What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, August 23, 2016

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.

Ramen is probably one of the most popular and familiar foods on the planet, as readers of Frederick Errington, Tatsuro Fujikura, and Deborah Gewertz’s 2013 book “The Noodle Narratives” know. The Guardian wrote about work by sociologist Michael Gibson-Light, who discusses how ramen have become prized commodities and a kind of currency in the U.S. prison system, where privatization and reduced government funding have resulted in less food available for inmates.

How do people make living conditions in refugee camps tolerable? This stunning article looks at conditions inside Yida, a refugee camp in South Sudan and tells the stories of women who have started restaurants there. Along with stories of survival and ingenuity, there are great details about food cultures, bureaucracy, and more, along with brilliant photography.

In the last few decades, Community Supported Agriculture has been seen by many as a model of how farmers and consumers can escape industrial agriculture. It helps small family farms thrive and provides consumers with better quality foods. At least, that is the idea. But is the model sustainable? This article from Small Farm Central examines recent data to argue that there are significant threats to the long-term success of the CSA model. The author also provides potential solutions.

When we subscribe to a CSA or shop at the farmers market, we often think that we are engaging in more ethical consumption. After all, what could be better than purchasing food from local producers? In this article, political scientist Margaret Gray calls attention to the working conditions farmworkers encounter even in small farms. Unless we pay attention and lobby for better laws and conditions, local may not always be very different from industrial farming, at least for workers.

Many people are aware that the monoculture of Cavendish bananas presents all sorts of problems, not the least of which is that the bananas themselves may disappear due to disease. Critics argue that there are better banana varieties out there, but finding ways for farmers to produce them and get them to market is difficult. Writer Aaron Thier makes an argument for a better banana and explains how to get it to market here.

Following the banana theme, Fabio Parasecoli provides a nicely educational review of the movie Sausage Party, which he suggests draws on tired old ethnic stereotypes and frat boy politics in an effort to explore the lives of grocery store products. He may not like the movie, but the review will provide you with a useful history on ethnicity, animated food, and bananas.

TGI Friday’s is changing its décor, from the antique-heavy jumble that you may have seen, to something more sleek and early 21st century. But where did the original style come from? This article from Collector’s Weekly explores the history of the antique décor phenomenon in American restaurants. Birth control, fern bars, Americana, and more…this is dense and surprising history. Where all the antiques come from…and where “decluttering” may lead.

If you read this blog, then you probably also watch a lot of very serious and high minded documentaries about food. They are all excellent, no doubt, and we watch them too (and sometimes recommend them in this column). So here is a parody of all of those films. There is a little gesture at the end that is killer.

Cookbooks are a great source for scholars who want to look at the way people think about food at any given moment or in particular places. If you are in New York City, you have until September 9 to see the exhibition “Nourishing Tradition: Jewish Cookbooks and the Stories they Tell” at the Center for Jewish History. Meanwhile, here is a brief but excellent article about the exhibition and the questions it raises.

Over at always-interesting-but-sometimes-cryptic Savage Minds, William Cotter and Mary-Caitlyn Valentinsson have written about the increasingly complex world of specialty coffee in the United States. They focus particular attention on issues of class and race. Worth a read, although your next cup of hipster-approved java may be a little more bitter after you do.

Looking for films to use in your classes this fall? Here is a list of nineteen films recommended by the folks at FoodTank (who love making lists even more than we do), some very serious, some quite fun.

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Filed under anthropology, anthropology of food, Food Studies

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