to a lack of counter space—it was an efficient technique that responded to the built environment. However, upon further investigation, the author discovers that this ‘technique of the body’ has deeper roots in social life: by cutting in hand, the cook can remain in contact and communication with the other people in the kitchen. She does not need to turn her back on the action. This is just one of the great examples that Sutton uses to theorize the act of cooking in order to locate deeper social meanings and actions that are embodied and embedded in this repetitive daily activity. Can openers, rolling pins and outdoor stoves are some of the other tools that Sutton uses to demonstrate the embodiment of skill, organization of social order and changing attitudes towards technology in Kalymnian kitchens.

Chapter three looks at the case of a specific mother and daughter to ask the central question of the book: how is culinary knowledge and skill passed down from one generation to the next on Kalymnos? Sutton reveals the deep-seated tensions that often exist in these generational exchanges. The themes of learning, transmission and negotiation are carried through in chapter four, which further explores the control of culinary knowledge and its transmission. Here Sutton comes back to themes such as tools and body techniques and how they are passed on through verbal instruction and demonstration. Again, Sutton underlines that knowledge is power that is not always so easily ‘given up’ or ‘passed on’ from mother to daughter.

Chapter five “Horizontal Transmission: Cooking Shows, Friends, and Other Sources of Knowledge” takes into consideration the many other ways that Kalymnians learn about cooking and food. Cooking shows are at the center of this investigation, and Sutton broadens his ethnographic scope to include participants from Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece. The author does not give much explanation why it is necessary to include another field site and why Thessaloniki is representative. Although cooking shows are certainly having an impact on how people around the world think about and prepare food, this chapter is a topical and methodological departure from the other sections of this book that are tied to participant observations and interviews. Sutton mentions cooking shows in other chapters, and a stand-alone chapter does not seem entirely necessary. While interesting questions are raised about the commercialization of tradition and the development of a sense of regional and national cuisines, this is perhaps the weakest chapter in the book–a departure from the tight focus on embodiment, knowledge and cooking.

Chapter six returns us to Kalymnos and its kitchens to discuss Kalymnians’s changing concepts of shared values, healthful eating and modernity. It is also here that Sutton includes men who cook on a daily basis, suggesting that men and women have alternate ways of learning to cook and different motivations for cooking. In conclusion, Sutton comes back to the point that cooking is important work in and of itself. Sutton rounds out his conclusion with a broader comment on the production of cooking knowledge elsewhere in the world and the centrality of taste. Finally, an epilogue addresses the impact of the recent financial crisis on cooking and eating in Kalymnos. Unlike many other places in Greece, Kalymnos seems to have fared well. Growing one’s own food and turning ‘gift foods’ into commodities are just a few strategies that Kalymnians practice to weather the storm. Although Sutton mentions economic change throughout this book, more focus on the economic crisis would have been an opportunity to bring the Kalymnian culinary realities into focus with those of other struggling European countries.

This ethnographically rich book will make a wonderful addition to reading lists for courses in the anthropology of food, ethnography of Europe and food studies at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. The richness of the participant observations makes this work extremely accessible. At the same time, Sutton draws in theoretical considerations from the anthropology of the senses, skill and material culture. The author has a wonderful knack for theorizing the topic of cooking without losing the flavor of the ethnography. Although the chapters can stand alone as individual readings, the length of the book makes it appropriate for assigning as a whole.

Secrets from a Greek Kitchen is a wonderful ethnographic foray into the kitchen and an inspiration to other anthropologists to further explore the daily practice of cooking without forgetting the importance of experiences from techniques of the body to taste. “If we treat food, taste, and cooking tools […] not as some rhetorical flourish to liven up ethnographic writing, but as equally central to understanding the ways that people are living, reproducing, and transforming their everyday lives, we will, I think, see a whole new analytical terrain open before us.” [185]

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Behind a Forager, the Pickers: Wild Food Production’s Other Side

mushroomprices

Wild food harvesting is piece-work.

Foraged foods from the wilderness are this year’s hottest trend in natural, ethical eating. They’re lauded as more organic than organic: after all, they grow in the wild, where there aren’t just ‘approved’ pesticides and fertilizers, but none whatsoever. Growing of their own volition, these native species don’t need a farmer to tame them—and perhaps warp their purity, sapping them of taste and nutrient value.

Wild food is also, paradoxically, celebrated as the most local of foods, though the wild was once upon a time the most remote and alien of places. This sense of locality arises in the figure of the forager, the man (and almost always it is a man) whose profile makes up most media reports on wild food; the man who goes deep into the woods and brings its bounty back out, directly to you. Like the family farmer he’s wholesome, connected to the soil and its seasons. And in this way wild food becomes small-scale, fair trade, a way of supporting local economies. There aren’t any intermediaries, and no 2 500 miles, just a quick jaunt out of the city, into your local wilderness.

