2010 Christine Wilson Award Winners

The Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition (SAFN) is pleased to announce and congratulate the winners of the 2010 Christine Wilson Award (CWA) Student Paper Competition. The award is named in memory  of Dr. Christine Wilson (1919-2005) one of the scholars who began to connect the once disparate fields of nutrition, human behavior, and culture into the interdisciplinary field of nutritional anthropology—which strives to understand the reasons people eat what they do as well as when, how, and where they eat.  In her memory and honor, SAFN encourages contributions to the field and recognizes outstanding student achievement at the graduate and undergraduate level.  A total of eleven papers were submitted for this years’ competition with papers that presented original research on a host of food and/or nutrition- related topics.  Two selection committees formed by SAFN board members and eager volunteers reviewed and evaluated the work to identify the winning papers and their runners-up.  The students were recognized on Friday, November 19, during the SAFN business meeting at the American Anthropological Association Annual meeting held at the Sheraton Hotel in New Orleans, La.

Graduate Students:

  • 1st Place: “Virginia Ham: the Local and Global of Colonial Foodways” by  Megan E.Edwards  of the University of Chicago.
  • Runner-Up: “The Refugees Dilemma: Constructing Identity through Cuisine at French Azilum” submitted by Maureen Costura of Cornell University.

    Mike McDonald and Maureen Costura

Undergraduate Students:

  • 1st Place: “Growing a New New Orleans: an Ethnography of the MareketUmbrella.org and the Crescent City Farmers Market” submitted by   Seth A. Gray of the University of New Orleans.

    Seth Gray and Mike McDonald
  • Runner-Up: ” Morality, Temperance and Immigration: American Prohibition and Racism in the 1920s” submitted by Andrew Flachs of Oberlin College.

The Christine Wilson Award committee encourages all students to look ahead to the 2011 competition which is open to all graduate and undergraduate students, full or part-time, attending an accredited academic program. This is a great opportunity to get your ideas into circulation. Your work may lead to the development of new methodology or provide new insight into a food-related topic or perhaps apply proven ideas or methods in a novel way.  Please look for announcements on the SAFN website for details on next year’s competition.

With Kind Regards,


Michael R. McDonald, Ph.D.

Chair, Christine Wilson Award Committee

Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition

posted by David Beriss

Seafood Solidarity

Even before I wrote up the restaurant guide for the upcoming AAA meeting in New Orleans, people were asking me about what they can eat here.  My advice has been to eat local (no chains!).  Many New Orleans restaurants—and not just the high end ones—work hard to source their products locally.  You can get food from regional farmers all over town.  New Orleans is one of the last places in the United States where you can eat local seafood.  If you eat locally here, you are very likely to eat well.

However, the BP oil spew from last summer has people concerned about the safety of our seafood.  The government has tried hard to certify that safety and assure people that they can eat the food.  This is problematic: decades of pathetically bad government oversight in nearly every industry has led many of us to be skeptical of their judgment.  After all, it seems that lax government oversight was partially responsible for getting us into this mess in the first place.

So what should you do?

I know what I will do: I will continue to eat Gulf seafood.  Despite my misgivings about food regulation in the U.S., Gulf seafood is under more scrutiny now than most of the rest of the food—including, no doubt, imported seafood—that you will find at your local grocery store.  I also believe that we need to make a commitment to local seafood (and to local food in general) if our food system is going to be sustainable over the long term.  We need to make it possible for people to make a living in the seafood industry in this region.  Frankly, I also trust the fishers, shrimpers, oystermen, seafood retailers and chefs who provide these products locally.  I hope you will eat Gulf seafood while you are here.  You also need to be an active voice for strong regulation of the industries that bring us these disasters and for real regulation of our food system.  We need to work to insure the safety of our food.  We also need to make sure that the people who provide us with that food can make a good living.

Meanwhile, here are a few links to thought provoking material on the web that may help you think about these issues.

One place to start is this fascinating article from the Times-Picayune about how the oldest oyster processing business in the U.S., the 135 year old P&J Oyster Company, is adapting to the situation.  Brett Anderson, the paper’s restaurant critic, has produced a number of thoughtful and moving pieces on the topic.  Here is another one, this time on the impact of the spew on the crab market as far away as Maryland.

This article on the problems involved in restoring the oyster industry while simultaneously trying to save the wetlands is fascinating.  Our problems are deeper than just this oil spill.

If you are interested in the latest reports on the status of fisheries, take a look at the USFDA web site on the topic or at the latest news from the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.  Here is a press release from the Dauphin Island Sea Lab about research showing that the oil was consumed by bacteria and may, as a consequence, have entered the food chain in the Gulf.  How far it goes—and what the consequences might be—is still unclear.  The Times-Picayune has reported on this as well.  Here is a link to a group that is very skeptical about the safety of our seafood and about claims that the Gulf has been cleaned up.

Our chefs think you should eat the seafood.  I know they are interested parties, but they also eat the seafood themselves.  Here is a moving piece from Chef Stephen Stryjewski of Cochon and Cochon Butcher.

posted by David Beriss

New Orleans Restaurant Guide for AAA

Shrimp Po-Boy. Eat gulf seafood while you are here!


The annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in New Orleans is less than 3 weeks away.  The wise folks at the AAA asked me to put together a list of recommended restaurants, which they have now posted on their web site.  Check it out and start thinking of all the great things you will eat.  If you need reservations, it can’t hurt to make them soon.  Eat local while you are here, avoid chains and you should be rewarded with some great meals.  The restaurateurs in New Orleans say that people come here for the music and leave talking about dinner.  They are right.

I should add that there are now approximately 1,117 restaurants in the New Orleans area, according to veteran New Orleans food writer Tom Fitzmorris’ daily count (this is as of November 3, 2010).  His count, by the way, does not include fast food chains or gas stations that serve convenience food, pharmacies, or anything other than what he calls “restaurants that matter.”  He does include neighborhood sandwich shops and some grocery stores, because, in New Orleans, they matter.  My list is, in any case, shorter and only includes restaurants that you can reasonably get to on foot, streetcar or cheap cab ride from the conference hotel.  Also, I only included restaurants I know enough about to recommend.  There are many others and they may be good too.

There is one other thing that I think might be of use to those attending the conference: a bar guide.  New Orleans is famous for drinking—some even claim that the cocktail was invented here (a claim that I have heard is demonstrably false, but they go on claiming it anyhow, probably because it seems reasonable when you are in a French Quarter bar).  There are many wonderful bars in the vicinity of the conference hotel.  You can get your drink to-go (in what we call a “go cup”) in most bars in the French Quarter, so feel free to stroll around with it (the Sheraton is next to, but not in the Quarter).  Note, however, that if you get one of those big colorful drinks in a boot or other odd looking contraption, we will know you are from out of town.  Rather than put together my own list of bars, here are links to two guides that I think are trustworthy, one from Gambit, a local weekly, the other from the Times-Picayune.  We have wonderful local beers, great classic cocktails (the Sazerac, the Ramos Gin Fizz, which really were invented here) and a bunch of very creative bartenders making new drinks all the time.  And you can walk to all of this…and stumble back, if necessary.

Welcome to New Orleans!

posted by David Beriss

Dr. Carole Counihan 2010 SAFN Distinguished Speaker

A message from SAFN President Janet Chrzan:

I hope you are all getting very excited about the upcoming meeting in New Orleans… I know I am. We’ve had a few messages go out about the SAFN events and sessions, and invite everyone to come to the 2010 Distinguished Speaker talk and SAFN business meeting, which will occur on Friday evening November 19 from 6 pm until 7:30 pm, to be followed immediately by a joint reception with Culture and Agriculture and Anthropology and the Environment.

We are delighted to announce that our Distinguished Speaker for 2010 will be Carole Counihan, Professor of Anthropology at Millersville University in Pennsylvania. This award is long overdue since Dr. Counihan has been a pioneer in the Anthropology of Food and the rise of Food Studies. For over two decades, Dr. Counihan has been active in anthropology, gender, and food studies and has conducted ethnographic research in Sardinia and Florence, as well as in the United States. She is author of Around the Tuscan Table: Food, Family and Gender in Twentieth Century Florence (2004) and The Anthropology of Food and Body: Gender, Meaning and Power (1999).  She is editor of Food in the USA: A Reader (2002) and co-editor (with Penny Van Esterik) of the second edition of Food and Culture: A Reader (2007).

At our Business Meeting in New Orleans, Dr. Counihan will deliver a talk entitled Inside/Outside: Food in Anthropology. She has provided this tantalizing abstract:

“This presentation explores diverse issues in food anthropology by playing with the concepts of inside and outside and the moving and melding between them.  Food passes in and out of the body; it crosses from private to public and vice versa; it involves ideas inside the head and behaviors out in the world; its practice ranges from contemplation in the office to activism in the streets.  Drawing from past ethnographic research on women’s food-centered life histories in Tuscany and Colorado and current research on food activism in Italy, I will suggest some ways the concepts of inside and outside might generate ideas about food, gender, power, and culture.”

Posted by Rachel Black

City of Gastronomy

Louisiana bumper sticker

The BP Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico (named, it seems, for the fictitious town invented by Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude”) has been capped, top-killed, sealed and may be bottom-killed as well. Last we checked, the government and BP were looking into adding a new blowout preventer to the well. We have a whole new vocabulary that we can try to work into class lectures, articles and blog entries. However, this new set of oil spill words should not distract us from a simple fact: the Gulf Coast remains in danger.

Gulf Coast seafood producers find themselves in a paradoxical situation. On one hand, the end of the spew and the reopening of many commercial and sport fishing areas means that seafood from the Gulf will once again be widely available. The seafood producers, including the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, have worked hard to build the local brand, trying to assure people that food from the Gulf is not only safe, but extraordinarily good. Obviously, the BP spill tarnished that brand, so their priority now is to resurrect it. The government has been testing the seafood extensively to show that it is safe to consume. The future of the seafood industry on the Gulf Coast—the way of life for thousands of people—is at stake.

At the same time, residents of the Gulf Coast want to remind you that the end of the oil spill is not the end of the problem. There is still oil on the beaches, in the wetlands, maybe under the sea. Seafood producers, processors, restaurant owners and workers and others involved in the Gulf Coast tourist industries have all lost income in the last few months. Cleaning up the damage and making people whole will take time and money. They do not want to be forgotten. Of course, calling attention to this also calls attention to the damage the oil and dispersants may have done to the environment and to the seafood. Which, of course, raises further questions about safety.

Another bumper sticker

A paradox, indeed.

Food activists are using ideas about food culture and heritage in one of the more interesting efforts to address this paradox. A group led by the food activist Gary Nabhan has recently published a collection outlining reasons why we should look at the Gulf of Mexico as both a biological resource and as a key part of America’s cultural heritage. The pamphlet has short articles by food activists in the New Orleans area—people you should read if you are planning on visiting the city for the AAA meetings in November—who explain clearly what is at stake in cultural terms in restoring the health of the Gulf of Mexico.

The problems go far beyond the immediate oil spill. They are biological, of course, but also social and cultural. The articles show what kinds of species are endangered, not just by the recent oil spill, but by other longer term problems. These include the destruction of the Louisiana coast due to oil canals, pipelines and the efforts to control the Mississippi river, all of which have rendered the region vulnerable to salt water intrusion, eroded wetlands and increased the area’s susceptibility to hurricane storm surges. It also includes the huge dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico that is created every year by farm runoff from America’s heartland spewing out from the Mississippi. And it is not just seafood that is at stake. The Gulf Coast is home to plants such as mirlitons (known also as chayote squash) and many other vegetables, to heritage cattle breeds and other kinds of livestock, all of which are in danger of vanishing as the coast disappears and as the pressures of the American food industry and of culinary homogenization press in.

One group is working to have UNESCO designate New Orleans as a “City of Gastronomy.” This includes several of the authors from the Nabhan’s collection, other New Orleans food activists, representatives of the city government and the author of this post. The City of Gastronomy designation is currently held by only three cities (Popayan, Colombia, Chengdu, PRC and Östersund, Sweden). It is part of a broader “creative cities network” that UNESCO has created to promote social, economic and cultural development in cities around the world. This meshes with the emphasis in Louisiana on the “cultural economy” and is understood by our group as a means toward legitimizing the city’s claim that it is home to a distinct culinary heritage. This is not merely an historical artifact: the foodways of New Orleans and the surrounding region, from the waters of the Gulf and the people who work them, to farmers, gardeners, home cooks and restaurant chefs, is indeed a living creative culture. Insuring the health of the Gulf Coast is a key part of making sure that that culture can be sustained. We want to remind you that buying and eating the products of the Gulf is not just good eats. It is also a key part of keeping a way of life alive.

Posted by David Beriss

Call for Wild Artists

The Multispecies Salon 3: SWARM
New Orleans, November 2010


I saw this on a science and technology list serve, and thought that artistically inclined SAFN readers might find it interesting. The opening of the event/exhibit will be happening in New Orleans the week before the AAAs and conference goers are invited to be “embedded art critics.” Submissions should be sent to multispecies.salon@gmail.com

“The Multispecies Salon 3 will use art to address a series of interrelated questions about nature: Which species flourish, and which fail, when natural and cultural worlds intermingle and collide? What happens when the bodies of organisms, and even entire ecosystems, are brought into schemes of biotechnology and dreams of biocapitalism? And finally, with particular relevance to New Orleans: In the aftermath of disaster–in a blasted landscape that has been transformed by multiple catastrophes–what are the possibilities of biocultural hope?”

From the link, steer yourself toward their theme for “Edible Companions.”

“Edible Companions will be on the table as artists, anthropologists, and significant others will come together to break bread in a series of multispecies meals. We will eat creatures that Donna Haraway calls companion species.  Companion comes from the Latin cum panis, with bread, Haraway writes.  Companion species include such organic beings as rice, bees, tulips, and intestinal flora, all of whom make life for humans what it isand vice versa. With paintings of People Paella gracing the walls, we will personify creatures that are not just good to think (as Lévi-Strauss had it), or more instrumentally, good to eat (as Marvin Harris countered), but also entities, and agents, that are good to live with (as Donna Haraway maintains).  We will serve locally wildcrafted mulberry and elderberry mead, edible insects, creatures from an invasive species garden, among other delectables.”

Posted by Emily Yates-Doerr

New Orleans Farmer’s Markets and More

The holy annual gathering of the American Anthropological Association will be in New Orleans this coming November.  In anticipation, I will periodically post food-related information about the city where I live, work and eat that our readers can use when they are here.  This is the first in that series.

Back in pre-Katrina flood times, New Orleans had a few farmer’s markets (actually, if you go back far enough, the city had a remarkably large system of public markets, but that is for another post), the most notable being the system run by the Crescent City Farmer’s Market.  This organization, founded in 1995, started out with one market and a few vendors from the city and the surrounding region.  These markets became the place where, if I recall correctly, “rock stars shop and chefs are stars,” where, in other words, the people watching was, as is often the case in New Orleans, nearly as good as the food.

The 2005 hurricanes and floods were a huge blow to farmers, fishers and other producers at the markets, but the organizers were back at it soon after the disaster.  They proved to be among the most creative and resourceful groups working to help the city rebuild and innovate in the ensuing years.  Rebranding themselves as marketumbrella.org, the organization turned itself into a juggernaut promoting new ideas about markets, food, economic development and sustainability in the United States and even internationally.  They run three weekly markets in New Orleans (the Saturday morning market is an easy walk from the AAA conference site) and have helped establish many of the other markets in the city and region.  I think we actually have more now than we did before the disaster.

I recommend you visit the market when you are in town.  But marketumbrella.org has some great resources you can check out even before you get here.  The website itself has tools for people who organize markets, links to some astonishing videos (check out the Gar fishing video and all the other stuff on local seafood) and so many local and regional initiatives that it boggles the mind.  Oh, and there is a picture of my daughter up there somewhere too.  Last year the market published a cookbook, edited by local chef and culinary activist Poppy Tooker, The Crescent City Farmers Market Cookbook, which has great recipes (I’ve tried several) and even better stories (and won awards as one of the best New Orleans cookbooks in 2009).  You can get lost in the site, but it may motivate you to get out there and transform your own local food system.

Posted by David Beriss