Author Archives: foodanthro

SAFN Awards, Impending Deadlines!

The Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition has three awards for student writing and research. These awards will provide you with fame and glory…and money, to recognize your accomplishments or to support your work. The deadlines for all three this year is September 18, 2020, which is coming up in just a few weeks.

Are you a graduate student (MS, MA, PhD, or other) whose work focuses on food security, food justice and/or the right to food in international or domestic contexts? Whatever discipline you are in, whether you have already completed your work or are in the middle of an ongoing project, you should apply for the Thomas Marchione Food-As-A-Human-Right Student Award. Applying is simple and all the details are here.

Are you an undergraduate or graduate student who has done research in nutrition, food studies, and anthropology? Have you written a paper about that research? You should apply for the Christine Wilson Award! There are really two awards, one undergraduate and one graduate. If your work is anthropological (you don’t have to be in anthropology, but your research should use anthropological perspectives), apply! Details here.

Are you an MA/MS or PhD student whose work focuses on food and nutritional anthropology? Do you need support for your research? You should apply for our Student Research Award! The process is simple and you could get $800 to support your work. Details on this award are here.

Faculty! Please encourage your students to apply for these awards.

Remember, the deadline for all three awards is September 18, 2020.

Do not miss this opportunity!

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology, awards

Eating Like an Alaskan?: Quarantine Reflections on the Anchorage Museum’s “What Why How We Eat” Exhibition

Abigail Adams
Central Connecticut State University

I’m writing from my dining room table and the CostCo bulk carton of matzoh peeks at me from a kitchen cupboard. I’m reminded of Sailor Boy Pilot Bread. Interbake Foods manufactures these simple, tough, oversized crackers in Richmond, Virginia and sells 98 percent of them in Alaska.

I’ve been eating essentially the same menu since March 12. There is some variety—I am an anthropologist and my larder is stocked with the basics for world-curious cuisine. But I’m not a foodie and I’m happy treating food like a uniform. My mind is on other decisions now. Except for a pharmacy foray for Easter candy and milk, I shopped four times for groceries during the two months of Connecticut’s “Stay Home Stay Safe.” I was focused on teaching online and trying to save my department–and higher education while I’m at it.

And I can’t stop thinking about Alaska.

This time last year, I had just returned from the AFHVS/ASFS conference in Anchorage, which included an evening reception at the Anchorage Museum and tour of its spectacular What Why How We Eat exhibition. That is where I first saw the Pilot Bread now evoked by my own stores of shelf-stable matzoh.

Pilot bread!

The exhibition closed this January but lives on in the The Whale and the Cupcake: Stories of Subsistence, Longing, and Community in Alaska (University of Washington Press/ Anchorage Museum, December 13, 2019), written by Julia O’Malley and edited by Julie Decker, Director, Anchorage Museum.

I missed posting in FoodAnthro last summer about the exhibit, but I am seizing this moment now, given the resemblance between my/our COVID-19 subsistence strategies and Alaska’s regular food reality, realities that were curated beautifully in the Anchorage Museum exhibit.

The exhibit was interactive to its very core. We missed the urban harvest classes (I could use those urban harvest classes now!), cooking demonstrations, bike tours to community gardens, recipe swaps and workshops, but I jump-scared when I opened a cabinet in the exhibit’s first room and a Native woman began speaking to me: it was a video but it took me a moment. This space was a working kitchen, with cabinets, fridge, freezer and drawers filled with videos, photos.

That first area highlighted another key exhibit theme, “the changing story of food culture in Alaska — from the subsistence whale hunt in Point Hope to the Halal market in Anchorage…. one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the US., thanks, in part, to an influx of refugees…”.

The kitchen utensil drawer paid homage to the Alaskan and traditional skills of self-provisioning. It was really a toolbox, with unique items for processing wild foods, canning, dining on crab, etc. The next room was a journey through the different landscapes, traditional harvests and subsistence work where people live close to the land and the weather to catch and process food: caribou, whale, crab, salmon. 

And the new Alaskans, their foods and experiences, were integrated throughout the exhibit. The exhibit designers made the kitchen “work” for all Alaskan peoples, for example, they stocked the shelves with a variety of culturally-favored carbs. Another room featured Everyone Is Welcome Here, a 2018 project by artists Sergio De La Torre and Chris Treggiari, which “used food as the lens for exploring the immigrant and refugee experience in Alaska.” There was also exhibit space for Alaskan fusion cooking and creativity, resonating with the “multi-cultural” condiments of my quarantine cabinets. During last June’s conference, we met and ate with many of these “new” Alaskans as well, thanks to Liz Snyder, UAA professor, conference organizer, co-director of the Food Research, Enterprise, and Sustainability Hub and one of the exhibit co-developers.

Shelves of culturally-favored carbs, photo credit Emily Yates-Doerr

Beauty informed the exhibit, not a surprise, given curator Francesca DuBrock’s usual métier of fine art. At one point, I stood entranced by a wall that I thought was an art installation: an enormous-format arrangement of seed packs—including fictive seed packs for edible wild plants that Alaskans regularly forage. Behind me, hydroponic wall panels planted with mint and salanova lettuce grew, adding to the smells and aesthetics of the space. The exhibit was also acknowledging the growing numbers of Alaskan farmers. This spring, along with record numbers of US-Americans, one of my sources of delight during the dark coronavirus isolation was sorting through seed packs, planning the vegetable and cutting gardens that now grow around me.