Who is this forager? He’s a character drawn at first glance from our collective imagination of the mushroom picker. A solitary and vaguely European, upper- or at least middle-crusty sort with a walking stick and wicker basket, perhaps accompanied by a well-trained hound that can sniff out the prey, he knows the secret patches where these sorts of things grow and will take their locations to his grave. And in this latest incarnation he’s also become a lay botanist, conjuring names and identities out of the tangle of green, bringing us closer to the miracles of nature we city-dwellers forgot from want of exposure: our plant-loving, Earth-loving Adam. With that basket he spreads the seeds and spores, helping the foods grow. At the same time, with his compass and his technical outwear and the shimmering blade of his knife, he also takes reasonable precautions in light of the animals, the elements, of getting lost: all our vague urban fears of the wilderness handily dispatched.

A commercial mushroom buyer's shack.

A commercial mushroom buyer’s shack.

But the fact of the matter is that while this man really exists, is who he says he is, and does what he appears to do, hidden behind him is a whole society of other men (or almost as often women, elders and families) who we never seem to hear about. They are the pickers. Like fruit pickers and vegetable pickers on farms, they’re often marginalized and poor, working a physically demanding and dangerous job to make ends meet the only way that seems possible. They confront the cold in threadbare sneakers and jeans they bought at Walmart, pick into a plastic bag that last held groceries or a six-pack of beer, and don’t need a compass because they know these woods well, as anyone who worked them day after day, year after year would. Their dog is a burly one designed to take on a bear, and if they carry a weapon it’s a rifle, because their knife is a tool, meant to cut stalks and stems as quickly, numerously and profitably as possible: they’re paid by the piece, and the profit always seems less than it should.

In Canada these people are most often refugees from ruined local resources economies: from shuttered sawmills and denuded oceans, from blighted reserves. In the United States they tend to be refugees of another sort, Laotians, Hmong, Vietnamese and Cambodians fleeing the still-rippling violence of the Vietnam War. In other words, the people who produce the vast majority of wild food aren’t foragers but pickers, resource workers displaced by machinations of power they did little to cause but do much to suffer. They struggle to survive in capitalism’s precarious hinterlands by gathering raw materials for the profit and use of someone more powerful. Someone somewhere else: someone in the city.

It’s hardly fair to blame anyone involved for this. The media are interested in a hot new trend; they want to find a local business that’s engaged in it, to tell about it. The owner, the forager who sells wild foods to chefs or at farmers’ markets, really is a forager; that’s why and how he is in this business. Although obviously one man is not enough to supply all of a city’s restaurants, some of the product comes from their own forays in the bush, and when the press comes knocking, they take them to the place they both love the best: the woods. They believe in wild food, in its value and uniqueness, in its healthfulness, in its superiority to the products of the global industrial food system. And in many ways, they’re right. For instance, unlike many agricultural workers, the Canadian pickers at least love their work: love being in the woods, the freedom and excitement of it all; love being their own bosses instead of working a soul-crushing job with an overseer who treats you like dirt.

Mushrooms packed in standard baskets for shipping.

Mushrooms packed in standard baskets for shipping.

What they don’t love is having all the risk and few of the rewards: having nothing to eat when nothing grows to pick; ending up stranded at the end of the season, having spent all their money on gas that’s gone, 1 000 km from home—if they have one. They don’t love trying to break into urban markets on the other side of the continent. Failing to negotiate the cultural and class differences, they are turned away at the airport when they try to ship their product because of their lack of credit and their soiled clothes. They are turned away at the restaurant for fears of contaminated or misidentified mushrooms. And so the contradictions of contemporary capitalisms gain another foothold. Once again, and this time in the realm of the most natural, most ethical, most plainly good product yet, the true nature of production and the difficult circumstances of the producers are well-veiled. The wild, that place that seemed so newly close to home, at end remains so very far removed.

Dylan Gordon (@KnowWildFood) is a PhD Candidate in Anthropology at the University of Toronto, researching the ethics and economics of wellbeing in the Canadian trade of wild food products. (www.dylangordon.ca)

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Call for Papers: Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition

safn-logo-temp

Your opportunity to present at the 112th American Anthropological Association annual meeting in Chicago, November 20-24, 2013

The theme of this year’s conference is “Future Publics, Current Engagements”. The AAA executive committee asks us to consider “how anthropological theory and method can provide insight into the human past and emerging future.” In particular, we are asked to examine “our efforts to transform our disciplinary identity and capacity in terms of knowledge production and relevance in a world of radical change.” SAFN members are particularly well situated to contribute to discussion around the theme, as many, if not most of us, work across anthropological sub-disciplines and/or with colleagues in other disciplines, using theories and methods that cross-cut disciplinary boundaries in innovative ways. For more information about the national meeting, including elaboration of the theme and important dates, see http://www.aaanet.org/meetings/index.cfm.

