What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, November 30, 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.

If we want to count the number of farms in the U.S., what should we count? Public policy and opinion thrive on analyses driven by big data these days, but it is increasingly clear that there are a lot of faulty assumptions behind the data. This article looks at the definition of farms and raises great questions about the definition of what counts. Ethnography might help…

While we are reading about farm and food policies, what might be the impact of a Trump administration crack down on immigration? Over at Civil Eats, Elizabeth Grossman provides this useful overview of a number of organizations and their views on this matter.

Also related to the incoming U.S. administration, Dan Nosowitz speculates about the candidates for Secretary of Agriculture over at Modern Farmer.

This may seem like something out of Sinclair Lewis’ novel “The Jungle,” but it appears that animal to human transmission of tuberculosis has become a significant problem in Africa. Anthropologist Lauren Carruth and her co-authors explore the issue – which includes drug-resistant strains of TB – in this article, which you can read here (if you subscribe to The Lancet) or here (if you do not).

The legal desegregation of public dining happened decades ago, but the reality of racial distinctions is still clear in fine dining all over America. In this elegantly-written piece, Maurice Carlos Ruffin explores his experiences of race and class in New Orleans dining and thinks about what that tells us about local and national culture. This article would really be useful in any number of classes.

Eating in diners has been an important part of New York City’s restaurant culture for a while, but that era may be coming to a close. In this essay, George Blecher explores what it means to be a regular in a New York diner.

With the recent death of Fidel Castro, it is interesting to think about some of the ways in which Cuba has been at the front of experiments in all kinds of social policies, including some related to food. In this article (which is a not recent, but we just read it), Christopher Cook looks at the rise of urban agriculture in Cuba in the wake of the demise of the Soviet Union and its support for Cuba.

Do black and white Americans have different culinary references? Listen to this interview with Donna Battle Pierce on KCRW’s “Good Food” about Freda DeKnight’s cookbook “A Date With A Dish,” which was a key part of many middle class African American household kitchens in the latter half of the twentieth century.

Are food deserts a result of bad supply or poor demand? In this article, Patrick Clinton looks at a recent study by an economist (which you can read more about here) that suggests that when poor people get more money, they do not choose higher quality foods. This is thought-provoking, but problematic, since it mostly leaves out any sense of history, culture, or taste. Low income people are hardly alone in the U.S. in making unhealthy food choices…demand seems like a weak explanation for that by itself. After all, where does demand come from?

Finishing on a lighter note (and inspired by an interview on KCRW’s “Good Food”), the Reverend Shawn Amos has a delightful series of blues performances available on his Youtube channel called The Kitchen Table Blues. He and his band appear in kitchens and near or in restaurants and perform blues. Sometimes food seems to be involved. Enjoy.

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