Author Archives: foodanthro

NYU Food Studies Post Doc Opportunity

Here is a great opportunity for a recent PhD…note that anthropological perspectives are especially welcome!

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development, New York University (2018-19)

The Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at NYU invites applications from outstanding candidates for a full-time Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. The position is within the Food Studies Program. It is available for one year. Candidates must have an earned PhD, with potential for outstanding research or public scholarship in an area aligned with the department’s work as specified below:

GOALS and SUBJECT AREAS

  1. Advance the field of Food Studies
  • expand the boundaries of the field or sharpen its focus
  • demonstrate the importance of Food Studies for other disciplines and/or public engagement
  • advance the profile of Food Studies within NYU and outside it
  • strengthen networks with other Food Studies or relevant programs elsewhere
  1. Emphasis will be placed on the cultural and social elements of Food Studies
  • historical, modern and critical cultural, sociological, geographical, and anthropological approaches will be prioritized
  1. Selection will reward candidates whose work addresses local-global connections, particularly in urban centers
  • boundary crossing and exchange (intra and inter-ethnic, international, etc.)
  • global circulations of people, ideas, and products
  • city geographies, demographics, and food environments
  1. Particular attention will be paid to candidates whose work
  • merges aesthetic/cultural and economic/material dimensions
  • projects that engage seriously with taste, pleasure, and identity alongside issues of regulation, transportation, commercialization, or other biophysical aspects of food production and consumption
  • candidates who can show competency in using mapping software and have affinity for the digital humanities (e.g.: CartoDB; Omeka; etc.)

FELLOWSHIP RESPONSIBILITIES

Fellows will be expected to:

  • Continue research and expand their contribution to the field of Food Studies while at NYU
    • publish in appropriate academic journals
    • present in appropriate academic conferences
  • Play an active role in the Program, Department, broader NYU and Food Studies community
    • Present their research formally at least once during the year (ideally once per semester, in different formats and with different audiences)
  • attend and participate regularly in relevant talks within the department and beyond
  • nurture relationships with students and faculty
  • Teach one or two courses in a year (to be determined in discussion with the Chair and the Program Director)
  • Support the program for relevant initiatives (such as grant writing, aiding in partnership development and organizing colloquia).

Applicants must send:

1) CV (2-pages maximum)

2) two reference letters (to be sent directly to amy.bentley@nyu.edu and matt.vanzo@nyu.edu ),

3) a statement (2 pages) describing a one-year research plan, publication preparation or a public humanities plan.

The application package should be sent to matt.vanzo@nyu.edu and amy.bentley@nyu.edu (electronic submission of one complete PDF file is required).

Subject line should say Food Studies Postdoc.

The deadline for submission is November 15th 2017. If the search is successful the term will begin in September 2018 or soon after.

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology, Food Studies

CFP: Southern Cultures Special Issue on Coastal Foodways

This is a bit last minute, but seems like it may be of interest to SAFN writers and other readers of this blog:

Call for Papers
Special issue of Southern Cultures: Coastal Foodways
Spring 2018

Southern Cultures, the award-winning, peer-reviewed quarterly from UNC’s Center for the Study of the American South, encourages submissions from scholars, writers, and artists for our Coastal Foodways Issue, to be published Spring 2018. We will be accepting submissions for this special issue through October 3, 2017, at https://southerncultures.submittable.com/Submit .

This call aims to gather work that documents and understands the food and foodways-related issues of the southern coast, in its present moment, and in the voices of scholars, fishers and fishmongers, coastal activists, environmentalists, and communities broadly defined. We understand southern foodways to exist across many genres, disciplines, and collaborations and seek to expand the conversation to the interaction of peoples and cultures with the broader forces of political, social, historical, and economic change at work in the Atlantic and Gulf Souths. Global South analyses are welcome as well.

Submissions can explore any topic or theme related to southern coastal life, with a special interest in pieces that seek new understandings of the coast and its food cultures, identify current communities and concerns, and address its ongoing challenges. We welcome explorations of the region in the forms Southern Cultures publishes: scholarly articles, memoir, interviews, surveys, photo essays, and shorter feature essays.

