From Jute Harvests to Mall Food Courts: Fostering Discourse through Food Spaces

By Sarah Fouts, faculty in the Department of American Studies at the University of    Maryland, Baltimore County. Fouts is working on an ethnography on labor, foodways, and Latinx immigration in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Blog editors’ note: This is the spring edition of the Latinx Foodways in North America series, which looks at different approaches scholars use to analyze foods and food production with Latinx communities. Latinx is broadly defined to include the United States and other countries in North America. If you would like to contribute or know of someone who does work in this area, please contact Sarah Fouts sfouts@umbc.edu

An inevitable part of all field research is cooking and eating. Food activities—in both the raw and cooked stages—help ease potentially awkward encounters through interaction and conversation. Gathering ingredients to make the dish, asking about a dish, listening to the stories that emerge while cooking can be as illuminating as a semi-structured interview. It provides a space that is inductive, informal, and allows for intimate exchanges. For me, rich discussions with Honduran women deeply affected by the diaspora emerged while we work together on food.

My research on Central American food vendors in post-Katrina New Orleans led me to Honduras for two summers. In 2013, I made my first visit to the department of Santa Bárbara to visit my friend and his family. A year prior, my friend had returned to his hometown, a small coffee-growing community of just under 1,500 people. He used earnings from work in construction and community organizing in New Orleans to buy land for coffee production and to build a large home for his family.

One afternoon, I was invited to tag along on a jute harvest with women of the household—my friend’s wife, his sister, their mother, a young cousin, and an eight-year old neighbor. Pachychilus, or jute snails, are freshwater gastropod mollusks, with a shiny, black-coned shell—and an overlooked yet integral protein source. The act of gathering jute links today’s peoples to centuries of Maya practice. Archaeological digs in middens and sixteenth century Spanish historical accounts show how the ubiquitous jute provided vital nutrients and barter power in the Maya lowland subsistence economy.[1]

We headed down the dirt road with our plastic bags.  The road became a path. We ducked under barbed wire, then picked up a trail along a quebrado (gully). As we walked, we told stories (I mostly listened), joked (I usually willingly bore the brunt of them), and learned about local flora from my friend’s mother. One of the women commented that she had never ventured beyond the soccer field at the base of the mountain. The journey was special. And rare.

We climbed a small mountain towards the headwaters. Stagnant basins where kids swam quickly became fast-flowing streams and then, terraced waterfalls feeding pools. These pools were our destination:

We descended upon the pools peeling the jutes from the submerged rock surfaces. We filled bags with jutes ranging from ½ inch to two inches in size, along with the occasional small crab, which were more annoyance than treasure. It wasn’t until the end that I realized that cosechando jutes was a competition. I had lost by a landslide.

We descended the small mountain with our bounty, and my friend’s mother collected large leaves from plants growing along the gully. The plant, juniapa, also known as hoja santa and scientifically named Piper Auritum, was the seasoning for our dinner—sopa de jutes.[2] With a flavor that blends sassafras, tarragon, anise, and black pepper, and a potency used medicinally to cure colds, juniapa added depth to the chicken broth base which also featured chunks of guineo verde. Jutes were added last, cooked briefly.

To eat the jute, we removed the iridescent, plastic-like membrane cap of the snail, then sucked the meat from the shell. Jute shells piled next to our plates and formed contemporary middens. As we enjoyed the fruits of our venture, the women teased me for losing the harvest competition to an eight-year-old.

In 2015, I visited my friend’s family again, but I first met his sister in San Pedro Sula, Honduras’ second largest city. She had moved to join her two older sisters who worked in the food industry—the oldest sister owns a fried chicken restaurant, Riko Pollos y Licuados, located in a mall food court while the other sister is a server in a popular restaurant. We went directly to Riko Pollos y Licuados and caught up over a meal of pollo con tajadas (fried chicken on a bed of fried plantains with shredded cabbage drizzled by Russian dressing). She left their small village,after the murder of her child’s father made her feel that she no longer belonged there. She was also bored and there were no jobs for her. In the city she takes classes, does odd jobs, and cares for her son and a nephew. She even contemplated briefly a trek to the United States, following her brother. She decided against it.