Grocery prices across Alaska Photo credit: Emily Yates-Doerr

After visiting Alaska during the summer weeks when the state’s soaring temperatures and searing forest fires made national news, I took home the example of Alaskans’ food resilience in the face—in the teeth—of climate change.  I posted in FoodAnthro, “We are all facing harsh, stark, extreme environmental change, and Alaskans may be well-positioned to weather the Future that is coming.”

I did NOT foresee this pandemic Future! But the museum presciently tackled Alaska’s fundamental food insecurity, and its exhibits were instructive for our current COVID-19 moment. I wrapped up this blog post listening to a radio essay about skyrocketing food prices in the coronavirus lower 48.  One of the exhibition’s closing walls showcased the price of groceries in different Alaska communities. A gallon of milk in Anchorage costs about $4 while the same gallon would cost closer to $10 on the North Slope. If a natural disaster disabled the Port of Anchorage, Anchorage grocery store food shelves and cold cases would be bare in just five days.

That natural disaster arrived, in the form of the coronavirus. The pandemic plopped Alaska’s food dependence squarely in the middle of its residents’ plates. Faced more than panic-picked-over grocery shelves; food supplies to remote communities stopped when the small-plane business that serves those communities went COVID–bankrupt. One grocer made “the 14-hour boat trip to Costco every week to supply his small remote city with groceries amid the pandemic.” Alaska’s fossil fuel-dependent economy and state budget (already struggling since the 2014 slide in oil prices) crashed, directly due to the pandemic. Last summer, as I celebrated Alaskans’ resilience, flexibility and subsistence skills, I overlooked Alaska’s contribution to the global climate crisis.

But I did not miss it completely: during our conference, our incredible University of Alaska hosts learned that their university budget was to be cut by 40%. Appropriately, the metaphors deployed by the media were food metaphors, as in Governor Dunleavy ordering the university to “trim,” as in “trim budgetary fat,” when in truth he was ordering a butchering.

His solution? Essentially economic stimulus payments. Dunleavy proposed nearly doubling the Alaskan Permanent Fund Dividend to residents, the yearly dividend that Alaskans receive from the state’s formerly enormous oil wealth.

In the end, UAA’s budget cuts were 7% and Alaskans received the same dividend as the $1600 of the previous year. But as I received my pandemic economic stimulus payment this Spring (my own… Pandemic Dividend?) and watched my university’s enrollment and budget tank, I look once again at the matzoh in my cupboard.

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology, anthropology of food, applied anthropology, ASFS, Pandemic

Webinar on COVID-19 and the Food and Agricultural System

Former SAFN President John Brett sends news of this upcoming webinar, of possible interest to FoodAnthropology readers.

nat acads

still life

Upcoming Webinar
COVID-19 Effects on the Food and Agricultural System

Friday, June 19, 2020 10am – 12pm EDT

The National Academies’ Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources (BANR) invites you to a virtual panel on COVID-19 effects on the food and agricultural system, which has experienced severe stress from a combination of factors. Workers’ health has been placed at risk, producers have lost markets, and animals and crops have been sacrificed. Meanwhile, food prices are on the rise and unemployed Americans have turned in greater numbers than ever to overstressed food banks.

A panel of distinguished participants in the food and agricultural system will offer perspectives on the impacts and how we can learn from them. Speakers include Tom Vilsack, President and CEO, U.S. Dairy Export Council, and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The session is open to the public. You must register in advance to attend.

Register here.

related books

food regulatory book

Free PDF of the book here.

Leave a comment

Filed under agriculture, anthropology, Food Studies

CFP: Special Issue “Geographies of Responsibility for Just and Sustainable Food Systems”

Here is a call for papers for a special issue of the journal Sustainability that we recently received. Note that the deadline for submissions is near!

Deadline: 30th June 2020

Journal: Sustainability

Link to special issue: https://www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability/special_issues/just_and_sustainable_food_systems

Keywords: Just and sustainable food systems; Urban food governance; Food crises; Food justice; Food democracy; Food futures; Food policy; Food system; Socio-environmental justice; Alternative food movements; Agroecology

Special Issue Description

Editor: Agnese Cretella, Trinity Centre for Environmental Humanities, Trinity College Dublin.

Dear colleagues,

Within various academic fora, there is still much confusion around roles and responsibilities for creating more just and sustainable food systems. Recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic have further highlighted tensions in these responsibilities, especially in terms of access, production, distribution, and retail. Whilst some (Holt Giménez and Shattuck 2011, De Schutter 2014) have long called for reforming existing power structures for achieving more just and sustainable food systems, many grassroots initiatives have been taking responsibility in their own hands by tackling pressing issues related to food waste, access, sovereignty, and democracy, among others (Goodman, DuPuis et al. 2012, Tornaghi 2017, Davies, Cretella et al. 2019).

At the same time, while food is increasingly at the center of diverse policy discussions from climate change to health and well-being, concrete outputs remain difficult to grasp. Food poverty and insecurity, combined with the environmental hazards caused by the current food system, are far from being resolved. We invite empirical and theoretical contributions exploring any aspect of geographies of responsibility in the food system, which may include (but are not restricted to) the following themes:

  • Power and responsibility in food systems;
  • Disruptions of established forms of power and responsibility in times of crisis;
  • Responsibility and governance across the food system;
  • Disruptive innovations for just, sustainable food systems;
  • Roles and responsibilities of academics, policy-makers, and activists for enacting change in food systems;
  • Cultures of responsibility in food systems;
  • Matters of scale and place in creating just, sustainable food systems;
  • Mechanisms of co-option from and by private sector, policymakers, food movements; and academics.