Possible topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • The politics of evolving coastal food economies
  • Changing labor and fishing industry scenarios
  • Coastal tourism and real estate development issues
  • Climate change and sea rise, wetlands loss, and environmental degradation
  • Local seafood movement

As we also publish a digital edition, we are able to supplement essays with video, audio, and interactive visual content. We encourage creativity in coordinating print and digital materials in submissions and ask that authors submit any potential digital materials with their essay or introduction/artist’s statement.

We encourage authors to gain familiarity with the tone, scope, and style of our journal before submitting. Those whose institutions subscribe to Project Muse can read past issues for free via http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/southern_cultures/ . To read our current issue, access our submission guidelines, or browse our content, please visit us online at http://www.SouthernCultures.org/ .

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology, CFP, United States

CFP: Food as a cultural heritage: challenges, processes and perspectives

A call for papers for an annual conference in France that may be of interest to our readers:

IEHCA logo

Food as a cultural heritage: challenges, processes and perspectives

Conference organised by the European Institute for the History and Cultures of Food (IEHCA, Tours, France)

15-16 November 2018 – Tours (France)

For several years now, many scientists have taken an interest in the relationship between food and heritage: from historians to anthropologists, sociologists to geographers, experts in the field of tourism science, and more. This interest has spawned a host of new publications, and with it a number of mono-disciplinary case studies.

There is a need to review these actions and this work. With the European Council and Parliament deciding that 2018 will be “European Cultural Heritage Year”, there is now a drive to “raise awareness of European history and values and to strengthen a sense of European identity”, while also “drawing attention to the opportunities offered by our cultural heritage, but also to the challenges it faces”. Viewing food in all its aspects as a cultural heritage clearly follows from the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage. This includes “the practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills – as well as the instruments, objects, artefacts and cultural spaces associated therewith – that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognise as part of their cultural heritage. This intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity”. The terms of this definition inspired the European Institute for the History and Cultures of Food to initiate and carry through the Repas gastronomique des Français (Gastronomic meal of the French) nomination project. Furthermore, UNESCO has added 14 “food” elements to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity and many other applications are being prepared. The time has come for a comprehensive and coordinated process of reflection.

Lines of enquiry

The first objective of the conference will be to advocate a multidisciplinary approach to the various aspects covered by food heritage. The second innovative trajectory will be to take a European and international standpoint, with a particular reference to countries that have successfully added food elements to the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Finally, we will focus particular attention on the differing time frames, including those that are more long-term in nature.

This comprehensive approach will first focus on challenges: providing a precise definition of concepts such as intangible and food heritage, identifying the scientific and professional communities concerned by these concepts, while also taking the fragile nature of food heritage into account.

Understanding processes is key, in terms of developing the concept of intangible heritage or the historic development of food heritage (compared to concepts such as terroir), and preparing applications for inclusion on UNESCO’s Representative List. The national inventories are essential tools in this regard.

And finally, perspectives consider the fact that, as with any other intangible cultural heritage, food heritage is covered by safeguarding measures. The establishment of a global network of intangible cultural heritage food elements can, clearly, provide robust support for any collective action. We intend to lay the foundations for this network with the 2018 symposium.

Topics (non-exhaustive)