The next morning we took an early bus for the four hour schlep to their village in Santa Bárbara. Once there, we caught up, played with new babies, and: set the date to go jute harvesting. A chance to vindicate myself and my defeat two years earlier!

Again, we headed out the dirt road and past the soccer field. Children splashed in the basin as we climbed the small mountain. My main rival—now ten years old—talked about school and nail polish. We arrived at the terraced waterfalls and began the hunt. I filled my bag quickly as the rest of the gatherers joked and splashed each other. I kept my eyes on the prize.

And after a couple of hours, when we compared our bounties, my bag over-filled with jutes clearly outdid everyone. I reveled as we hiked back, the banter drowning out my friends’ mother’s explanations of various medicinal plants as she collected juniapa leaves.

Later, as we ate, my fellow diners set aside some snails, uneaten, separate from the mound of empty jute shells. I didn’t pay much attention and like a “good guest,” I emptied my bowl, talking, reminiscing and joking along with everyone else. We finished our meals, cleaned up, and I packed my bags for the early bus ride to my next destination. The jute expedition was my despedida (farewell party).

In the wee hours of the night, my stomach began to gurgle. I brushed it off as travel belly. A few hours later, on the bus, my stomach (I’ll spare the details) made clear why the family had set aside uneaten jutes—these were bad. In my quest for victory I had unknowingly picked dead jutes. And then ate them.

While my second jute harvest illustrated my overly competitive spirit (and its consequences), it also shed light on the importance of these spaces for these women. The jute journey provided a playground for competitive banter and even bawdy humor. It was an escape from the routine and, for some, a venture into the unknown. For the mother, as the elder, it served as an opportunity to pass down her knowledge, teaching recipes and the properties of plants, lessons she had likely learned from similar trips with her elders. The second trek served as a homecoming for one sister, estranged from the community, and, for me, a familiar activity through which to reconnect.

In the city, Riko Pollos y Licuados demonstrated the oldest sister’s mobility from campo to urban entrepreneurship, transferring skills bestowed by her elders. Riko Pollos y Licuados and plates of fried chicken anchored a space to catch up on tough issues such as violence in their community and questions of belonging. Observing, listening, participating, receiving in these processes—the not-so-subtle jabs, the laughter, learning, play, savoring, respecting tears of sadness—brought me into the family’s intimacy. And these women, so central to food production, elevated their voices and expertise, no longer relegated to the background.

[1] Healy, Paul F., Kitty Emery, and Lori E. Wright. “Ancient and Modern Maya Exploitation of the Jute Snail (Pachychilus).” Latin American Antiquity 1, no. 02 (1990), p. 175.

[2] Not to be confused with the traditional Honduran dish, sopa de caracol, which is conch soup and flavored with coconut milk.

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CFP: Transformations of Global Food Systems for Climate Change Resilience

CALL FOR PROPOSALS

Transformations of Global Food Systems for Climate Change Resilience: Addressing Food Security, Nutrition, and Health

Editors:  Preety Gadhoke, PhD, MPH (St. John’s University), Barrett P. Brenton, PhD (Binghamton University), and Solomon Katz, PhD (University of Pennsylvania)

Due DateMay 31, 2019

In response to the September 2018 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) call to action, we are seeking contributions for book chapter proposals. Specifically, we request case studies on climate change resilience frameworks for nutrition-focused transformations of agriculture and food systems for food security and health of populations living in vulnerable conditions. Volume contributors are asked to address the local challenges that these ongoing food system transformations present from diverse cultural contexts and geographical areas. Particular attention will be given to the catalytic role that anthropologists can provide in community-driven participatory action research and practice. Chapters will illustrate forms of resistance, resilience, and adaptations of food systems to climate change. Consideration will be given to research on: 1) enhancing food sovereignty for rural and urban underserved populations; 2) improving locally contextualized definitions and measurements of food security and hunger; 3) informing public health programs and policies for population health and nutrition; and 4) facilitating public and policy discourse on sustainable futures for community health and nutrition in the face of climate change.