References

Davies, A. R., et al. (2019). “Food sharing initiatives and food democracy: Practice and policy in three European cities.” Politics and Governance 7(4): 8-20.

De Schutter, O. (2014). “Democracy and diversity can mend broken food systems – final diagnosis from UN right to food expert.” Available online: http://www.srfood.org/en/democracy-and-diversity-can-mend-broken-food-systems-final-diagnosis-from-un-right-to-food-expert.

Goodman, D., et al. (2012). Alternative Food Networks: Knowledge, Practice, and Politics, Taylor & Francis.

Holt Giménez, E. and A. Shattuck (2011). “Food crises, food regimes and food movements: rumblings of reform or tides of transformation?” The Journal of peasant studies 38(1): 109-144.

Tornaghi, C. (2017). “Urban agriculture in the food‐disabling city:(Re) defining urban food justice, reimagining a politics of empowerment.” Antipode 49(3): 781-801.

Papers may be submitted from now until 30 June 2020 as papers will be published on an ongoing basis. Submitted papers should not be under consideration for publication elsewhere. For further details on the submission process, please see the instructions for authors at the journal website http://www.mdpi.com/journal/sustainability/instructions

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology, CFP, food systems, sustainability

CFP: Eating On the Move

We recently received the CFP below for an intriguing looking conference in Rome in September, 2021. This should be of interest to SAFN members. Full details are here: https://icrefh2021.confnow.eu/.

International Commission for Research into European Food History
Call for Papers

EATING ON THE MOVE (nineteenth to twenty-first centuries)

7-10 September 2021, Rome
Roma Tre University
Deadline for application: November 30th, 2020

Since the mid-nineteenth century revolution in transportation, the fall in the cost and duration of travels has favoured the movement of people and goods on a global scale. Numerous and distant destinations have become accessible to a growing number of people from across the social scale. This rapid growth throughout the twentieth century is illustrated by a statistic from the air travel sector where in 2017 more than four billion passengers travelled through airports around the world. 

The introduction of new forms of transport (trains, ships, cars, airplanes) has not only affected the way people travel, it has also led to a transformation in the way they eat. The evolution achieved in little more than a century by on-board and motorway dining services has meant that they are able to cater to a wide range of travellers’ needs, from the meals offered during the nineteenth century on board the first transatlantic passenger ships transporting migrants from Europe to the Americas, to those provided from the second half of the twentieth century in flight and at motorway service areas. Eating on board a train is different from eating on a ship, which in turn is different from eating on an airplane, and the same is true for any other form of transport. Such differences are not simply a question of quality or variations of menu, a unique history has defined each of these different situations, a history which is still largely to be studied.

Food consumed during travel is more than just a means of satisfying the appetite in an uncommon setting, since it is also a transmitter of culture, identity, and emotions. Consider, for example, the food that migrants carried with them in their suitcases which fed their nostalgia as much as their body, or the ‘international’ menus offered to airplane passengers in the midst of the economic boom when the evocative or nostalgic aspect of food was less appealing, or the return, in the 1980s, to menus based on traditional recipes as a response to the preference for healthy eating of an advanced consumer society. 

Naturally, the combination of food and travel has made possible every kind of gastronomic métissage, leading to combinations of different tastes, flavours, and scents. It has changed the way people eat, and affected the food itself and the way that it is distributed. 

In recent decades food is no longer just a means of sustenance and has been placed at the centre of the experience of travelling, with traditional dishes specific to particular territories acting as a means with which to explore the culture and traditions of that territory. The unprecedented growth in tourism that has been made possible by low-cost transport has contributed to the appearance of a wide range of new reasons to travel. Along with cultural and artistic tourisms which are experienced as something more than a holiday, wine and food are a fast growing sector in international tourism, as revealed by recent studies. This rediscovery of local cultures is also, in part, inspired by a renewed interest in ‘slow travel’, involving journeys taken on foot for religious and other motivations and bicycle trips. 

Finally, it is worth exploring whether the relationship between food and travel can be seen from a non-western point of view. What is this relationship in underdeveloped and developing countries? What similarities and differences can be found from Europe? 

This project develops findings from the 7th ICREFH Symposium Eating and Drinking Out in Europe since the late Eighteenth Century held in 2001 at Alden Biesen (Belgium), published in Eating Out in Europe. Picnics, Gourmet Dining and Snacks since the Late Eighteenth Century, edited by Marc Jacobs and Peter Scholliers, and published by Berg in 2003.

The relationship between food and travel from the nineteenth century to the twenty-first century, can be seen in various ways for their interdependence with numerous aspects of social and economic life. The following suggested research areas, to which other proposals may be added, will be covered: 

  • The evolution of dining services offered during travel (19th-21st centuries): dining on board trains, ships, and airplanes and along motorways (from the makers of packed meals for train passengers to companies created to serve travellers like Autogrill and Chef Express in Italy) 
  • Influences on the development of food preparation technologies and industries specialized in preserved, precooked, and packaged foods 
  • The appearance of new professions: the on-board chef, stewards, hostesses, etc. 
  • Food as a vehicle for cultural heritage – Social divisions on board new forms of transport 
  • Travelling in search of food: the development of wine and food tourism 
  • Travelling at home: appearance of ethnic restaurants and cuisine 
  • Food and “slow travel”: the trails of ancient pilgrims (like the Via Francigena or the Camino de Santiago), mountain trails, cycling paths 
  • Through the eyes of others: travel and food in developing and industrialised countries 
  • Food safety on the move 
  • Supply-side standards: the evolution of the notions “proper meal” and “snack” in the context of  “food on the move” 
  • Service personnel: what was the provisioning of the people who prepared and served “food on the move” but also those who piloted and maintained ships, trains, cars and airplanes? 
  • Food and uncommon forms of travel: from the supply of armies (particularly from the second world war) to that of astronauts in space 

Paper proposals must be sent at the latest by November 30th, 2020 by registering through the conference website: icrefh2021.confnow.eu. The proposal must be accompanied by an abstract (max 2000 characters) and a short cv (max 1000 characters). 