  • Typicality, in terms of the link between the product (and the know-how it takes to produce and transform it) and its place of origin, is a value whose characteristics change based on place and time. Typicality and tradition both contribute to shaping the concept of heritage. Here, too, recent case studies are available.
  • It is now impossible to discuss the notion of food heritage without due consideration of the UNESCO Convention and the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in Need of Urgent Safeguarding. Strictly speaking, the Urgent Safeguarding List still contains neither food nor gastronomic elements. Nevertheless, food does play a significant role in, for example, the Yaokwa ritual of the Enawene Nawe people of Brazil (2011), and Guatemala’s Nan Pa’ch ceremony (2013). While studies have already been published, this phenomenon calls for more in-depth research.
  • The notion of food heritage (or culinary, or gastronomic) is a recent development, but its roots stretch back in time. A preliminary work on the French case was published recently, and The French Culinary Model: dissemination, adaption, transformation and opposition worldwide (17th–21st centuries) was chosen as the topic of the IEHCA’s 2014 Conference. But here again, much remains to be done, particularly in a global and comparative sense.
  • Where heritage exists, there is also a need to understand, safeguard and transfer this heritage. This requirement is explicit in the UNESCO Convention, but its roots can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages. Such a need explains both the existence of inventories and political action taken by public authorities at a national, regional and local level.
  • Food heritage appreciation and interpretation was also the subject of an innovative museological and museographical project using virtual technologies. However, areas remain to be explored, and the use of certain techniques has often generated discrepancies or impossibilities that are yet to be identified to improve public information.
  • The process of heritage designation loads the standard product (and its cuisine) with added values derived from history and mythology; mythology often merges with history, to the point at which it acts as a substitute. The fact that sociologists have developed the expression “nostalgia marketing”, which refers to these aspects, is no coincidence; the consumer is reassured, and recognises a reminder of “the good old days” in the product, a guarantee of quality. There is also a clear economic aspect inherent in this example.

Submission guidelines

If you would like to present a paper at this conference, please send a proposal including an abstract and a CV (1 page maximum, in total) in French or English to be submitted to loic.bienassis@iehca.eu by 15 December 2017.

L’alimentation comme patrimoine culturel : enjeux, processus et perspectives

Colloque organisé par l’Institut Européen d’Histoire et des Cultures de l’Alimentation (IEHCA, Tours, France)

15-16 novembre 2018 – Tours (France)

Depuis quelques années, les relations entre nourriture et patrimoine ont suscité l’intérêt de nombreux scientifiques : des historiens aux anthropologues, des sociologues aux géographes jusqu’aux experts des sciences du tourisme, etc. En témoignent de multiples publications récentes, qui présentent autant d’études de cas mono-disciplinaires.

Un bilan de ces actions et des travaux effectués s’impose. Le Conseil et le Parlement européen ayant décidé que 2018 serait l’« Année européenne du patrimoine culturel », l’initiative a été lancée de « sensibiliser à l’histoire et aux valeurs européennes et à renforcer un sentiment d’identité européenne » tout en attirant « l’attention sur les possibilités offertes par notre patrimoine culturel, mais également sur les défis auxquels il est confronté ». Considérer l’alimentation et tous ses aspects en tant que patrimoine culturel découle évidemment de la Convention UNESCO pour la sauvegarde du patrimoine culturel immatériel, qui, rappelons-le, inclut « les pratiques, représentations, expressions, connaissances et savoir-faire – ainsi que les instruments, objets, artefacts et espaces culturels qui leur sont associés – que les communautés, les groupes et, le cas échéant, les individus reconnaissent comme faisant partie de leur patrimoine culturel. Ce patrimoine culturel immatériel, transmis de génération en génération, est recréé en permanence par les communautés et groupes en fonction de leur milieu, de leur interaction avec la nature et de leur histoire, et leur procure un sentiment d’identité et de continuité, contribuant ainsi à promouvoir le respect de la diversité culturelle et la créativité humaine ». Ce sont les termes mêmes de cette définition qui avaient conduit l’Institut Européen d’Histoire et des Cultures de l’Alimentation à initier et à mener à bien le projet d’inscription du Repas gastronomique des Français. Outre celui-ci, quatorze éléments « alimentaires » ont été classés par l’UNESCO dans la liste représentative du patrimoine culturel immatériel de l’humanité et de nombreux autres dossiers sont en préparation. Le temps est venu d’une réflexion globale et coordonnée.