 If interested, please submit a 200-word abstract outlining your proposed chapter and a brief 100-word biosketch by May 31, 2019 to:

 Preety Gadhoke, PhD, MPH

Assistant Professor of Global Health

St. John’s University

Email: gadhokep@stjohns.edu 

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Filed under anthropology, CFP, climate, food systems

Culinary Historians of New York Scholar’s Grant

These grants are a great opportunity for SAFN members seeking support for their research!

CULINARY HISTORIANS OF NEW YORK ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR 2019 SCHOLARS’ GRANTS

APPLICATION DEADLINE FRIDAY, MAY 24, 2019

Culinary Historians of New York invites submissions for the 2019 CHNY Scholar’s Grant in support of research and scholarship in the field of culinary history.  Since 2012, the CHNY Scholar’s Grant has been recognized by the Julia Child Foundation with generous financial support.  We are pleased to announce that the support has been given again this year, allowing CHNY to award three grants in the amounts of $3,500, $2,500, and $1,500, respectively.  The grants are open to all individuals age 18 and older and are merit-based. Further details and application requirements and forms can be found at http://www.culinaryhistorians ny.org by clicking on the “Scholar’s Grant” link in the Scholarships tab.  The awards will be announced in July.

The CHNY Scholar’s Grant promotes research and scholarship in the field of culinary history and is awarded annually to individuals seeking financial support for a current, well-developed project that will culminate in a book, article, paper, film, or other scholarly endeavor, including ephemera. The grants are unrestricted and can be used to defray research expenses, attend conferences, or engage in other activities related to the applicant’s project. The CHNY Scholar’s Grant is merit-based and blind judged; financial need is not considered in making the award.

Previous CHNY Scholar’s Grant winners include:

2018:  Valerio Farris – Culinary Culture of the Spanish Roma ($3500);  Aleksandra Bajka-Kopacz, – ‘Old Polish’ Cuisine, Foodways of Rural Poland  ($2500); Kathryn Crossley, Butlers and Common Room Men: Wine, Class, and Conviviality in 19th Century Oxford Colleges. ($1500)

2017:  Claire Alsup – Colatura di Alici: How One Town on the Amalfi Coast Preserved Ancient Roman Fish Sauce   ($3500);  Elizabeth Zanoni – Flight Fuel: Pan Am and the Creation of Inflight Cuisines, 1930-1980  ($2500); and Tove Danovich – When Kosher Isn’t Kosher: 100 Years of Murder, Crime, and Fraud  ($1500)

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The Message(s) In the Bottle (or Keg)

Amy Trubek with Elisa Ascione and Manuel Barbato

Why am I in Umbria spending time with craft brewers and tasting beers such as an American Red Ale and a Porter infused with Coconut? There are any number of reasons this seems absurd. First, I am not an enthusiastic drinker of beer, let alone a connoisseur. Second, Umbria is one of Italy’s wine growing regions, with two internationally known Designation of Controlled Origin Guaranteed (DOCG) wines, Sagrantino di Montefalco and Torgiano Rosso Riserva, as well as other well-known wines. Personally and professionally, a visit to the wine regions of Torgiano or Montefalco and a conversation with the owner of Lungarotti or Terre Margaritelli vineyards, is much more in my wheelhouse. Third, I live in Vermont, one of the hubs of the American craft brew movement, where hipsters and bros from New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts will drive up and wait in line for hours to purchase growlers of beer made by Hill Farmstead (named the World’s Best Brewery for the past five years)– or to hunt down the elusive Alchemist’s Heady Topper.