Registration Fee: 300 euros for each speaker; 250 euro for young scholars (persons currently enrolled in a PhD/postgraduate doctoral students/persons who have been awarded a PhD/postdoctoral students, without paid posts). 

The fee includes 3 nights hotel accommodation with meals. Travel expenses to Rome and extra nights are not included. 

Please note that in case of cancellation or no-show, the fee will not be refunded. 

The ICREFH (https://icrefh.hypotheses.org) has a tradition of short presentations (20’) and a long discussion. Participants are invited to stay for the full three days of the conference. 

A maximum of 25 proposals will be accepted. The proposals will also be selected taking into account the need of ensuring the widest participation of scholars from different countries. 

The best papers at the conference will be published by ICREFH 

Official Language: English. 

Timetable

  • November 30th 2020: deadline for on line proposals submission through the conference website
  • December 31st 2020: notification of acceptance
  • June 30th 2021: deadline for registration (fee payment) through the conference website
  • July 31st 2021 deadline for extended abstract submission through the conference website
  • September 7th – 10th 2021: Conference 
  • Registration and all exchange of information and documents will take place through the website: icrefh2021.confnow.eu 

The symposium is organized by Rita d’Errico (Rome Tre University), Claudio Besana (Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan), Silvia A. Conca Messina (University of Milan La Statale), Stefano Magagnoli (University of Parma). 

Scientific Committee

Atkins Peter, Durham University (Durham-U.K)

Berrino Annunziata, Federico II University (Naples – Italy)

Bianquis Isabelle, François Rabelais University (Tours – France)

Bruegel Martin, Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique (France)

de Ferrière Le Vayer Marc, François Rabelais University (Tours – France)

Fumi Gianpiero, Catholic University of the Sacred Heart (Milan – Italy)

Scholliers Peter, Vrije Universiteit (Brussel – Belgium)

Strangio Donatella, Sapienza University (Rome – Italy)

Travaglini Carlo Maria, Roma Tre University (Rome – Italy)

Vabre Sylvie, Toulouse University Jean Jaurès (Toulouse – France)

Williot Jean-Pierre, Sorbonne University (Paris – France)

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology, CFP, conferences, food history

Pandemic Ruminations

Pamela Runestad
Allegheny College

Now that it’s mid-May and courses have come to an end, I’ve had some time to reflect. I have been able to mourn some of the events that won’t happen – activities I was looking forward to: research in Japan, presentations in Italy, a friend’s wedding in Hawai`i, and presenting at ASFS for the first time.

But my mind has also been occupied by someone who I did get to mourn (I say, as though the process is over), my maternal grandma. Grandma Wanda turned 90 in November. I missed her party because November is the Month of Academic Hell for me: the end of term (with progressively less light), travel for AAA, juggling kids with my husband who attends AAR, and hosting Thanksgiving. I mean, I love hosting Thanksgiving because we usually do nothing but cook and eat and watch TV, and that is what my extended family likes best about holidays. It is the saving sustenance (literal and figurative) that I gulp down as we head into finals. Anyway, I was able to spend a couple days with my grandma over the summer, so I didn’t feel bad doing my typical, crazy November Plan. We had had lunch at her assisted living home in July, and she watched my daughters color. She was disappointed the servers ran out of “pink fluff” before they reached our table (I’m guessing it’s some Jell-O whipped topping concoction). The kids were thrilled when she handed them grape popsicles from her freezer in return for their art – it’s the thing my 6-year-old remembers most.

Backing out of the garage on our way to my in-laws’ on December 22, my mom called to tell me that Grandma had suffered a fall and sustained several broken ribs. We made it to see her on December 27, and she was surprisingly lucid: she called me by name when I walked into her room, even though she wasn’t wearing her glasses or hearing aids (and has 6 granddaughters). My cousin Blake fed her some of her meals, and she talked to him, too. But then she rapidly deteriorated, and was gone the first week of January. The following week, we could do what most families now cannot: we had a visitation, funeral, and burial. We ate and drank together. A lot.

My grandparents went to the same church for decades. My parents were married there, and my brother was baptized there. These occasions are often followed by lunches or receptions: ham or turkey sandwiches, midwestern salads, potato chips. All manner of cake. Coffee and maybe Crystal Light or punch if the kids are lucky. After the services, I sat down with my parents, brother, and uncle, and we were joined by my dad’s college friends. In a lull in the conversation while everyone was eating their cake, I noted, “I think we all sat at this same table when Grandpa died,” and there was some soft laughter as they agreed.

I have had the strange privilege of writing the obituaries for the three of my four grandparents that I knew in life. To me, it is a task that almost no one wants to do, but for which anthropologists are well-suited. What details do you include so that you can paint a meaningful snapshot of someone’s life? How do you weave together the family fabric of those left behind when there are purposeful severings like divorce, or untimely losses of those who should be mourners, but preceded the deceased in death? Kinship is complicated. But participant observation and the creation of narrative served me well, and I found myself describing the place where we all spent time with my grandparents – the kitchen table.