SAFN is seeking proposals for Executive sessions, Invited sessions, Volunteered papers, posters and sessions, and alternative session formats including Public Policy Forums, Roundtables and Installations.

There are three deadlines for submission: a deadline for Executive sessions (Wednesday, February 6), Invited sessions (Friday, March 15) and Volunteered sessions (Monday, April 15).

The deadline for proposing an Executive session is coming up fast. An Executive session is a unique, highly visible forum on a topic of interest to a wide audience that connects directly to the conference theme. Anyone interested in organizing an Executive panel or roundtable needs to submit a session proposal on the AAA meeting website by 5 PM EST, February 6. Decisions will be announced on March 1st. (Note that if the decision is negative, you can submit the panel for invited/volunteer sessions—see below.) If you are interested in submitting an executive session, please let Helen and Neri know asap (see our emails below). To apply, you will need: a session abstract (of no more than 500 words), keywords, length of session, anticipated attendance, presenter names and roles. The organizer(s) must be a current AAA member unless eligible for a membership exemption (anthropologists living outside of the US/Canada or non-anthropologists) and have registered for the 2013 Annual Meeting. Individual presenters must submit their own abstracts (250 words), paper title and keywords via the AAA meeting website by 5 PM EST, April 15. Any discussants or chairs must also be registered by April 15th

Invited sessions are generally cutting-edge, directly related to the meeting theme, or cross sub-disciplines, i.e. they have broader appeal. Session proposals must be submitted via the AAA meeting website by 5 PM EST, March 15. Session proposals should include a session abstract of no more than 500 words, key words, number of participants in the session, anticipated attendance, as well as the names and roles of each presenter. Decisions will be announced on April 4th. Individual presenters must submit their own abstracts (250 words), paper title and keywords via the AAA meeting website by 5 PM EST, April 15. Any discussants or chairs must also be registered by April 15th. One way to increase your and our presence at the meetings is to have a co-sponsored invited session between SAFN and another society. Invited time is shared with the other sub-discipline and the session is double-indexed. Please include any other societies we should be in contact with about possible co-sponsorships.

Volunteered sessions are comprised of submitted papers or posters that are put together based on a common theme as well as sessions proposed as invited that were not selected as such. Volunteered session abstracts should be 500 words or less, individual paper abstracts 250 words or less. Both must be submitted via the AAA website by 5 PM EST, April 15.

Installations are a creative way to present ideas that capture the senses, and may include performances, recitals, conversations, author-meets-critic roundtables, salon reading workshops, oral history recording sessions and other alternative, creative forms of intellectual expression. Selected Installations will be curated for an off-site exhibition and tied to the official AAA conference program. Successful proposals will offer attendees an opportunity to learn from a range of vested interests not typically encountered or easily found on the traditional AAA program. Organizers are responsible for submitting the session abstract (of no more than 500 words), keywords, length of session, anticipated attendance, presenter names and roles by 5 PM EST, April 15.  Presenters must also be registered by the April 15, 2013 final deadline in order to appear on the 2013 Annual Meeting Program. If you have an idea that might require some organizational creativity please contact the Executive Program Committee as soon as possible at aaameetings@aaanet.org.

Public Policy Forums are a place to discuss critical social and public policy issues. No papers are presented. Instead, the ideal format is a moderator and up to seven panelists. The moderator, after introductions, poses questions that are discussed by the panelists. It is recommended that at least one panelist be a policymaker. Proposals should include a 500-word abstract describing the issue to be discussed, and the moderator and panelists’ names. Submissions are reviewed by the AAA Committee on Public Policy; the deadline for forum submissions is 5 PM EST, March 15.

For further information or to log in to submit proposals, go to http://www.aaanet.org/meetings/Call-for-Papers.cfm. Remember that to upload abstracts and participate in the meeting you must be an active AAA member who has paid the 2013 meeting registration fee. (Membership exemption is in place for anthropologists living outside of the US/Canada or non-anthropologists.)

If you’d like to discuss your ideas for sessions, papers, posters, roundtable discussions, forums or installations feel free to contact the 2013 Program Chairs, Helen Vallianatos (vallianatos [at] ualberta.ca) or Neri de Kramer (dekramer [at] udel.edu).

We look forward to another exciting annual meeting with a strong SAFN participation!

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More than just tacos: Lunch in the Mission #AAA 2012

Photo SF Gate

While spending long hours in a conference hotel listening to colleagues, networking, catching up with friends and engaging our minds is a priority for most AAA conference attendees, we all need to make time to eat. Why not take an extra half hour and escape the artificial lights and din of the conference to see some of the city and get a tasty lunch that will cost half as much as hotel food. Hop on BART and get off at the 24th Street Mission stop. San Francisco is all about neighborhoods. The Mission was traditionally a working-class Latino neighborhood but it has undergone some major transformations over the past twenty years. You can taste them for yourself.