Orientations

Le premier objectif du colloque sera de promouvoir une approche multidisciplinaire des différents aspects que recouvre le patrimoine alimentaire. Sa seconde originalité sera d’adopter une perspective européenne et internationale en s’appuyant notamment sur les pays qui ont fait inscrire des éléments alimentaires au patrimoine culturel immatériel de l’humanité. Enfin on sera particulièrement attentif aux différentes échelles temporelles, y compris la longue durée.

Cette approche globale abordera d’abord la question des enjeux, qui suppose de définir précisément des notions comme patrimoine immatériel ou alimentaire, de délimiter les communautés scientifiques et professionnelles concernées par ces notions, sans oublier la prise en compte de la fragilité des patrimoines alimentaires.

La compréhension des processus est cruciale, que ce soit la construction de la notion de patrimoine immatériel ou bien la construction historique du patrimoine alimentaire (par rapport à des notions comme celle de terroir) ou encore l’élaboration des dossiers présentés pour l’inscription sur la liste représentative de l’UNESCO. De ce point de vue, l’instrument représenté par les inventaires nationaux se révèle essentiel.

Enfin les perspectives intègrent le fait que le patrimoine alimentaire, comme tout le patrimoine culturel immatériel en général, fait l’objet de mesures de sauvegarde. La mise en place d’un réseau mondial des éléments alimentaires du patrimoine culturel immatériel peut sans aucun doute être un puissant appui à une action collective : le colloque de 2018 entend en être la première pierre.

Thématiques (non exhaustives)

  • La typicité, en tant que lien entre le produit (et le savoir-faire qui le réalise et le transforme) et son lieu d’origine, est une valeur dont les caractéristiques changent selon le lieu et le temps. Typicité et tradition participent ensemble à la construction du concept de patrimoine. Dans ce cas, aussi, nous disposons d’études de cas récentes.
  • Il est maintenant impossible d’aborder l’idée du patrimoine alimentaire sans prendre en considération la convention UNESCO et la liste des éléments du patrimoine culturel immatériel de l’humanité qui nécessitent une sauvegarde urgente. Dans cette dernière, on ne trouve pas encore d’éléments alimentaires ou gastronomiques stricto sensu. Cependant, la nourriture occupe une place importante, par exemple, dans le rituel appelé Yaokwa, du peuple brésilien Enawene Nawe (2011) et dans la cérémonie de la Nan Pa’ch du Guatemala (2013). Des études ont déjà été publiées mais ce phénomène demande un approfondissement des enquêtes.
  • L’idée du patrimoine alimentaire (ou culinaire, ou gastronomique) est le résultat d’une construction récente, mais ses origines se situent dans l’histoire. Des travaux existent mais là aussi il reste beaucoup à faire, notamment dans une démarche globale et comparative.
  • S’il y a patrimoine, il y a aussi nécessité de le connaître, de le sauvegarder et de le transmettre. Cette nécessité est explicite dans la Convention UNESCO, mais elle plonge ses racines dans un passé qu’on peut faire remonter bien en arrière, parfois jusqu’au Moyen Âge. Une telle nécessité est à l’origine des inventaires d’un côté, et d’un autre côté des mesures politiques prises par les pouvoirs publics à l’échelle nationale, régionale ou locale. Les inventaires eux-mêmes dépendent des implications culturelles et économiques véhiculées par le patrimoine et souvent présentes aussi dans le développement de son inventorisation.
  • La médiation du patrimoine alimentaire a également fait l’objet d’un travail novateur en matière de muséologie et de muséographie, grâce à l’apport des technologies virtuelles. Mais tout n’a pas été encore exploré, et l’emploi de certaines techniques a pu parfois générer des contradictions ou encore des impossibilités qu’il reste à identifier pour améliorer l’information des publics.
  • Le processus de patrimonialisation charge le produit typique (et sa cuisine aussi) de valeurs ajoutées qui proviennent de l’histoire et de la mythologie ; la mythologie se mêle souvent à l’histoire, jusqu’au point de s’y substituer. Ce n’est pas un hasard si les sociologues ont créé l’expression de « Nostalgia marketing », qui renvoie à ces aspects ; il s’agit de rassurer le consommateur, qui reconnaît dans le produit l’évocation du « bon vieux temps », garantie de qualité. L’aspect économique est évident en ce cas aussi.