Here are some things I didn’t write there. My maternal grandparents were both good cooks, but Grandpa more so. Grandma was the baker, really. They were both gracious hosts. In their “country house” where they lived for some 40 years, the kitchen faced the gravel road, and Grandpa was an expert at identifying just whose car was bombing down the lane, and whether they were planning to swing into the driveway for coffee or a beer. They had visitors almost daily and they loved it. Grandpa’s place at the head of the table was easy rolling distance to the fridge, and by the time you made your way into the house (the door was never locked) and up the stairs, he’d have a spread laid out for you. If it was coffee hour, there was probably a plate of cookies or some pie or a big bowl of cut melon (if it were summer). If it was beer o’clock, we all knew to go down to the basement and retrieve a couple of beers (or sodas) before coming all the way up. There would probably be crackers and cheese, maybe some sliced roast beef or pork, or maybe some sliced salami. If you stayed longer, you might be lucky and get what my grandparents called “Shipwreck Casserole” and veggies from the garden. Or you might be put to work canning tomatoes or making pickles or picking green beans by the 5-gallon bucket. It was at that kitchen table that I’d sobbed for what seemed like hours, unable to talk, with the passing of my paternal grandmother years before. Grandpa had poured me a glass of milk mixed with Kahlua and slid it across the table like an all-knowing bartender and my grandma Wanda put out a plate of her cookies. But it was also the table where I had countless weekend dinners while my laundry dried, ate my college graduation dinner, and devoured quick meals before my wedding. I don’t know how many holiday meals I ate at that table, or how many dishes I washed. I remember thinking many times over the years that it was strange to have carpet in the kitchen, but even when the 70s pattern wore out, they replaced it with carpet again. I suppose it was warmer on their feet in the winter than the alternatives.

I sometimes wonder who else thinks of that table these days.

Grandma Wanda’s funeral was the first week of classes, so I had to explain to my students why I wasn’t there. One of my courses was a writing and speaking course that aims to teach our first years about genre and audience. I told those students about writing the obituary because… well, I suppose because it was on my mind and I couldn’t help it. But also because it was a good example of having to use your writing skills for tasks that you might not imagine otherwise while taking a writing course. Later in the term, after they had shared some of their writing with me, I read them a reflection piece I’d written about driving around town with Grandma Wanda as a kid. It was the details that they noticed and liked – and I used their comments to remind them to pay attention in structured ways. To use their senses. To take notes. To find good words to describe what they saw, smelled, touched, heard, felt. To plot out their writing plan. To put ideas and descriptions together in ways that other people would want to hear about them. They didn’t disappoint: when we talked about kitchens later in the term (and I stayed mostly silent this time), we heard all about recipes, kitchen tools, the smells of baked goods, and what it felt like to help in the kitchen. And then we talked about my favorite four, something I come back to once a week: race, gender, class, and ethnicity. This time, we talked about how these all play a part in how we gather, prepare, and share (or don’t share) food. We had a special treat at the end of this unit: special guest Michael Twitty lead a discussion about writing, speaking, cooking, and identity.

I basically prepped them to take my course in Ethnographic Methods while at the same time teaching them how to develop their voices as writers, how to choose your voice based on genre and audience, and how and when to cite.

A digression: I’m an anthropologist who specializes in East Asia at an institution that has neither an Anthropology Department nor an Asian Studies Major/Minor. I teach in Global Health, and was hired to teach Ethnographic Methods (among other things). I am cross-trained in medical and nutritional anthropology and much of my research is on HIV in Japan, but I chose to teach Ethnographic Methods as a food course and as an Asian Studies course because it was a way to talk about two things that I love and I wanted the students to love, too – and this way, they fit into our curriculum. I also just find it a really useful way to talk about race, ethnicity, gender, and class – through the 5s’s of food: sociality, safety, (in)security, sovereignty, and sustainability. Because there are other food courses on campus, different methods courses in my department, and various people on campus teaching other aspects of ethnographic methods, I do my best to teach participant observation, field notes to narrative, and how to craft questions.

So where does this leave me (us?) in a pandemic, when we’re faced with the worst versions of humanity that we teach about? We all mourning something, grieving for someone, raging about something. Chronic stress comes from many things:  pushing back against structural violence of state-by-state laws and who is protected and who is not – and the racist, classist assumptions inherent in those policies and how they are or are not enforced; trying to provide food, water, shelter and safety under increasingly difficult economic circumstances;  pushing back against gendered norms of cooking and childcare and professional labor under lockdown; pushing back against conspiracy theories and blatant systemic racism. And there is much, much more. This is just scratching the surface. It is easy to wonder, as a teacher-scholar, what good I’m doing when I see such suffering? Some days I have a hard time thinking and I retreat to my office to clean and organize, because it’s the one thing I can do that will still help me later and doesn’t require much brainpower. I’m also teaching my older daughter to cook and bake. Even with a desk upstairs, I write best in the kitchen. This place, and the things I make and teach here, bring me comfort when a lot is beyond my control. I know I’m privileged to be able to do these things. I hang on tight to them so that I can use my energy to help others find places of comfort, too.

Yesterday, I came across a really old manila file in my home office as I was cleaning. It was marked “Comprehensive Exam Answers” but clearly there were a lot of other papers crammed into it. I dumped it out on the floor to see what I’d hoarded away. Among the papers (and yes, my comps answers) I found a couple of documents that I was given in the first ever graduate course I took. One of them was a set of directions for how to read academic articles. I read it over and realized: I’ve been telling my undergrads to do the same things that I was taught many years ago, without really thinking about where I learned these strategies. (Thank you, Heather Young-Leslie.)

