Author Archives: Jo

What Foodanthro is Reading Now, January 31st Edition

This article about a Syrian supper club in New Jersey was a glimpse of bridge-building, centered on food. Hooray for bridges.

And hooray for cooking, with cookbooks, even in a changing world, says Julie Thomson.

Over at Food Dive, they reflected on how Trump’s 120-day refugee ban might affect the meat-packing industry. For refugees who have spent a long time in camps and/or don’t yet speak English, the meat packing industry has long been a very large employer.

On the subject of cows, did you know cows sometimes eat skittles? Verified by Snopes, this is apparently not a new story, but it came to the fore again when cow-bound skittles ended up on an icy road in Wisconsin. Eater also helped shed light on the skittle situation with this article:

Joseph Watson, owner of United Livestock Commodities, told WSPD-TV in Paducah, Kentucky that a candy-based feed mixture has “all the right nutrition for them.” This is an argument America’s children have been posing at dinner tables across the country for years. But there are those concerned carnivores who don’t even like the idea of cows eating grain, so the idea of feeding America’s cattle sugary snacks is even worse. “Cows were meant to eat grass, not candy,”

Modern farmer describes the connection between the U.S. and South Korean egg markets, related to outbreaks of avian flu:

Egg prices are lower now than they’ve been anytime in the past decade, which is nice for American consumers but not so nice for egg producers who are trying to earn a living. So perk up, eggmen: South Korea is hungry for your eggs.

Other egg news this week is that the Unilever product, Hellman’s Mayo, is now made with cage-free eggs:

“They are one of the largest egg buyers to reach the point of exclusively using cage-free eggs, and they were also one of the first companies to announce that they were going to do it,” says Josh Balk, Vice President of Farm Animal Protection for The Humane Society of the United States. “I think that maybe at this point, in terms of the very large, national brands, it might be solely Unilever and Whole Foods.”

This is in an industry with very little margin, and in the midst of the cage-free movement. A little old, but the NYTimes wrote about the complexity of this shift:

If shoppers really want to buy eggs and have clear consciences, they may need to pay extra for pasture-raised, organic eggs, which can cost two, three or even four times as much as conventional eggs. Anything less than that means buying into an industrialized system of mass egg production, be it conventional or cage-free.

“It’s the nature of the system itself that is problematic,” Mr. Karcher said.

And lastly, why not pull up a chair and enjoy some hot chocolate while listening to a story about chocolate?

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology

What FoodAnthro is Reading, January 17 Edition

A brief digest of food and nutrition-related items that caught our attention recently. Do you have items you think we should include? Send links and brief descriptions to or

First, we thought it would be fun to point to Culture and Agriculture’s Readings, because they have a lovely Wendell Berry poem and because, after all, eating is an agricultural act.

At this, the last week of Obama’s presidency, we thought you might like to read this article about the impact of Obamacare for restaurant workers:

Only 14 percent of restaurant employees receive benefits from their employers. You either need to marry someone with benefits, or go without. This is a very physical industry that causes a lot more damage than just cuts and burns — bad backs, bone spurs, pinched nerves, slipped discs. And then there are worst-case scenarios, which always happen to somebody else, until you remember that to everyone you know, that somebody else is you.

Nutella is bearing the brunt of anti-palm oil sentiment. The anti-palm oil sentiment seems quite well-founded, at least from an environmental perspective, but the question of why Nutella has been chosen as the specific scapegoat is an interesting one.

If we shouldn’t be eating Nutella, what are we to do? Eat insects, obviously! (sorry, I know that’s not really a smooth or appropriate transition). When The Conversation had a recent fairly in-depth view of insect eating in Africa, it felt like an opportunity to look at recent articles on the subject. From Nikassi and Ekesi, insect researchers:

But people living in Africa have never considered edible insects as pests or a nuisance. Perhaps we need to think of a new appellation for edible insects to kill the disgust factor. A simple language analogy between 30 ethnic groups in 12 sub-Saharan countries provided tentative names for edible termites. These are, “Tsiswa”, “Chiswa”, “Chintuga”, “Inswa”, “Iswa”, “Sisi”, “Ishwa” or “Esunsun”. Any of these indigenous names could be used to market termite based products.