I had never researched beer, anywhere– until my colleagues, Elisa Ascioneand Manuel Barbato, asked me to join them in a research project. Both live in Perugia, work at the Umbra Institute (a study abroad program with a Food and Sustainabilityconcentration), and study the regional food and drink culture. They have witnessed a growing interest in craft beers among the younger generation of Italians, both those who want to produce them and those who want to go out for an aperitivo and choose from more than the long-time standards of Peroni, Moretti and Heineken. Who am I to say no? I am here for a short time and my knowledge is thin; theirs is thick and intimately connected to people and places.

Local beer is increasingly important to the culinary culture here. Umbria has local histories of making and drinking beer but these are not part of the food, drink and cultural heritage narratives crucial to the identity of the region, especially in relation to tourism. Those narratives celebrate Umbria’s wines, DOP olive oil, farro long grown in the region (which now also has protected denomination), and, of course, the salumeria and cheese. But, in the past 15 years, over twenty craft breweries have opened in region. When you go to a bar, trattoria or ristorante in the city of Perugia, there are now featured lists of local beers, almost an impossibility, in, for example, the late 20thcentury.

So, why is this happening? And what is the significance?  These are our questions. For us, anthropologists with previous research on culinary culture, cultural heritage, the connection to place and concepts of authenticity and quality, Umbrian craft brewers and craft beer are not reproducing or replicating other powerful narratives orpractices of this locality. The region is part of the identity, but it is not the primary inspiration. This is an intervention into a globalcraft beer culture, a transnational network of young people (primarily men) with a vision that integrates identity, quality, conviviality and a certain rebellion. One young man learned about craft beer during his European and American travels as a professional snowboarder. Another, a journalist by trade, realized that there had been a small brewer in the city of Perugia and wanted to bring that connection back to his home town. No one comes from multi-generational families of brewers. Only some cultivate and source their hops and malt from the region. Everyone wants to provide an alternative to the ubiquitous industrial beers. The shared zeitgeist concerns the scale first, the locale second, and tradition close to last. Foremost, the tastes of the beer involve the expression of the brewer.

Birra Perugia

We are in the preliminary stages of our research, but there is a shared sensibility between the craft brewers we have talked to here in Umbria and those studied in the United States. The current generation of craft brewers desire a connection to ‘somewhere-ness.’A beer that is generic or homogenous seems empty – of meaning, of calories, and of taste. Giovanni of Birrificio San Biagio, for example, talks about terroir in beer, referring to the health properties of the water of Nocera Umbra used for his beers. He wishes that, just as it happened for wine, regional beers could have geographical indications as a source of distinction in the growing craft beer market, even if parts of the ingredients are sourced from abroad. Antonio of Birra Perugia, connects his production to the history of the city, referring to the documents and pictures that he found about a city brewery that existed in the city center at the end of the 19thCentury. Interestingly, they all want to [literally] make the link between the beer and place, even when for now it does not really exist; in Umbria these brewers are not drawing upon a continuous peasant tradition, but rather a virtually connected community (for example, Instagram is a tool for both inspiration and information).  They rely on what anthropologists and sociologists call ‘networked ecologies.’ Many further questions arise that we intend to pursue: Does it matter that the narratives and practices for wine and beer are so distinct in Umbria? What does the fact that younger Italians prefer making beer over making wine bode for the future? Can you make the taste of Umbrian beer unique by slowly encouraging local agricultural production of hops and barley? So, although I continue to prefer a glass of vino to a pint of birra, in collaboration with Elisa and Manuel, I certainly see the message(s) in the bottle!

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Filed under agriculture, anthropology, Authenticity, globalization, Italy

Milk…It’s Good to Think

David McMurray
Anthropology, emeritus
Oregon State University

I am a product of the Upper Midwest with its (waning) Scandinavian and German influences. I am entangled in “milk culture,” as Andrea Wiley might put it. I am a subject shaped by the dairy industry and its powerful lobby. I know all of these things without really knowing them. What I want to say is milk forms a part of the habitus I swim in but, by definition, never think about. That is until the other day when I came across a propaganda poster on milk (more about that in a minute). The shock of (mis) recognition caused me to begin to take an inventory of my interactions with milk. My whole life has been spent drowning in the white drink. Maybe not drowning, but certainly milk has been a constant foodstuff friend. Have I ever gone more than a day or two in my whole life without ingesting some form of dairy? I am no Michael Pollan and so I don’t claim to be exploring in depth the intertwined history and sociocultural context that binds milk and North Americans. I only thought to provide to the SAFN blog a quick day-in-the-life diary of dairy, using myself as subject. Here goes:

My earliest milk memory comes from growing up (b. 1953) in Webster City, Iowa where a couple of times a week Don the milkman would leave glass bottles of milk in a metal carrier at the back door and pick up the returnables set out for him. We would pester him in the summer until he stopped the truck, opened up the back door and carved off some ice chunks for us to suck on. Graham’s Dairy, his employer, was on Highway 20 going out of town to the west. We would ride our bikes out there on hot days and order ice cream cones from the retail shop at the front. I loved the black raspberry and vanilla combo. It was hard ice cream. Not the soft, whipped kind sold at the A&W root beer stand.

Milk was present in practically every day of my young life. We five children all had cold cereal and milk for breakfast every morning of my life. I think of those little pint cartons of milk given out in cafeteria lunchrooms during my K-12 years (the result of dairy price supports). Regular milk or chocolate milk; there was a choice. One was sweeter but didn’t taste as good with regular food, especially hot lunches.

My mother said that milk built bones and teeth. She also said that milk caused zits and was hard to digest. She forbade the drinking of milk whenever I had an upset stomach. I could only drink 7-up and eat saltines.

Once after football practice in junior high, I came home and drank half a gallon of milk without taking a breath. Coaches didn’t believe in hydration in those days, so they never provided anything to drink during sports practices.

I first left the USA at age eighteen to wander about Europe. I remember the first time I bought a carton of room-temperature milk off the store shelf. I wondered how they could preserve it without refrigeration. I opened it and tasted it. I spit it out. It was awful. That was my introduction to UHT. Whenever I met other Americans in youth hostels we would all long for good old American milk. The European stuff was undrinkable. There was one exception. I went to work that autumn for a winemaker in St. Emilion, France doing the vendange. We had a choice at breakfast every day of either café au lait or wine. Nothing else to drink. Being a corn-fed boy from Iowa, I had never drunk a cup of coffee in my life. But I had gotten drunk on bad sweet wines often enough in high school that the smell of any wine made me nauseous, especially at breakfast. I learned to make do with a bowl of café au lait that was 90% heated milk and 10% coffee. I slowly worked the ratio down over time to something closer to 50-50. To this day I love instant coffee dissolved in a cup of hot milk, UHT or otherwise. I have yet to drink wine for breakfast.

In my college dorm room I used one of those portable immersion heaters to make instant coffee. I made it palatable by pouring in a large dollop of Carnation sweetened and condensed milk. What a rush. I finally broke that habit, though it took me decades. Now when I am home I drink only good coffee with raw cream in it. No sugar. However, when I travel, I find that I can’t stomach airline coffee or truck stop coffee without diluting it with lots of cream and sugar.

I went on a junior-year-abroad to the American University of Beirut in 1974-75. I found that the Eastern Mediterranean peoples are not big milk drinkers. I did, however, learn a wonderful breakfast treat from my Jordanian dorm roommate. He taught me how to pour yoghurt into a pillow case, add some salt, tie it to the shower head in the bath tub to let it drain and then unwrap it in the morning, put it on a shallow plate, carve out a little well and fill it with olive oil and then sprinkle zaatar over the whole thing. We would sit out on our dorm room balcony in the morning, drink tea or coffee and dip pita bread into our lebneh. It was a very refreshing breakfast.

I also spent a few years in Morocco carrying out dissertation research. My wife had our older son while we were living there. Fortunately, she was breastfeeding him, because it was the time of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Eastern Europe. We noticed in the months afterwards that the market in the city where we were staying was flooded with powdered infant formula, as well as canned and powdered milk products from Europe. Had they been contaminated and thus banned for consumption in Europe and so dumped on the markets in Africa?

Moroccans and North Africans in general are not big milk drinkers, except during Ramadan. Some dairies exist but production is low. Dairy cows imported from Europe invariably succumb to the heat or to various diseases. We did, however, live across the street from a “milk bar.” A deliveryman would come in from the country every couple of days with his wagon full of big, five-gallon milk containers. He would take one down and pour out the quantity requested by the milk barman. The milk barman would in turn fill up smaller containers brought to him by younger members of neighborhood households. The most amusing scene for me, the foreigner from an alcohol-soaked culture, was when, on a Saturday night, grown men would walk into the milk bar, order a big glass of leben, put one hand on the bar and then throw their heads back, drink the whole glass in one go, wipe their mouths clean and saunter out the door and into the awaiting night.

Today, I often have kefir and granola for breakfast. I’ve given up on milk and cereal. My wife is a kefir missionary. She talks up the ease of raising and maintaining the grains and then tries to give samples to anyone who shows the slightest interest. We are awash in kefir. We only eat it at breakfast time, though. If it doesn’t go on granola, it goes into the making of orange, banana and kefir smoothies. Delicious.

To feed her kefir, my wife signed us up for a herd-share CSA. I volunteered our carport as a drop-off spot. Now we only have to walk out the back door to get our raw milk. Life has come full circle. The cow lady, Aimee, and her partner milk about 5 cows on a rented farm 20 minutes outside of Corvallis. She often stops to talk when she makes the CSA drop-off. The other day she told me that they are confounded by their surplus of skim milk. They centrifuge off the cream in order to make butter, etc., but then don’t have good ways to market what’s left over. I volunteered to take three gallons off of her hands to see if I could find something to do with them. I made skim milk paneer, which turned out okay, but I hit a wall after that. I ended up cheating and just adding cream back into the other gallons to make kefir yogurt with one gallon and mozzarella and ricotta with the other.

When Aimee brought the three gallons, we got to talking about dairies along the coast. She said that the Tillamook Cheese Co. had grown enormously in the last decade. It had to stop increasing its herds around the town of Tillamook because the area had become too touristy and tourists didn’t want to smell cow shit while vacationing there and visiting the cheese factory. Instead, the company started buying milk from the mega dairies set up in Eastern Oregon along the Columbia River. “But that zone is practically a desert,” I said. “It couldn’t possibly produce hay for big numbers of cattle.”

“It doesn’t,” she said. “But it’s near a dam and so near a power plant and what they need more than hay is a source of cheap electricity.”

I wished I’d asked her why.

Ground zero for the mega dairies and milk factories is the small town of Boardman, Oregon. She said there are over a hundred thousand cows spread across a couple of operations in the vicinity. One of them, Lost Valley Farm, is being forced to close by the state of Oregon, because of its polluting practices. Is Tillamook still buying milk from them? Inquiring minds want to know.

I was thumbing through the latest issue of The Baffler at breakfast the other day. There on the back cover was a copy of an old Cold War propaganda poster that said “Milk…new weapon of democracy!” It showed a young girl smiling while she received countless glasses of milk pouring down from an American bomber. I thought it was pretty funny and would make a good present for Aimee, though I had no idea about its provenance. I googled the phrase and found that it dates from the 1948-49 siege of Berlin. The Americans launched the Berlin Airlift at that time in order to break the Soviet siege of the city. The poster was part of the propaganda created around the conflict.

Quite by accident my google search led me to the latest milk craze. Turns out that milk is the preferred drink of the goon squads of the alt-right. I was shocked, though I probably shouldn’t have been. Milk is “white,” which is their favorite color, and it is very common among Northern European cultures, where, I believe, the lactase enzyme is present in the gut well into adulthood. (Of course the alt-right ignores the fact that there are groups of people throughout Mongolia, East Africa and down into South Africa, inter alia, who also enjoy lactase persistence into adulthood. Most all of them are, or have been, associated with animal husbandry.) Both of those aspects make milk appealing to this new breed of lactose lushes. This latest “Got milk?” campaign was launched back in February of 2017 when the actor Shia LaBeouf opened an art exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image in NYC. The exhibit was a protest against the election of Donald Trump. A bunch of youthful, shirtless, pro-Nazi male demonstrators showed up at the opening to perform their own counter protest by stomping and yelling and…chugging milk from plastic quart bottles! Billy Bronson, a reporter covering the demo, put it succinctly: “Apparently, the white liquid that comes out of cows’ udders is the new, creamy symbol of white racial purity in Donald Trump’s America.”

As you can imagine, over the next year PETA had a field day with the connection between milk and “lactose tolerant racists.”

In the evening of my life as I look back, I am surprised to see that my existence was saturated in milk. How could I have missed the many different cultural connections I had made with different milk practices? Why had I never thought about the extraordinary number of forms milk takes as foodstuffs and as commodities and how it is interwoven with so many aspects of my personal life? How could I have been so blind to the politics of milk?

That last one really bugs me. Though I don’t have a milk cross to bear, I am surprised to feel affronted by the symbolic manipulation of a foodstuff that has formed such a central, if unconscious, part of me. That includes both moments of appropriation by forces on the left and the right. It is uncomfortable to admit that the American government’s manipulation of milk for Cold War propaganda purposes leaves me amused, but not outraged. The manipulation by the alt-right leaves a worse taste in my mouth. Why have I not even mentioned the worst of them all: Big Dairy and the national shame of milk overproduction? I still have blinders, apparently.

I am not a soldier in the battle against these kinds of symbolic appropriation; nor am I engaged in resistance to the dairy industry and its lobby. However, I think I know some who are: Aimee as a proud, self-exploited producer of milk, and my wife as a conscientious consumer working to enhance milk’s healthy characteristics both strike me as small, disgruntled producers and consumers united in their search for healthy alternatives to Big Dairy and its massive reach into every aspect of our everyday lives. I don’t want to get too Pollyanna-ish about this, but the tiny circles of raw milk producers and consumers struggling quietly around the country to keep alive a healthy, less exploitative milk tradition may be a likely ally in various attempts by middle-class consumers to leave behind the industrial milk marketplace via the creation of alternative forms of provisioning. And who knows, maybe in the process they can help neutralize the shady symbolic politics surrounding milk today?

 

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Filed under anthropology, anthropology of food, food history, food politics

What FoodAnthro is reading, March 8, 2019

A brief digest of food and nutrition-related items that caught our attention recently. Got items you think we should include? Send links and brief descriptions to dberiss@gmail.com or hunterjo@gmail.com.

The linkages between food, planet, and health have been drawn in sharp relief with the EAT-Lancet commission’s report, which includes a recommendation to drastically reduce meat consumption. It’s been interesting to follow media’s response to the report, now a few months old, and the pushback from certain interest groups. NPR included an overview. A critique of the diet, including one here and one here, is that it doesn’t meaningfully include impoverished people, and indeed, the process of creating the recommendations itself has been touted as Northern and fairly hegemonic. The New Food Economy included a story from a Sam Bloch, who tried to follow the EAT-Lancet recommendations for a week, and concludes that far beyond the challenge of the diet for an individual, the buy-in needed for food companies to shift would be massive (and maybe that’s the whole point). On Earther, there were two reflections on the diet, both by Brian Kahn:

“A flexitarian diet would reduce diet-related greenhouse gas emissions by almost 80%, whilst a vegan one would lead to reductions of over 90%,” Marco Springmann, a researcher at Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food who has conducted research on the topic, told me. He also said focusing on a more plant-based diet has clear human health benefits in terms of mortality.

Over on CivilEats, Eva Perroni conducted an interview with Tim Wise about the picture of Big Food and Farming, which I found interesting and helpful in the ways he bravely takes on the Gates Foundation:

I honestly had hope coming out of the 2007-8 food price increases that they would serve as a wake-up call to donor governments and foundations to shift policies to favor small-scale farmers and support more sustainable farming practices. Indeed, in international forums like the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the narrative did change. But agribusiness hijacked the policy agenda. I saw it everywhere I traveled. And the Gates Foundation deserves much of the blame for such technology-driven policies.

I’ve recently been encountering quite a few mainstream articles reflecting on the recent book,  Pressure Cooker: Why Home Cooking Won’t Solve Our Problems and What We Can Do About It by three sociologists: Sarah Bowen, Joslyn Brenton, and Sinikka Elliott. One in Vox, one in The Atlantic, and one in Civil Eats, and all three an interesting read. The findings won’t be surprising to many of us who are parents or food researchers. I liked this summary by author Sinikka Elliott:

This idea that if we all make time for food and cooking good food at home, we’ll be healthier and stronger families—it’s an empowering idea. It gives us the sense that we can transform something in our lives. But it overlooks how so many aspects of family life are really thrust on to the shoulders of women.

Lastly, this long piece on taste used Trump’s use of ketchup on steak as a starting point, but ends up making a much more expansive point:

Context is king in interpreting food. “You’ve got to break on through,” Gold said. “There are French cheeses that, if you accidentally stepped on them in the street you would spend a half hour trying to scrub off your shoe, but yet when you eat them in the proper context … it’s just completely delicious.”

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CFP: AAA/CASCA 2019 in Vancouver, BC

ATTN SAFN MEMBERS: Start planning your sessions for AAA/CASCA 2019 in Vancouver, BC!

The time has come to start planning sessions for the annual AAA meeting – this year in collaboration with the Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA).

The meeting will be held November 20-24, 2019 in Vancouver, BC, Canada. The theme is Changing Climates / Changer D’Air.

Vancouver is an amazing city for food and SAFN’s AAA Program Committee and Executive Board look forward to putting together a great program for our members – but we need your help. Please begin organizing your oral presentation sessions, roundtables, gallery sessions, installations, and workshops!

The Submission Portal is open – and all the submission details can be found here. When you submit, please select SAFN as your review section.

Please note that some of the submission dates have changed:

  • Submissions must be started in the Submission Portal by Friday, April 5 at 3:00 p.m. EDT.
  • Submitters will have until Wednesday, April 10 at 3:00 p.m. EDT to finalize and submit their proposals.

SAFN encourages you to take advantage of a wide range of presentation formats:

  • Oral presentation sessions (standard and retrospective)
  • Roundtables (standard and retrospective)
  • Group flash presentations (5 minutes each)
  • Curated group gallery sessions (with posters or other visual content)
  • Installations (including performances, readings, or other creative forms of expression)
  • Individually volunteered papers and posters
  • Workshops
  • Mentoring event

Invited and Co-Sponsored Sessions

We will consider all sessions submitted to SAFN for Invited status. Last year we co-sponsored several sessions with Culture and Agriculture, the Society for Medical Anthropology, and the Society for Linguistic Anthropology. These co-sponsorships were a great success and they increased our visibility and audience! We hope expand our co-sponsorships this year. Please let us know about your sessions and make suggestions for co-sponsorships as soon as possible.

Organizing sessions vs. individually volunteered papers

Although the AAA communication platform is changing, we encourage you to take advantage of the listserv and new AAA Communities to organize a session or find a session for your individual contributions. The SAFN committee will do its best to organize individually volunteered papers into panels for review – but our experience is that organized panels are more cohesive.

Participation Rules

A reminder that you must be a member of either AAA or CASCA, and register for the meeting to submit a proposal. (Exemption requests for Guest Presenter Registrations must be submitted by March 20, 2019.) Also, individuals can only present one major (Presenter) role plus one secondary (Discussant) role per meeting. There are no limits on minor roles (Organizer/Chair).

All submission details can be found here — but please feel free to reach out to us if you have questions.

The 2019 SAFN AAA Program Committee

Jennifer Jo Thompson – jjthomp@uga.edu

Ashley Stinnett

Daniel Shattuck

Hilary King

 

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