And then my thoughts drifted to a student I had in Ethnographic Methods in fall and Medical Anthropology of East Asia this spring. My goals for the latter were to help students learn about the region, while also learning how anthropologists collect, interpret, and write up their data by reading and discussing 3 book-length ethnographies on health. Students usually co-create the final essay prompt for this course, but this year I just gave it to them: Read Laura Gao’s “The Wuhan That I Know” (a series of illustrations that includes a discussion of dishes from Wuhan). Using the terms we’ve discussed in class, write an essay about how learning about East Asia has made you better able to understand COVID-19.

My student proceeded to write a beautiful essay on food, ethnicity, and discrimination – despite facing many of the challenges we know that the pandemic and subsequent remote teaching and learning poses.

This is not to take credit for his work. He is a brilliant student, and it has been my privilege to work with him. His essay is also one data point, and teaching is only one piece of my fight against All The Unjust Things. But finding these old files and thinking about my student’s work reminded me that food matters, if not always in the ways we predict.

I suppose I have my grandparents (and everyone else who visited them), their kitchen, and the food I experienced there to thank for first teaching me that; my instructors and colleagues for helping me be methodical about my processing; and my students for being so willing to partake in learning as a truly shared endeavor – even during a pandemic.

**

Thank you to David Beriss and SAFN for supporting blog publication of this piece. I was originally slated to give a talk on teaching ethnographic methods as a food course at the Umbra Institute in June. This is rather changed from what I was going to say, but I hope readers find something useful in it. Again, many thanks.

I would like to dedicate this post to my writing group members: Robin Kempf, Amy Nichols-Belo, Debra Thompson, Arielle Selya, and Kirsten Wesselhoeft, with special thanks to Michaela DeSoucey for reading a draft version.

The Wuhan That I Know: https://www.lauragao.com/wuhan

Pamela Runestad is an Assistant Professor of Global Health, Allegheny College.

Leave a comment

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

SAFN Student Awards, 2020

Students! Have you been doing research or writing on food and nutrition? Would you like fame, recognition, and money for your efforts?

The Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition has three awards for student research and writing. Details and links to more information are below. Given the turmoil and confusion of the last few months, we have delayed the deadlines for submission for the awards this year to September 18, 2020. You have plenty of time to get your materials together and send them in.

The awards are:

The Thomas Marchione Award

For graduate students engaged in or having recently completed research related to food and human rights, food security, food justice, and related issues. Work in any field of study is eligible, and the winner will receive $750 and a year’s membership in both the American Anthropological Association (AAA) and Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition (SAFN). Details on how to apply here.

The Christine Wilson Award

This is really two awards, one undergraduate and one graduate. We are seeking applications for the Christine Wilson Graduate Student Award and the Christine Wilson Undergraduate Student Award for outstanding student research papers on food and/or nutrition. The winner of the graduate award and the undergraduate award will receive $300 and be recognized at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association and receive a year’s membership in SAFN. Details on how to apply here.

The Student Research Award

SAFN is pleased to announce a new award for 2020. The new Student Research Award is open to all of our student members pursuing Masters or PhD degrees at accredited colleges or universities. The funding is intended to support the research phase of an original project focused on food and nutritional anthropology. Students from all four sub-fields of anthropology are encouraged to apply as well as from interdisciplinary fields that engage in anthropological methods and theory. It carries an award of $800. Details on how to apply here.

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology, awards

“La gente tiene que comer”: Food and COVID-19

Lisa Grabinsky
Oregon State University

“La gente tiene que comer.” (“People have to eat”), my mother replied when I decided to study Nutrition and Food Science, believing that such a career was going to result in a well-paid job offer once I graduated from college, especially in Mexico —a country whose population has grappled with metabolic illness for nearly 30 years, but also whose cuisine is considered Intangible Cultural Heritage (UNESCO 2010). When I began looking for employment during my last semester, however, I was confronted with the reality: only a small number of dietitians are able to secure the steady and well-compensated job I envisioned for myself at the tender age of 18. The rest will most likely have to set up private practices—a service that the general population associates more with unattainable beauty standards than with long-term health and wellbeing. In addition, a traumatic event during my first-ever experience within a hospital left me dreading working in one; this significantly reduced my options either to private consultation or to institutional food services. In the latter, I would have had to harshly enforce company policies against kitchen employees “stealing” food, even if their reason to do so was an exploitative salary that made them unable to feed themselves and their families. I learned from this job hunting experience the sad truth: the hard work of insuring that all people have access to healthy, affordable and culturally appropriate food —a most basic human need— is almost worthless within the Mexican economy.

live from agriculture

Image 1 Facebook post stating: “Have you realized yet that we do not live from mining but from agriculture?”

Fast-forward to April 5th, 2020. I am browsing through my social media and navigating the waves of COVID-19 news —fake, veracious, and questionable—, and I stumble upon a post a friend and fellow Food Studies scholar shared (Image 1). In the image, the statement “Have you realized yet that we do not live from mining but from agriculture?” is displayed in all caps, along with pictures of the fresh produce one fortunately can still easily find in grocery stores here in Corvallis, Oregon (USA), where I have been living for the past two years while I obtain my Master’s Degree in Applied Anthropology at Oregon State University.

As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds and governments worldwide issue orders of social distancing and staying at home, concerns in regards to food supply arise, along with images of panic buying that have left grocery store shelves completely empty. A dear friend living in a village in Italy —where stone-built houses from the 13th century stood strong and tall through two World Wars— describes these images as evidence for “a war without bombs”.