Conditions de soumission

Si vous souhaitez présenter une communication à ce colloque, merci d’envoyer une proposition comprenant un argumentaire et un CV (au total 1 page maximum), en français ou en anglais, auprès de Loïc Bienassis loic.bienassis@iehca.eu avant le 15 décembre 2017.

___________________________________

Ce colloque est organisé par l’Institut Européen d’Histoire de l’Alimentation (IEHCA, Tours) qui a porté la candidature du « Repas gastronomique des Français » au patrimoine culturel immatériel de l’humanité établi par l’UNESCO.

The conference is being organised by the European Institute for the History and Cultures of Food (IEHCA, Tours), which supported the nomination of the ‘Gastronomic meal of the French’ for inscription on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, established by UNESCO.

En partenariat avec / in partnership with

L’Association France PCI

Le Ministère de la Culture

La Mission Française des Patrimoines et des Cultures Alimentaires

Le Réseau des Cités de la Gastronomie

L’Université de Tours

Comité de Pilotage (provisoire) / Steering committee (provisional)

Loïc Bienassis (Chargé de mission scientifique, Institut Européen d’Histoire et des Cultures de l’Alimentation, Tours)

Francis Chevrier (Directeur de l’Institut Européen d’Histoire et des Cultures de l’Alimentation, Tours)

Denis Feignier (Inspecteur général de l’agriculture, ministère de l’Agriculture et de l’Alimentation)

Bruno Laurioux (Professeur d’histoire du Moyen Âge et de l’alimentation, Université de Tours)

Pascal Liévaux (Chef du département du pilotage de la recherche et de la politique scientifique, ministère de la Culture)

Jean-Robert Pitte (Professeur émérite de géographie, Université Paris-Sorbonne)

Françoise Sabban (Directrice d’études, anthropologie, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris)

Laurent Stéfanini (Ambassadeur, Délégué permanent de la France auprès de l’UNESCO)

Comité scientifique (provisoire) / Scientific committee (provisional)

Chiara Bortolotto (Chercheuse associée au laboratoire d’anthropologie et d’histoire de l’institution de la culture (LAHIC), Paris)

Antonella Campanini (Enseignante/chercheuse en histoire médiévale, University of Gastronomic Sciences, Pollenzo, Italie)

Allen J. Grieco (Chercheur associé, Villa I Tatti, The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Florence, Italie)

Jean-Robert Pitte (Professeur émérite de géographie, Université Paris-Sorbonne)

Françoise Sabban (Directrice d’études, anthropologie, É0cole des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris)

Sylvie Sagnes (Chargée de recherche, CNRS, Institut interdisciplinaire d’anthropologie du contemporain, Paris)

 

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology, CFP, Food Studies, heritage

Smithsonian Food History Weekend

If you expect to be in the Washington DC area between October 26 and 28 you may want to consider attending the Third Annual Smithsonian Food History Weekend. The theme is: “Many Flavors, One Nation” (which might work for someone looking to start an ice cream business). From the web site:

Join us for the 2017 Smithsonian Food History Weekend at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. Culinary leaders, researchers, practitioners, and scholars will inspire Museum visitors to understand the history of food in America and the role they play, individually and collectively, in shaping the future of food.

Over the course of three days, our third annual Smithsonian Food History Weekend will explore how food has been both a bridge and a barrier to cultural connection in America. From farmers to home cooks to top chefs, how does food migrate with people? Where does our food really come from? And how have people negotiated their differences and celebrated their commonalties over food throughout American history?

From cooking demonstrations, hands-on learning, dynamic conversations, and Smithsonian collections; to powerful evenings, a black-tie gala, local restaurants, and beer history; there’s something for everyone.