A little over the three years ago, the FAO released their report on the potential of insects as food for humans and animals, it led to quite a bit of talk on the subject. From their report, it was clear that the barriers to insect farming and eating outside of the tropics are not just related to the disgust factor, but also to the ways that insects live and breed in the tropics, where they tend to be freely available. Last year, Syngenta’s Thought for Food awarded first prize to a group that focused on the potential of insects as food. An article in The Guardian encouraged us to put insects on the Christmas menu, and as is often the case, the comments section is great food anthro reading. If you are in the U.S., did you know that you could get 36 different cricket flour products from Amazon? And lastly, a most recent story on eating insects: if you’re in North America, you may also be able to watch a recently released documentary, Bugs at the theatre.

Of course, there are other important, and perhaps overwhelming, things happening in North America at the moment, and we’d love to spend more time processing how the incoming president will affect food policy. If you have articles to share, please let us know!

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology

What FoodAnthro is Reading Now, December 21, 2016

A brief digest of food and nutrition-related items that caught our attention recently. Do you have items you think we should include? Send links and brief descriptions to or

This week, perhaps you could start with by reading this short article on a macadamia nut farming in California. It captures the ups and downs of small farm particularly well, and the ways that farms in their area of interconnected:

Kennedy says his crop will also be short because he didn’t want to sap his community’s water supply and overpump: “We’ve lost a few walnut trees. But as an English walnut tree disappears or dies, usually the black walnut rootstock survives. They’re pretty hearty so I cultivate those and bring the black walnut up.”

Although this is supposed to be about what we’re reading, the online universe seems to have more and more podcasts to listen to: Tim Ferriss interviewed Mark Bittman recently, with the subject “Changing the World and Living Dangerously.” In some ways Tim Ferriss is on the cutting edge of internet trends– and perhaps of the “body as machine” phenomenon. On the podcast we learned that Mark Bittman also has his own new podcast, which we think will have a lot of interesting material for our readers. Bittman describes himself as the “frankest food voice in America.”

Moving Eastwards, this story about tracking food flows in Laikipia County, Kenya is an interesting picture of a food system in a specific context.

Also in Kenya, the opening of a KFC in Kisumu has been heralded as an economic opportunity for both chicken farmers and as a local employer. The role of YUM foods– and the tremendous success of KFC– in sub-Saharan Africa is a fascinating area for study:

The opening of the restaurant had attracted a number of people who had queued to sample its delicacies with many expressing their delight about the decent service.

Here in South Africa, this story of Zimbabwean market farmers and the role this farmer (and others like her) play in providing vegetables to poor communities:

“At the same time, I don’t forget my local community. I sell them the vegetables at a highly discounted price because this community is poor. Unemployment and crime are very high here. Also cases of malnutrition have been reported.”

This article about a so-called food desert in Washington D.C. provided many insights of how food activists are thinking about food systems and food systems change. They’re looking far beyond the food environment:

But food deserts aren’t just about food, said Sambol. “They’re also transportation deserts, education deserts, and retail deserts in general.” Oasis’s mission is to expose all the factors contributing to food deserts, and then work methodically to target them.

Do you have readings we missed? Send them through to us!



Filed under anthropology

What FoodAnthro is Reading Now, December 5, 2016

A brief digest of food and nutrition-related items that caught our attention recently. Do you have items you think we should include? Send links and brief descriptions to or

This past week, Peng Chang-Kuei, the inventor of General Tso’s chicken, died at aged 98:

As Hunanese chefs adopted General Tso’s chicken, the dish entered a strange second career. In a sweeping act of historical revisionism, it came to be seen as a traditional Hunan dish. Several Hunanese chefs have described it in their cookbooks as a favorite of the 19th-century general’s.

The end of the year is fast approaching, which means it’s already time to look back on food in 2016. Forbes tells us about 5 trends to look for in 2017. The Guardian reviews a few of the best food books of 2016, though they are mainly recipe-focused. I’m sure there’ll be more digests looking back at our food year– let us know if you see a good one.

Here’s an article reporting on divided U.S. food attitudes, basically dividing Americans into two distinct camps, which I’m not sure our readers would be quite so ready to do:

“Food has become a flashpoint in American culture and politics,” the researchers wrote in their report, released Thursday. “The way Americans eat has become a source of potential social, economic and political friction.”

For personal inspiration, we loved this story about using paying customers to support non-paying customers:

“The inspiration came from Pope Francis, who’s spoken again and again about the importance of giving people dignity, whether it’s through bread or through work,” said Father Ángel.

Haddad, Hawkes and colleagues wrote about creating a new research agenda for food. We think it gave a lot of space for the work of food anthropologists:

Pairings of single foods and diseases are the basis of risk-factor analysis in global burden studies, but tell us little about diets as a whole.

Do you have readings we missed? Let us know!

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology

What FoodAnthro is Reading Now, November 21, 2016

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

If you don’t already read NPR’s The Salt, it’s a wonderful rabbit hole of food stories. This week, there are several stories worth checking out:  baking as post-election therapy

Turns out, muffin making as a meditative practice is a reliable source of comfort and hope.

Then NPR had a story about climate change and farming in Greenland:

“The seasons here have been very difficult lately,” says Hansen. The average animal in his flock in the summer of 2015 was 2 to 4 pounds lighter than normal. Hot summers over the past decade have cost him thousands of dollars in losses, he says.

And lastly from NPR, the price of Thanksgiving dinner in the U.S. has dropped (wait, what?!).

My shock at stable U.S. prices is because here in South Africa, in year 2 of a devastating drought here in South Africa, food prices have increased rapidly. Here in Cape Town it’s worthy following a fight to preserve our main vegetable-supplying area outside of Cape Town from being developed.

On a completely different note, how is this for a whimsical restaurant review?

Over at Slate there was this article the contrasts between foodie culture and what people actually seem to be cooking— if you have time check out the comments section, we found them as interesting as the article!

And finally, important news from the UK. If you eat Toblerone’s in the U.S., don’t worry… you may be ok.

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology

What FoodAnthro is reading now, October 31, 2016

Here are a few food and nutrition-related items that we’ve been reading recently. Do you have items you think we should include? Send links and brief descriptions to or

Starting with the juxtaposition of extreme famine and extreme…what’s the word for it? I’m not sure… In Nigeria, people are experiencing the famine in previous breadbaskets, as a result of the insecurity caused by Boko Haram:

When aid groups did start to get access to some cities in Borno this past summer, they were shocked by what they found. People were eating grass and locusts. The rates of severe acute malnutrition — a life-threatening lack of food — were among the highest in the world. About half of all children were malnourished.

So here’s the opposite:  I found myself being sucked into this story about Amanda Chantal Bacon’s Mood Juice (!?):

I turn over the empty sleeve and read the ingredients — organic astragalus, ginseng, organic eleuthero, organic schisandra, rhodiola, and organic stevia — and realize I’ve only heard of approximately one and a half of them.

As out there as Moon Juice seemed, there are commonalities to be found in the extremes, and I found this essay helped me avoid my instinctive snigger reflex and claw back a little empathy:

It is, in its weird, obsessive way, against every ethos that makes California the American promised land of endless sun, delicious vegetables, and not fearing the reaper; and yet, it is quintessentially Californian in its cultish belief in a paradise on Earth.

Moon Juice seems to represent to a world in which every meal has to be multilayered masterpiece, something the phenomenon of craft butcheries seem well-poised to speak to:

“There’s this meat fetishizing and narcissism in which we feel like we deserve to have the greatest incarnation of meat every time we eat it, instead of prioritizing things like the farmers, accessibility, and cost,” he says.

The UN has a special representative on the right to food, who spoke last week of junk food as a violation of the right to adequate food:

Hilal Elver, the U.N.’s special representative on the right to food, said Tuesday the rise of industrial food production combined with trade liberalization has allowed large corporations to flood the global market with cheap, nutrient-poor foods that force poor people to choose between economic viability and nutrition, effectively violating their right to adequate food.

The challenge is improving access to nutritious food. Two articles this week speak, from two different perspectives, about how urban farming doesn’t seem to be a standalone solution to access to good food, yet they’re still a powerful tool for community engagement.

Despite these barriers, our 2016 study into the state of urban farming showed that huge positives can come out of these spaces. For example, urban farms often act as a social incubator, bringing together communities and connecting cultures. Many also impact significantly on health and well-being, allowing city-dwellers to access fresh food and sometimes even supplement diets.

“I don’t believe community gardens contribute much to food access, but they certainly do build community and highlight the need for fresh food,” said cultural anthropologist Dr. Howard Rosing.

As South Africa pushes to institute a sales tax on sugary beverages, it was interesting— and perhaps unsurprising to me— to find that Coca-Cola is probably going to be just fine, either way.

To respond to consumers’ growing aversion to the sweetener, the company is offering smaller bottles and cans — essentially getting customers to pay more for less product. It’s also creating new brands and reformulating existing drinks to cut sugar. Coca-Cola says the shift will actually increase sales, and the company’s third-quarter results on Wednesday backed up that confidence.

And finally, news of Chipotle’s woes have reached us here in South Africa, and this article provided a fascinating in-depth view of the company. It’s a long read, but it’s worth it. Author Austin Carr framed their problems this way:

When a listeria outbreak caused by Dole’s packaged salads was linked to four deaths last year, the public outcry was not nearly as intense or sustained (despite an ongoing federal investigation). When Tesla reported its first driver fatality while using its Autopilot feature last June, it didn’t affect the company’s stock price at all. Why were these deaths only blips for Dole’s and Tesla’s reputations? By contrast, Chipotle spent a year in hell even though no one died—and more than 265,000 Americans get sick annually from illnesses linked to E. coli.

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology

What FoodAnthro is Reading Now, October 12, 2016

A few of food and nutrition-related items that have caught our attention recently. Do you have items you think we should include? Send links and brief descriptions to or

This week’s digest is late because here in South Africa there are massive student protests related to the many issues of rising costs to students, unequal access to education, and so much more. Of course, protesting students need food, and faculty have been showing their support by doing grocery shopping for the students who occupied the executive offices of our university. No articles on that yet, but I’ll keep looking!

Our big food story this week had a much lighter note: South Africans with smartphones (that is, everyone except me) were outraged to find out via a viral WhatsApp message that bananas were infected with HIV… except… wait…that can’t be, right? Right? Well, yeah. Bananas can’t be infected with HIV, and this is a pretty old hoax. But the rumours caused a serious enough panic that the National Department of Health had to issue a statement, entitled, “A malicious statement circulating about bananas and the ministry of health” (yes, I did have to include the full title of the statement)  assuring the public that they could, in fact, continue to eat bananas. Whew.

Although the banana story may seem like a bizarre anecdote depicting our own gullibility (and something about social media), I wonder if it speaks to common fears about a global, opaque and disconnected food supply, where all the unknowns that big agriculture make anything seem possible. The scale of big agriculture was depicted recently in a NYTimes Series “Can Big Food Change”, with one article showing these grand pictures of large-scale food production.

In this age of global food, people spend a lot of time fighting to retain the unique story, taste and quality of their food, as described in this story from The Atlantic of a specific brand of East German pickles. Global agriculture has also led to a rapid decrease in the number of species of foods we consume, yet there’s also a vast array of foods that have spread from continent to continent, as described in this article about the spread of African crops.

Connecting big agriculture, diet, and climate change is a hot topic, and rightly so, given the major part that agriculture plays in global warming. This week, there was an article in The Guardian about the potential high yields of agroecological farming, arguing that current farming practices in BigAg are not the only way to feed the world. Also in The Guardian was an article about the UN recommendation to decrease meat consumption for the sake of the planet. Indeed, eating less meat is one way of decreasing the emissions related to agriculture. Civil Eats writes about a study relating U.S. masculinity and meat consumption, with the conclusion that men shouldn’t need meat to feel manly, but they might currently feel like they do given a broader social context.

Lastly, check out this wonderful article about high quality bread in the face of war in Syria.

Have you written something interesting about food this week? Tell us about it!

Leave a comment

Filed under anthropology