Since —as my mother wisely says—people have to eat not only to keep a strong immune system in these times of epidemiological emergency, but also for physiological need, those working at any point of the food production and supply chain are now deemed as “essential workers”:

  • The farmworkers —whether international or national immigrants— who endure long hours of hard work in the fields for barely livable salaries and little-to-no access to social services;
  • Chefs and food servers currently struggling to keep their businesses afloat with take-out curbside pickup and delivery options;
  • Store clerks constantly re-stocking shelves, cleaning, and sanitizing, while also maintaining a friendly attitude towards the customers; and
  • Many other intermediaries that are vital for families all over the world to have nutritious food on the table.

breakfast-omelet-e158939018450.jpg

Image 2 Breakfast omelet with vegetables from a local organic farm that employs immigrant farmworkers (photo by the author)

 

This status of “essential workers” issued to people working in the food production system, however, adds an enormous amount of pressure, for they must now work double or triple to keep up with the increased food demand that panic buying has caused. In the process, their contagion risk grows. Becoming “essential workers” in the eyes of the public —even though they always have been so because, again, la gente tiene que comer— does not necessarily translate into better, or even decent, working conditions. Half of all recently declared “essential” farmworkers in the US are undocumented, which makes them still ineligible for almost all public benefits (Bacon 2020), such as Medicaid and SNAP or WIC benefits. In this small college town in Oregon where I sit to write this (around 60,000 people), I have already signed three hazard pay and safety precautions petitions for employees working at different local grocery stores.

oat-flour-brownies-2.jpg

Image 3 Oat flour, roasted peanut brownies (recipe and photo by author)

At the end of one of my classes in a course called Advanced Medical Anthropology, Dr. Melissa Cheyney asked us what a possible silver lining from the COVID-19 pandemic might be. I replied that it made me hopeful observing on social media that as people are encouraged to stay home, they are starting to cook more and more elaborated recipes, either as a way to cope with stress, anxiety, and/or boredom or as an effort to comply with the WHO’s “eat healthy” recommendation to protect their health from COVID-19. I myself have uploaded a few pictures to my Instagram stories of new foods and dishes I have recently experimented with, particularly baked goods. My anxiety and feelings of isolation and loneliness have made me crave certain comfort foods that I cannot simply go out to purchase at a store. I even tend to accompany each picture with the phrase: “Keeping sanity through cooking”.

People are finally realizing the importance of food in their lives, as well as just how hard “essential workers” must labor to make our eating possible. A friend from high school and her partner had been complying with the “stay at home” order when they decided to make quesadillas de chicharrón prensado from scratch. From the preparation of the Guajillo chili pepper salsa to their improvised tortilla press using two plates with which they shaped the masa, my friend documented the whole process and shared it as Instagram stories, which I thoroughly enjoyed going through. However, what stayed with me as food for thought (no pun intended) was her final story —a message in which she acknowledged the amount of time and effort that just went into cooking foods that we Mexican urbanites so often take for granted when we unthinkingly purchase inexpensive antojitos from female street vendors, whose own diets depend greatly on their daily earnings. At this very moment, these women cannot afford to take a single day off to stay at home, let alone consider a prolonged quarantine.

I feel optimistic seeing people in their kitchens re-connecting with their own food and building community around it, from young professionals in Mexico City currently engaging in home-office, to celebrities, such as comedian Iliza Schlesinger with partner chef Noah Galuten. These two in particular are doing “#DontPanicPantry”— a series of live cooking tutorials in which the couple prepares a variety of nurturing dishes using pantry staples present in most US homes. They even hosted a virtual Passover Seder, which —as an Ashkenazi Jew celebrating Passover alone for the first time— I appreciated greatly.

I have also seen people back home in Mexico City going beyond just cooking food and starting to grow their own, whether they live in a house with a garden or in a small apartment with nothing more than perhaps a small balcony where they can place a couple of pots. People in both Mexico and the US are supporting local businesses by ordering food and sharing pictures of it, making sure to refer viewers to said business’ accounts through their social media handles. Others have begun to seek out and enroll in CSA programs with local farms. The Central de Abasto in Mexico City —considered the biggest market in the world—will not only continue operating, but has also implemented a delivery service. Here in Corvallis, university-based institutions at OSU —specifically the Coalition of Graduate Employees and the Human Services Resource Center— have established mutual aid services for “all students and community members regardless of their citizenship status (Hurtado Moreno 2020)”; food assistance is one of their major pillars.

“La gente tiene que comer”, my mother says. People have to eat indeed, but we needed a major life-disruptor like COVID-19 to open our eyes to the incredible amount of human work that goes into producing, distributing, and cooking food in order to be able to do so— pandemic or not.  This experience has enabled us to see how fragile the current global food production system can be. As the situation unfolds, my hope is that more people will realize this and truly value these “always-essential workers”, advocate for the rights and wellbeing of the most vulnerable, and continue taking actions towards food sovereignty that have already been set in motion through these and other acts of solidarity we are all witnessing virtually.

References:

Bacon, David. 2020. “America’s Farmworkers—Now ‘Essential,’ but Denied the Just-Enacted Benefits.” The American Prospect.

Hurtado Moreno, Argenis. 2020. “El Virus: A Contagion of Racism & How Networks of Care Can Stop It.” Somatosphere.

UNESCO. 2010. “Traditional Mexican Cuisine.” Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Lisa Grabinsky is a Mexican Fulbright Scholar in her second year of the Applied Anthropology MA program at Oregon State University, minoring in Food in Culture and Social Justice.

2 Comments

Filed under anthropology, food security, food sovereignty, Mexico

Which Language for Local Food in Wallonie?