A number of notable food studies scholars will be involved, along with opportunities to observe cooking, eat, and drink. Details are available on the web site, which is here.

As always, we would be thrilled to have a report back from a SAFN member on the event. Take a few pictures and send a note for this blog.

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology, Food Studies

Size Matters: How Semiotics is Making History in the World of Wine

Kerri Lesh
University of Nevada, Reno

A “historic milestone” for the Spanish wine-making region of Rioja has been making headlines in the wine world. A new labeling strategy was approved that will shape the way producers from Rioja can market their wine after the 2017 harvest. This decision illustrates the efforts that have been made on behalf of the Asociación de Bodegas de Rioja Alavesa (ABRA) to differentiate the wines of the Basque zone of Rioja Alavesa, and will now apply to all producers in the Rioja wine-making Designation of Origen (DOC).

On August 11, the decision was made by the Regulatory Board of Rioja DOC to allow for wines to be labeled by “zona”(zone) and “villa”(town or municipality), as well as “viñedos singulares” or single vineyard wine. This ruling comes after more than forty bodegas had been working to develop a new Designation of Origin (DO), called Viñedos de Álava or, in Basque, Arabako Mahastiak. The latest decision has, then, been made to halt the efforts to create the Alavesa label, and to allow the DOC of Rioja to follow through with its new agreement.

The Vice President of ABRA, Carlos Fernández, commented on the Dastatu Rioja Alavesa blog that, “This began many years ago with the demand for a font size to acknowledge the distinct subzones of the Rioja DOC.” Up until now, the permitted subzones, now simply called “zones,” had to be displayed using a smaller font size than that of the larger “Rioja” DOC indication. The three zones–Alta, Alavesa, and Baja (the latter recently changed to Oriental or “Eastern”)–can now be listed in a font equal in size to that of the larger designation of “Rioja.”

rioja lobel

Bottle label from Ostatu displaying the previous font specifications

Bittor Oroz, the Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Fishing, and Food Policy for the Basque Government, expands on the importance of making “place” more visible by referencing the concept of terroir, as stated in Noticias de Alava:

“People look for the origin of the wine they consume, they want to link it to the terroir…they are looking for something more than just the quality of the product, but rather the story behind the wine, the histories that lie behind a glass, and being able to focus in on a particular bodega, on the places where it is cultivated and produced.  Because of that, it is important to identify those spaces and give them their due value.”

The importance of this new agreement highlights the challenges of selling wine within various markets, in such a way whereby identity and traceability are not lost. This particular use of semiotics is in part driven by the producers’ and consumers’ desire for a unique, traceable, and well-marketed wine.

A portion of my research in the Basque Country entails the observation of how semiotics and the concept of terroir are implemented in marketing local gastronomic products.  Alongside Anne Lally, I have co-organized and chaired the panel titled Taste and Terroir as Anthropological Matter. This panel will be featured at the annual American Anthropological Association meeting, to be held this November in Washington D.C.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns at kerri.lesh@gmail.com.

1 Comment

Filed under AAA 2017 Washington DC, anthropology, Spain, wine

There is no such thing as spaghetti bolognaise: The rights and wrongs of a ragù

Markus Bell

Arguably Italy’s most famous dish, certainly the one most likely to appear on the children’s menu in your local family diner, spaghetti bolognaise is globally consumed and widely misunderstood. I spent a Bologna evening in the company of some hungry Italians to find out what’s so special about bolognaise, why the rest of us are getting it wrong, and what this quintessentially Italian food can tell us about ourselves.

The rules of ragù

Rule #1: There’s no such thing as spaghetti bolognaise.

Like every good meal the evening starts with some hunting and gathering. A team dispatched to the local store, owned and staffed by a friendly Pakistani family, return with ingredients for the feast to come. Beers are cracked and diced vegetables thrown into a pot that already plays host to a generous splash of olive oil.

