Category Archives: 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 dberiss@gmail.com or hunterjo@gmail.com.

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!

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CFP: Making Sense of Taste

An intriguing call for papers! Please direct inquiries and submissions to the contacts listed below.

CALL FOR PAPERS

Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food

2017 – Making Sense of Taste

From which angle does a scholar approach the concept of taste? Is it primarily an objective, chemical quality, or should it be considered a product of culture? And are these perspectives wholly incompatible? The physical quality and flavour of food and drink preoccupy molecular biologists, gastronomic professionals, and bon vivants. Chemists, among others, construe classification systems, aspiring to help us understand the complexity and the possibilities of flavour. Mediators and their audiences may oftentimes embrace subjectivity, by detailing their intimate and embodied experience of taste. Neither approach is new: historically, classification systems have had major cultural and religious significance, whereas the conception of ‘good’ food – as opposed to ‘bad’ food – and its application in mechanisms of social distinction is at least as old as class-based societies themselves. Clearly, discussions about taste have always been informed by an array of physiological and psychological experiences, not just our palates. We invite proposals on this complex notion of taste: its characteristics, its cultural evaluation, and its history.

Topics

We invite abstracts for papers covering any topic related to the (historical) study of taste including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The physiology and representation of taste
  • Taste, power, and social relations
  • Authentic versus artificial flavours
  • Taste, emotion, and memory
  • Individual versus collective taste(s)

Guidelines Paper Proposals

The conference program consists of plenary keynote lectures, paper presentations and panel discussions. If you are interested in presenting a paper at the conference, please submit an abstract before 5 March 2017. Please expect to be presenting to a large audience of up to 350 people, including academic as well as professional participants. The conference language is English. Presenters of accepted papers are asked to speak 20 minutes as lively and engaging as possible, followed by a discussion with the panel and the audience under the supervision of a session chair.

Applications should include:

  • Title of proposed paper
  • Abstract (maximum 500 words)
  • Biographical information (short CV)
  • Contact information (e-mail, telephone and postal address)

Applications should be sent by the deadline of 5 March 2017 to:

Foodhistory-ub@uva.nl

Notification of acceptance:

As it may not be possible to include everyone’s submission, the organizing committee and advisory board will make a selection. You will be notified if the paper is accepted by 1 May 2017.

Organisation

The Amsterdam Symposium on the History of Food is the result of a collaborative partnership between Special Collections (UvA), the Amsterdam School of Historical Studies (UvA) and the research unit Social & Cultural Food Studies (FOST) of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel.

Advisory Board

Prof. Dr. Ir. Louise O. Fresco; Mrs. Claudia Roden; Prof. Dr. Peter Scholliers; Prof. Dr. Irene E. Zwiep

Aims

The symposium has the aspiration to become an annual point of assembly and an exchange of knowledge in the field of food history. It intends to stimulate debate and research that bridges the gap between different disciplines. Submissions are encouraged to use an interdisciplinary approach, in which theory and methods from diverse (social) sciences are appropriated or from other disciplines that take a historical stance. Another aim is to transfer academic research to a wider public and stimulate research using the Special Collection of the University of Amsterdam. The symposium is therefore targeted at both an academic and a professional audience.

Organizing Committee

IJsbrand van Dijk; Joke Mammen; Antonia Mazel; Jon Verriet; Ingrid de Zwarte

More information and updates about the symposium

http://bijzonderecollectiesuva.nl/foodhistory/amsterdam-symposium-on-the-history-of-food/

Partners

Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam

Amsterdam School of Historical Studies (UvA)

Social & Cultural Food Studies (FOST) of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel

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What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, January 10, 2017

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

Feeling overwhelmed by all the political changes taking place at one time? Perhaps one way to get a grip on things is to focus on just one aspect of change. You might think about sustainability and food justice in urban environments, for instance. Fabio Parasecoli has written an intriguing review of two new books on this topic right here. The books are Rositza Ilieva’s “Urban Food Planning: Seeds of Transition in the Global North” (Routledge, 2016) and Kristin Reynolds and Nevin Cohen’s “Beyond the Kale: Urban Agriculture and Social Justice Activism in New York City” (University of Georgia Press, 2016).

A team of AP reporters (Esther Htusan, Margie Mason, Robin McDowell and Martha Mendoza) researched and wrote a series of the most disturbing and incredible stories about the slavery in the seafood industry last year. The series won a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. You can—and should—read all of it here. If you are eating imported seafood, once you read this you will be very concerned about who has been victimized in getting it to your table. Assign this in your classes.

Once you have read the AP report, you will want to find out where you can get seafood that is not produced by slaves. You may also want the supply chain to be shorter, the seafood to be sustainable, and more. PBS and NPR have produced this fascinating story by Allison Aubrey on an effort in New England to get Americans to eat domestic seafood that meets those criteria. Similar efforts are going on around the country, of course, so look around locally and you may find something.

Has the United States been experiencing “the Golden Age of Restaurants” and is it about to come to an end? In this thrillist article, Kevin Alexander examines the evidence for the imminent bursting of the restaurant bubble economy. This the part three of three articles. Links to the other two are in the article, of course.

Meanwhile, New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells recently gave no stars to the star-driven healthier fast food alternative restaurant Locol in Oakland. This might seem like an odd restaurant for the New York Times critic to review, but given the high profile of the owners (Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi) and the highly publicized social mission (“the most important fast food restaurant in America,” according to Willy Blackmore, at eater.com), perhaps it is not surprising. Whether he should have and whether he committed an injustice in so doing has been the object of much social media attention. The response from Chef Choi is here. Here is an overview of the debate from Jay Barmann and here is where LA food critic Jonathan Gold commented.

One of the more inspiring TED talks I have seen in a long while was this very brief lecture by culinary historian Michael Twitty. In it, he recounts both his personal trajectory and his ideological commitment to challenging the way Americans think about race and food. Excellent scholar activism and potentially very useful for class discussions.

Raising related issues, but in a curiously essentialist manner, this piece on the Intersectional Analyst blog by Lorraine Chuen attacks culinary appropriation by white chefs. The fundamental issue is an important one, but this blog posting seems to suffer from a deeply reductionist understanding of things like cuisine, culture, race, and ethnicity. This might be because the author is focused in this article on “data” rather than on actual people. All that said, it would make for a great reading if you want to spark a discussion in a class.

Why are cured foods so trendy and how does that relate to the former Soviet Union? It doesn’t, really, but you might think so if you read this lovely discussion between Christina Crawford and Darra Goldstein from Harvard Design Magazine. Great hypotheses are tossed out and discarded, large pieces of furniture are discussed, a jar of mushrooms is produced from under a bed. Get some dark bread, some herring, and vodka and enjoy.

What happens to culinary media stars in the wake of the election? Do they also think food is political? Anthony Bourdain clearly does. Read this biting and bitter interview from a few weeks ago, conducted by Helen Rosner. Bourdain appears to have a strong moral compass and a colorful way of speaking about it.

Let’s end this with the suggestion of a drink: Black Lightning. From the always-interesting Southern Foodways Alliance, this discussion between Jonathan Green and Kevin Young about the disappearance of black bootleggers from the public imagination. Get yourself a drink and settle in for a fascinating discussion. Enjoy the fact that anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston sets the theme.

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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 dberiss@gmail.com or hunterjo@gmail.com.

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!

 

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CFP: Climate, Agriculture and Food Systems

A CFP of possible interest to our readers.

Call for Abstracts/Papers for Special Issue: Climate, Agriculture and Food Systems

Special Issue Editors: Gabrielle Roesch-McNally (USDA Climate Hubs, groeschmcnally@fs.fed.us); Rebecca Schewe (Syracuse University, rlschewe@maxwell.syr.edu); Andrea Basche (Union of Concerned Scientists, ABasche@ucsusa.org)

Global climate change, driven in part by greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and associated land use change, is predicted to impact agricultural systems in heterogeneous ways. A multitude of external forces including agricultural policy and development drivers are pushing for both adaptation and mitigation strategies within the agrifood system. It is expected that global-and local-dynamics will affect agroecosystems, labor and market forces, food security, land use decisions, and climate policy. To better assess these dynamics, there is growing emphasis on interdisciplinary climate change research that examines how the context of climate change will influence adaptation and mitigation efforts in the agricultural sector and subsequent interconnected impacts.

We are seeking papers for a special issue of Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems (RAFS) focusing on multidisciplinary research that examines agrifood system responses to both projected and experienced climate changes. This special issue is a unique opportunity to present original research or review an emergent body of research, particularly by identifying linkages between agrifood scholarship and research on anthropogenic climate change. In addition to reviews, empirical, and theory-based research, we encourage submissions that incorporate applied efforts aimed at addressing problems associated with agriculture and climate change with particular interest in multidisciplinary projects and contributions from practitioners. Special issues generally lead to higher citations, which can assist authors in getting their work more widely read. RAFS also has an international reach and we hope to develop an issue that links scholarship on agriculture, food systems, and climate change across varied spatial and socio-political scales.

Manuscripts presenting a variety of research methodologies, including both qualitative and quantitative research, are welcome. We intend to publish research and review papers, as well as papers that fit the Journal’s other manuscript categories. Researchers with ongoing field research or early career scholars may be interested in “From the Field” papers, which are appropriate for early results and studies of limited scope. Another manuscript option are “Preliminary Reports” that report on highly innovative systems where little existing research has been conducted, which may be of interest to those doing work in alternative agricultural systems where there are limited data available with few replicated studies available to cite.

For more information on categories of articles accepted by RAFS: https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/renewable-agriculture-and-food-systems/information/instructions-contributors

We are open to relevant submissions, but key topics of interest for the special issue include:

  • Critical reviews and comparative analyses of large-scale climate and agriculture research projects
  • Explorations of shifting agricultural labor dynamics associated with social, economic, and ecological changes brought about by a changing climate
  • Comparative analyses of large scale interdisciplinary climate and agricultural research
  • Exploration of stakeholder decision making in the context of both adaptation and mitigation efforts in the agrifood system
  • Examinations of resilience and vulnerability as both social and ecological concepts in climate change and agrifood studies
  • Using an intersectional and/or climate justice lens to examine climate change impacts and policy efforts in agrifood systems
  • Multidisciplinary examinations of the social-ecological consequences of a changing climate on agroecosystem productivity (e.g., soil health, soil erosion, changing pest cycles and plant disease impacts, etc.)
  • Assessment of climate change impacts on agriculture and associated challenges to food security and/or food sovereignty efforts
  • Multidisciplinary research integrating both biophysical and social science data sets
  • Critique or analysis of current efforts to define “climate-smart” agricultural practices

All correspondence regarding abstract submissions to this special issue should be addressed to all three of the special issue editors (e-mails above) only. If you would like to be considered for this special issue, please send a 500 word (maximum) abstract of your planned contribution to the issue editors by February 15th. Provide a summary of the significance of the work, background or context, and methodology in the case of original research papers. Include any additional information you think is critical to consideration of your article.

Authors invited to submit should anticipate submitting a full paper by June 1st if your abstract is accepted. Full submissions that are accepted will be published online shortly after they are accepted, prior to publication of the special issue. Please note that all manuscripts will go through peer review and there is no guarantee that papers by authors invited to submit an article will be published.

Submissions and questions should be sent to the special issue editors Gabrielle Roesch-McNally (USDA Climate Hubs, groeschmcnally@fs.fed.us), Rebecca Schewe (Syracuse University, rlschewe@maxwell.syr.edu), and Andrea Basche (Union of Concerned Scientists, ABasche@ucsusa.org).

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Review: Sorting the Beef from the Bull

Sorting the Beef from the Bull. The Science of Food Fraud Forensics.  Richard Evershed and Nicola Temple. Bloomsbury, 2016.

Media of Sorting the Beef from the Bull

Ellen Messer (Tufts University)

Evershed, Richard and Nicola Temple (2016) Sorting the Beef from the Bull. The Science of Food Fraud Forensics.  New York: Bloomsbury Sigma.

This book systematically covers the categories of food fraud that pervade global food systems and trade.  It carefully explains the biology, chemistry, and physics of food, as well as the tools that have been constructed to test authenticity of species, political-geographic origin places, and toxic dangers of additives. These later include dyes and preservatives, and substances and substitutions added to extend the quantities of shelf lives of particular products.  The first three chapters introduce “Food Fraud 101” and the major categories of falsification, with special emphasis on eggs and poultry.  The next six chapters cover specific adulterations and efforts to detect them in the major food categories: fish, red meat, dairy, spices and condiments, beverages, fruits and vegetables.  There is plenty of fraud to go around with values-based items (organic, ethically sourced) which may not originate where their values claim they do. The final chapter, “thoughts for digestion” reviews main points and technologies available or in the pipe-line for individual consumer, food-processor, retailer, or other institutional detection of misrepresentations.  This chapter also summarizes guidelines for real food sourcing that are quite similar to Michael Pollan’s principles: select whole rather than processed foods, sourced locally or from trusted sources, thereby shortening the food chain with its possibilities of fraud.  Be skeptical of deals that are too good to be true; they usually involve deceptions.  Be willing to take the time and pay a fair price to get the story and connect with the people behind the foods you eat.

These chapters are packed with food biochemistry and clear explanations of the sleuth work that goes into detecting fraud and its harms.  There is particular attention to adulterations that produce life-threatening or -ending allergens, such as peanut or dairy that purposely or inadvertently have been added to products that should not contain them.  The major motivation is greed, although some shelf-life expanding technologies claim they are fighting world hunger and local food insecurity, and reducing waste.  Cases of Chinese, then Indian and Bangladeshi adulterators are most frequently cited, but there are plenty of U.S. and European culprits or co-conspirators eager to profit from food falsification, even where this process introduces human health risks.  There are also some simple guidelines to detecting common frauds in common foods.  Individuals can use their senses (smell, taste, touch, visual observation of cooking properties) to detect products that are not what they claim.  E.g., does the spice mixture in the package or the coffee or tea smell and behave the way it is supposed to? Does the fish fillet unexpectedly fall apart (in which case it is probably a cheaper species, not pricey cod)? Does the unbelievably cheap egg have a membrane inside the shell? If not it is a counterfeit, which in quantity yields huge criminal profits for the manufacturers who operate in many countries.