Joan Gross

I just returned to my dissertation fieldwork site after 38 years.  Back in the 1980s I examined the use of the regional Gallo-Romance dialect, Walloon, in Liège, Belgium and particularly in the puppet theater.  Over the past couple decades I’ve gotten increasingly interested in how people resist the global industrial food system. Upon arriving at the Liège train station last week, my interest was piqued by the poster announcing a show of local alimentary products called CBon, CWallon. It took a minute to understand that they were not using aberrant initial consonant clusters, but the practice of using a letter (or number) to stand in for the name of that letter, like the francophone usage of K7 for “cassette.”

I went to the C’est Bon, C’est Wallon Fair today, wondering whether the Walloon language would appear as well as the products of Wallonie. One of the first booths I saw was a beer cooperative called Badjawe. My husband asked one of the festival workers walking by what “badjawe” meant and he didn’t know, but a woman in the booth quickly said that it was the Walloon word for a talkative person. The publicity announces that the beer will loosen your tongue and facilitate conversations.

They call it a farm beer and advertise that everything comes from the farm on which they built the brewery. It’s organic too. Later I found that they even put together a short video in Walloon, explaining the name.

This highlighting of the Walloon language, however, was far outweighed by the presence of English at the fair. In fact, this same brewery is sponsoring a festival of microbreweries in April and the advertisement reads “Soif the Date” emphasizing the similarity between the English word “save” and the French word for thirst. Below the date is a list of what will be there including the English words “food” and “more.”

I photographed several other signs that used English in their advertising, usually mixed in with French. I asked the croquette sellers why they chose to put “Home Made,” “Authenticity,” and “Diversity” in their logo and they said that their graphic designer proposed it, so that they could maybe eventually export their product to other countries. It’s true that “Belgian Single Malt Whiskey” and “Cookies” tell you what the product is, but the use of English in the advertising of the fair was not necessarily descriptive. “Feel Inspired” or “A Life in a Drink” does not tell you what the product is, facilitating referential understanding across linguistic borders. It fulfills more of an aesthetic or emblematic function, implying modernity and global connections. I’m not sure what to say about “Tits,” but I’m sure that it wouldn’t fly in an American context.

In Belgium, however, there is an additional motivation for the use of English. It avoids the age-old struggle between the two main official languages, Dutch and French. (German is a third official language, but is only spoken by 1% of the population.) Flemings and Walloons will often choose to speak to each other in English, even though one or both of them may be fluent in the other one’s native language. Truth be told, it’s usually the Fleming who is fluent in French. Walloons still seem to be reluctant to devote enough time to learning Dutch when they can learn English instead. Learning English is also far more popular than learning the Walloon that their grandparents spoke.

So, here was a fair meant to bring attention to local products, but many of the makers of these products relied on global English for their advertising. I can’t help but notice that the majority of products using English in their advertising are forms of alcohol. The Thomsin family who have been making the famous Sirop de Liège since 1884 did not use English in their advertising (but they didn’t use Walloon either). Belgium’s reputation for beer is very well known. In fact, Belgian beer culture was recognized as a UNESCO intangible heritage this year. There has been over a 50% rise in exports of Belgian beer in the last ten years, even overtaking Germany in 2017. The whiskey and wine industries in Wallonie are probably trying to ride on the coattails of Belgian beer. Meanwhile, Badjawe is using the local language, Walloon, to promote the conviviality of drinking beer together and talking. I wish them success.

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology, beer, Belgium, Food Studies, Language

AFHVS/ASFS Conference Deadline Extended!

Note the new deadline for this great conference. Also: SAFN members can register for the conference at member rates!

ABSTRACT DEADLINE EXTENDED TO FEBRUARY 7th

The University of Georgia’s Sustainable Food Systems Initiative is pleased to host the 2020 joint annual meeting of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society (AFHVS) and the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS).

The conference will be help May 27-30 in Athens, GA. Abstracts are now due February 7, 2020. We invite the submission of abstracts for organized paper sessions, individual papers, lightning talks, roundtables, posters and exploration galleries, and working sessions. The Abstract Submission Portal is now open.

We have a great conference planned — with Monica White (U Wisconsin) as our Keynote Speaker, CheFarmer Matthew Raiford as the invited speaker for our Evening Program, and 6 pre-conference workshops and tours. All the info can be found at the conference website.
———–

The 2020 conference theme, “Cultivating Connections: Exploring Entry Points Into Sustainable Food Systems,” is an invitation to envision a more sustainable and equitable future by critically engaging with the histories and legacies that have framed agricultural food landscapes over time. Cultivating connections means that we are active participants, called to dig in for the preparation of building fruitful relationships with one another to foster greater sustainability within the food system. The food system is an intricate web of social connections, with each node of the web shaping how food is regarded, how it’s grown, how it will be distributed, who will buy it, and what its overall significance is within communities. These elements provide entry points for conversation, reconciliation, and action toward building stronger, more sustainable connections within the food system. Participants are invited to engage in conversations about changes to the current agri-food paradigm to better represent and advocate for a more just and equitable food system – from farm to fork – that strengthens community viability, food security, and the sovereignty of all people.

Abstracts can be submitted at https://ugeorgia.ca1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_9H7Xy41kEjn0n1H

Abstract submissions are now due on February 7, 2020. Authors will be notified of acceptance by March 15, 2020. All presenters must be registered for the conference by April 21, 2020 to be included in the conference program. (The registration portal will be open in just a few days.)

Questions can be directed to cultivatingconnections2020@gmail.com

Leave a comment

Filed under AFHVS, ASFS, CFP