Busy hands stir the onions, celery and carrots for 20 minutes before adding first the pork and then the beef. “It’s so the meat breaks up. Later we’ll add the wine and the tomato sauce and let simmer,” our host explains, wielding a spoon stained at the end with evidence of a lifetime of mixing.

“So, dinner in half an hour?” I ask, recalling family ‘Italian nights’ as a child.

“Dinner in 3 hours,” comes a terse reply. “The first thing you’ve got to know,” our host informs us earnestly, measuring out flour and eggs for crafting the pasta, “is that there’s no such thing as spaghetti bolognaise. We don’t use garlic, there’s no cherry tomato in here, and it’s not fast food. This is tagliatelle al ragù.”

Rule #2: It’s not an exact science

IMG_0338Flour blankets the table like snow on a Hallmark Christmas card. Mimicking Mr. Miyagi’s ‘wax-on, wax-off’ motion, our host sweeps it up and shapes it into a miniature volcano. Into the crater he cracks several eggs. “How much flour is in each volcano?” I ask, notepad in hand.

“The second thing to know, Markus: making tagliatelle al ragù isn’t an exact science. You’ve got to feel when the dough is ready to roll. You need to taste the ragù before you add the wine. And you just know when it’s all ready.”

I reluctantly discard my pen and paper.

Our host kneads the flour and eggs until it becomes firm and stops sticking to a rolling board that resembles a dance floor in proportions. Locating an oversized, police baton of a wooden rolling pin he leans with his weight on the dough and lunges back and forth, flattening everything in his path.IMG_0345

“They were my grandmother’s,” he explains, hair pulled back, shoulders pinned forward as he mercilessly shunts dough around the dance floor. “I learnt to cook from watching my grandmother. There were no recipes. Nothing was written down. We learn by watching and doing,” he tells us, brushing flour from his hands and reaching for a beer.

Culinary co-presence

Our host, like so many young Italians, grew up a countryside kitchen. He stood with his grandmother as she cooked every meal for the family using tools she later gifted him. And like so many young Italians, our host had left the family village and left Italy to find employment that had eluded him at home. Indeed, as we watch him boil clutch after clutch of frIMG_0347esh pasta, we realize that of the guests at the feast that evening, all were preparing to go overseas to find work.

A sensation of loss characterizes the performance of the properly cooked ragù. The bubbling ragù and the tools baring grandmother’s hand indentations are trans-temporal objects facilitating an imagined reunion for families separated between rural and urban, Italy and the US, life and death. Like the best performances, the audience participates in nurturing the sentiments of longing for absent people, the desire to be close to kin and an imagined return to the sweetness of a nostalgic past, to a ragù gone by.

In those moments, our host embodies his grandmother through dicing, stirring, rolling and tasting the food as she taught him. In further staining the mixing spoon he fostered a co-presence by-proxy with his kin and family home. During an impatient wait for sauce to reach an unscientifically defined readiness, a heady mix of braised meats and high-tannin red wine elevated the cooking process for participants. Smells, sounds and stories collapsed time, overlapping the now and then into a sensual communitas.

Rule #3: Slow to cook, quick to eat

Thick pasta snakes are encouraged onto plates and swamped with a rich, dark sauce that pulls at the tongue. Around the table, glasses rise and a chorus of the hungry give thanks to the chef and to grandma.

The moment of consumption is short lived. The ceremony of commensality breaking down as the ragù is devoured before I can observe the necessary niceties (‘It tastes just like the real thing, mom’). Forks hit the ceramic and I’m confronted by quizzical expressions.

‘Did you even taste it?’ I ask, incredulously.

‘Rule three, Markus: A good ragù is slow to cook and quick to eat.’ My host smiles, wiping the sauce from his beard and pouring the dregs of the wine.

And this makes perfect sense. It’s through hours of preparation and waiting that a ragù is performed. Consumption is a just a bridge of reflection between the ritual of cooking and being cooked for and the calm of sitting, wine in hand, waiting for the next performance.