On Mission Street, just a stone’s throw from the BART station, is La Taqueria. Although the number one taco shop is greatly contested in San Francisco, this little restaurant generally comes out in the top five. The Mission is also famous for its burritos, mainly for their ridiculous size. It is nearly unthinkable, but if you are not up for Mexican food, check out Rosamunde Sausage across the street for delicious sausages and beer.

Wander down 24th Street for more Latin American culinary delights at La Palma. You can watch the women in the kitchen making tortillas, and get some great takeaway food. Around the corner on Harrison Street you can indulge in a SF ice cream experience at Humphry Slocombe. Don’t miss the “secret breakfast” flavor. Too cold for ice cream? Hipster donuts and coffee are just down the street at Dynamo donuts.

As you stroll through the neighborhood after lunch, take note of the many murals that adorn sides of buildings and wooden fences in this area. They tell the story of Latino migrants and their heritage.

Balmy Alley mural

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Here is the line up of SAFN sessions at the 2012 AAA conference – #AAA2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

8:00 AM-11:45 AM

3-0215
EATING AS A BODILY PRACTICE: CONTESTED EATING, BOUNDARY-MAKING AND BORDER CROSSING
Rachel E Black, Bodil Just Christensen, Line Hillersdal, Heather A Paxson and Anne T Meneley

1:45 PM-3:30 PM

3-0740

4:00 PM-5:45 PM

3-0980
FOOD CONSUMPTION AND BODY IMAGE
Melissa Medich and Melissa Medich

Friday, November 16, 2012

8:00 AM-9:45 AM

10:15 AM-12:00 PM

4-0305
WOMEN, AGRICULTURE AND CLIMATE CHANGE
Cornelia Butler Flora, Joan P Mencher and Anita Spring
4-0360

1:45 PM-3:30 PM

4-0675
THE WORLD FOOD CRISIS IS BOTH BORDERED AND BORDERLESS: REPORTS FROM THE AAA TASK FORCE ON WORLD FOOD PROBLEMS.
Lois M Stanford, Glenn Davis Stone, Solomon H Katz, Barrett P Brenton PhD, Joan P Mencher and Barrett P Brenton PhD

4:00 PM-5:45 PM

4-0955
WHERE DOES FOOD START, WHERE DOES IT END?: FOOD, BOUNDARIES, AND BORDERS IN A GLOBALIZED WORLD
Megan E Edwards, Christopher Grant, Megan E Edwards and Jolie N Nahigian

6:15 PM-7:30 PM

4-1060
SOCIETY FOR THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF FOOD AND NUTRITION (SAFN) BOARD MEETING
John Brett, Neri de Kramer and Helen Vallianatos

Saturday, November 17, 2012

10:15 AM-12:00 PM

5-0375
THE SUBSISTENCE ETHICS IN EAST ASIA
Stephanie Assmann, Yi-Chieh Lin and Theodore C Bestor

6:15 PM-8:00 PM

5-1160

Sunday, November 18, 2012

8:00 AM-9:45 AM

6-0120
PLEASED TO EAT YOU: EXPLORING THE SCOPE OF PLEASURE IN THE FOODSCAPE
Leigh Bush, Leigh Bush, Madeline A Chera and Deborah Heath

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Announcing the SAFN distinguished speaker for 2012 – Penny Van Esterik #AAA2012

SAFN is pleased to announce that our Food Anthropologist of the Year and distinguished speaker for 2012 is Penny Van Esterik. With work ranging from the politics of breast feeding to food culture in Southeast Asia, Van Esterik’s work in the anthropology of food has tread new ground and inspired a generation of young food anthropologists. Van Esterik is Professor of Anthropology at York University. She is the author of Beyond the Breast-Bottle Controversy (1989) and Food Culture in Southeast Asia (2008), and co-editor of Food and Culture: A Reader (3rd Edition, 2012).

Join us on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 6:15pm at the SAFN Business Meeting to hear Penny Van Esterik speak about her latest research:

The Dance of Nurture

Van Esterik’s presentation takes a personal look at nurture and how its absence in food
studies and anthropology in general robs us of one opportunity to take the
discipline in new directions. She uses breastfeeding and young child feeding to
rethink the importance of nurture and examine how it challenges basic
assumptions in contemporary anthropology. While we are clear on how
anthropology contributes to food studies, how can nutritional anthropology and
food studies contribute to anthropology as a discipline? Van Esterik draws some tentative
answers from The Dance of Nurture, an unfinished interrupted manuscript that
provides a framework for exploring this subject.

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