Surprisingly, the EU up to the time of publication had no official definition of food fraud, in contrast to the US, which defines “the deliberate and intentional substitution, addition, tampering, or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients, or food packaging; or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain” (cited on p.262).  Throughout the substantive, food-category based chapters, the authors cite legal cases but bemoan the lack of inspection and regulators, even where the legal framework is in place.  They should also bemoan the lack of time dedicated to food shopping and eating, the “convenience” factor that expands food chains and distances consumers from the sources of their food.  Such distancing layers risks of fraud and harms at every level, and also reduces the consumer’s pleasure, knowledge, and connections to food and to other human beings all along the food chain.  Thin and incomplete government or food-industry oversight of food quality and truth, combined with consumers’ appreciation of convenience foods, are challenges unlikely to be resolved by greater knowledge in food forensics.  The outstanding technical perspectives also raise additional conflicts in values.  Given the emphasis on reducing food waste, should we, the consumers, prefer the apple that rots? Or the apple that, with the application of food technology, stays or appears to stay fresh an unnaturally long period of time? In a world of industrialized foods, can individuals be trained to prefer a natural strawberry to the industrialized fake flavor?

You can use the examples in discussions of traceability, hazard analysis, biochemical and flavor diversity in foods, and other food-system topics.  The book also contains a good refresher course on basic food biochemistry, with helpful chapter by chapter summaries of the major chemical bonds and reactions in an appendix.

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What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, December 13, 2016

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

Just in time for Christmas, President-Elect Trump has nominated Ebenezer Scrooge to be Secretary of Labor in his new cabinet. Or at least, that is what Tom Philpott suggests in an article in Mother Jones. Over at Nation’s Restaurant News, Jonathan Maze writes that employers, and especially restaurant owners, are pleased by this nomination.

Policy think tanks and activists like to lay down briefing memos for new administrations. Over at the Stimson Center, Johanna Mendelson Forman and Lovely Umayam have written a brief memo indicating why global food security should be a high priority national security issue for the incoming administration. We are unsure, at this time, if Mr. Trump will take them up on the ideas presented in the memo, but you could use this with students to generate discussions about what, exactly, we mean by national security in the U.S.

On the domestic side of things, Nevin Cohen, Nicholas Freudenberg and Janet Poppendieck, over at the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute, provide a list of food policy priorities for New York City-based activists. The list and explanations will be of interest to food activists and scholars elsewhere.

Another analysis of the current situation in the U.S. for food activists comes from Slow Food USA director Richard McCarthy in this article from the Courier-Journal and the linked Mighty Fine Farm and Food podcast.

Fabio Parasecoli explores the intersections of artisanal food, reviving traditions, nationalism, and politics in Poland in this interesting article in The Huffington Post. The revival of tradition and food nationalism is always on the verge of dangerous politics, it seems. There is also an excellent picture of sausage.

How do food activists grapple with questions of race and racism in the United States? Joshua Sbicca and Justin Sean Myers compare two food justice organizations, one in Oakland, the other in Brooklyn, to see how they deal with race and build political projects, in a recent article in the journal Environmental Sociology.

The most recent issue of Human Organization, from the Society for Applied Anthropology, has two articles that could be of interest to our readers. First, Drew Gerkey examines the management of “common resource pools,” in this case reindeer herds and salmon fisheries, in post-Soviet collectives in Kamchatka. This has some important environmental and economic implications that should be of comparative values elsewhere. Second, Kathryn S. Oths, Frank J. Manzella, Brooke Sheldon, and Katy M. Groves draw on research in Alabama in order to look into why different kinds of farmers markets appeal to different sorts of people. This has implications for both the future of markets and for the future of the food movement.

We recently received notification of a new book by Robert Biel, Sustainable Food Systems: The Role of the City (2016, UCL Press). The book is about urban agriculture and food security and we have not read it…but you can download it for free, here. Biel teaches political ecology at University College London.

There are end-of-year best-of lists everywhere and Civil Eats has one that focuses on their favorite food and farm books of the year. It is an intriguing selection.

On the weird side of things, there is this blog posting and video in which Abbie Fentress Swanson enthusiastically describes her food finds at convenience stores in Japan. The selection is, of course, rather different from what one finds in U.S. convenience stores. Swanson provides some context for understanding Japanese enthusiasm for these stores. But watch the video: the food, wrapped in plastic, encased in what looks like soggy bread, is vaguely gray and old…and has, at least through the computer, exactly the same visual appeal as convenience store food in the U.S.

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