The Performed ragù:

1 x Onion, diced

Several sticks of celery, diced

Enough carrots, diced

Ground beef (75%)

Ground pork (25%)

Red Wine

Tomato Sauce

No garlic!

Cook the vegetables in a large pot for twenty minutes with olive oil. Add the meat. Add wine once everything is simmering nicely. Add tomato sauce. Simmer for three hours.

Fresh Pasta:

Flour (100 grams per person)

Eggs (1 egg per person)

Glass of water (if needed)

Author profile:

Dr. Markus Bell is a social and cultural anthropologist at Sheffield University’s School of East Asian Studies. He lectures on food and anthropology, North & South Korean society, migration, and history.

3 Comments

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

What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, August 25, 2017

David Beriss

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.

It is the end of the summer, but it certainly does not feel like it. Indeed, it is hot as heck and it is driving us bananas here in New Orleans, which was once the banana capital of the country. Maybe we still import a lot of bananas here, but they do it differently in New York, as this charming article from the New York Times outlines. Great way to follow the hidden circuits of food distribution.

Many SAFN writers and readers were in Los Angeles for the annual food studies conference earlier this summer. While there, we tried to take in as much of the vast foodscape that the city offers. It is hard not to be swept up in the ever-changing tide of food trends offered by the city’s high end dining, or the amazing diversity of foods available from every community that makes up that metropolis. But it is worth looking at the city’s food history too, as this fascinating article about the city’s “vintage” bars and restaurants and efforts to revive or preserve some of them. It is by Besha Rodell, who you may have met at the conference and includes some great photos of those very same vintage restaurants.

We have mentioned Michael Twitty’s new book, “The Cooking Gene,” here before. But this review, from James Norton at the Christian Science Monitor, provides a nice overview of the book, if you are wondering whether to read it. You can also listen to an interview with Twitty on the radio show “On Point.” It seems like this book has rapidly become an essential part of the heated American national debate about race, history, and society.

Alert contributor Leedom Lefferts has sent in a selection of readings that really underline something curious about the concerns we might have with our food system in the U.S. and elsewhere. This article, from the Raleigh (NC) News Observer focuses on child labor in farm labor. Meanwhile, in the same state (North Carolina), they are celebrating the new freedom to purchase alcohol with Sunday brunch, presumably to allow the vegetables picked by children to go down better.

What is going on with the American obsession with striving to be thin? You know it is all wrapped up with ideas about morality, gender, social class, and a lot of other things. This article, by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, puts the diet movement into historical perspective and examines current trends, while adding in an absolutely stunning set of personal insights. This would be a solid read to start off a class discussion…and you should read it whether you use it for that or not.

Why do people in the restaurant industry have so many problems with addiction? Brittany Bronson looks into this question in this op-ed from the New York Times and makes a few suggestions about what can be done.

When you drink your craft beer or enjoy some “third wave” coffee that was carefully selected by a bearded hipster, are you erasing the contributions of people of color to the making of those foods? More directly, would the experience of artisanal products be enhanced if we knew the more complex stories behind them, stories that often involve people of color? Lauren Michele Jackson develops this argument in this article about race and craft food culture that appeared on Eater. She mentions in passing the efforts made by Fawn Weaver to get Brown-Forman to recognize that the original master distiller of Jack Daniels was a black man and slave named Nathan Green, which you can read about here.

This has been a truly bizarre summer and if the daily news persists to be beyond belief, it will be a bizarre and vaguely threatening fall as well. So in the spirit of adding a little levity, here are a few items to consider. First, this blog from Sierra Tishgart, on Grub Street, in which the author Alissa Nutting explains her very strange eating habits. Note that she likes hotel rooms with two beds, one for her, the other for delivered pizzas. Next, what happens when the people at Blue Apron get tired of shopping and cooking for you? Read this world-weary piece, then settle in with a warm Budweiser and a bag of pretzels. Finally, perhaps the most French thing we have ever posted here, this piece from Le Monde, in which six non-French graphic novelists each produce a brief graphic story about French cuisine. French food comics. Pure fun.

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology