Category Archives: foodways

Black Women’s Food Work is from the Future

Ashanté M. Reese, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Spelman College

 When I think about being a Black girl from the future, my mind goes to the contradiction that many Black girls and women encounter which is that we are often simultaneously hyper visible and invisible at the same time – Renina Jarmon

Black women are not seen as authorities in the kitchen or elsewhere in matters of food—culturally, politically, and socially—and when she dares to be, she may be described in reviews as “angry” or “not angry enough.” She is rendered absent, and made invisible by the continued salience of intersecting vectors of disempowerment: race/gender/class/sexuality. Or in the absolute worst cases she is confronted—face-to-face and in social media outlets—with a “how dare she” attitude because she does not, will not, cannot conform to a prescribed role of Black women who work with, as banal as it sounds, food (Nettles-Barcélon et al. 2015:35)

If there is to be a future where the food system is safe, equitable, and healthy how will we get there?

On March 30th, the newly launched Food Studies Program at Spelman College hosted a symposium on Food Justice featuring three Black women activists and scholars who work to improve the food system and health of communities in various parts of the country.  The symposium was clear in its purpose: to not only interrogate the successes and limits of food justice but to also highlight the work of Black women that is often invisible, ignored, or co-opted.

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Monica White, PhD in the field in Mississippi

I left the symposium feeling energized and challenged by the panelists and the audience. I also left with questions. How do we contend with the hypervisibility of Black women’s association with obesity on the one hand and the lack of visibility concerning Black women’s activist, artistic, and academic expertise in food production, preparation and writing on the other?  Nettles-Barcélon et al. provide a framework—Black women’s food work as critical space—for understanding how the future of the food system is deeply intertwined with the food work produced by Black women and the barriers that attempt to curtail that work. They argue that because Black women are positioned as both speakers for “the other” while also being Othered, their food work is not simply necessary but critical in the dismantling of an oppressive food system that consistently denies equal access to Othered bodies from which corporations profit.

From the scholarly world to on-the-ground organizing, Black women ask difficult questions, put their reputations and bodies on the line, and demonstrate a Black feminist food future attuned to a far-off world in which we are all free.  This future is currently being written in the scholarly works about Fannie Lou Hamer and the Freedom Farms Cooperative (White 2017), increasing visibility of Black women vegans outside the normative gaze (Harper 2010), and analyses of Black women’s agency, power and entrepreneurship in the context of stereotypes-turned-metaphors (Williams-Forson 2006). It is engaged with dismantling an unjust and unequal industrialized food system at the nexus of racial justice under the Movement for Black Lives. It is on the front lines on the Fight for $15. It is being built everyday on urban farms, in community gardens, in nonprofit organizations, and in classrooms where Black women’s labor contribute to everyday resistances.  It is present in intergenerational storytelling and cross-institutional relationship building. This work is generated from a simultaneous engagement with the past, the present, and a future where the dialectical hypervisibility and invisibility that Black women experience no longer exists.

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Community Member Supporting Urban Ag in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Ashanté Reese)

In the sixth episode of season two of the WGN series Underground, Harriet Tubman—played by Aisha Hinds—delivers a passionate, hour-long speech to abolitionists who are at odds about how to move forward on the question of eradicating slavery. After detailing parts of her own journey to freedom and commitment to others’ freedom, she declared:

There ain’t no negotiations on freedom. I spent all my time knowing things instead of believing them. And that’s the first step to being free. When you can see past all the things that you know and believe something better.

Black women’s food work is often informed by an embodied knowing that it is difficult—if not impossible—to negotiate from the duality of hypervisibility and invisibility. Instead, this food work is rooted in a belief in something beyond. It is not simply a substance of things hoped for or the evidence of things not seen (see Hebrews 11:1 for biblical reference). No. Black women’s food work is the critical space from which the world we want to see is being built.  Black women’s food work is, indeed, from the future.

 

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Conference Report: 6th annual Asian Food Study Conference, Kusatsu, Japan

While there are many conferences of potential interest to food anthropologists, last weekend (December 3-4, 2016), I attended a conference that I found particularly useful and inspiring: the 6th annual Asian Food Studies Conference.

This is a conference that attracts historians, nutritionists, anthropologists, and researchers from fields like hospitality and tourism. The diverse presentation topics included these titles: “Chinese Ancient Food Culture Implied in Oracle-bone inscriptions” (Cheng Xuerong), “The Comprehensive Discourse on Edible Flowers in Pre-modern China” (Liu Jun Li), “Plagiarism and Originality: Focused on the Study of Modern Printed Cookbooks in Early 20th Century Korea” (Ra Yeon-jae), “Nutrition Education Affects the Use of an Escalator and Elevator to Reach a Women’s College on a Hilltop” (Ishihara Kengo and Takaishi Tetsuo), and “Beyond the ‘Super Shark’ Myth: Promoting Sustainable Shark Foodways in Japan and Asia” (Akamine Jun).

What really impressed me, however, was the true sense of internationalism evident at the conference. The conference’s venue changes every year. Last year the conference was held in Shangdong, China, this year in Kusatsu, Japan (hosted by Ritsumeikan University), and next year the conference venue will be in Korea. There are presentations in multiple languages (this year: Chinese, Japanese, and English). The first day’s keynote speeches, one in each language, were translated into the other two. But beyond this, the conference theme—Exchange and Dynamism of Food Culture in Asia—encouraged presentations of research that was itself transdisciplinary and transnational, with a mission toward forging connections and sharing knowledge.

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Takagi Hitoshi explaining how the Miskito categorize and use different parts of the sea turtles they hunt.

Let me give some examples. One of the panels on the first day included presenters from Malaysia, the Philippines, the US, Bulgaria, and Korea. All of the research on this panel had an obvious transnational component. A key example of such a project would be Korean scholar Ja Young Choe’s (Hong Kong Polytechnic University) research on the relative popularity of various Asian cuisines (Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indian—in that order) in Hong Kong. On the second day Francoise Sabban’s research on the culinary perceptions of French and Chinese diplomats and envoys in the 19th century, Takagi Hitoshi’s observations from fieldwork conducted among the sea turtle hunting Miskito of the Caribbean, and Osawa Yoshimi’s probing of the simultaneous global appeal of umami and distrust of MSG are other examples.

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SAFN member Shingo Hamada describing traditional foodways–fishy and fermented–in Fukui prefecture, Japan.

Representing SAFN at the conference, Shingo Hamada presented new research on obstacles to commoditizing traditional fermented foods in Japan’s contemporary Fukui prefecture and I explained how Kyoto cuisine has benefited from international support (collaborators, promoters, funders) and resources (ingredients, ideas, technology) from far outside of Japan.

Next year, the conference will be hosted in South Korea. I heartily recommend attending to anyone interested in the topics of transnationalism, food, and Asia.

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CFP: We Eat What? A Cultural Encyclopedia of American Regional Food

We recently received the following call for papers which may be a great opportunity for some of our readers. From akutaq to whoopie pie, there are some great things to write about here!

Call for Entries

We Eat What? A Cultural Encyclopedia of American Regional Food

A few years ago Natalya Murakhver and I edited They Eat That? A Cultural Encyclopedia of “Unusual” Food from Around the World, published by ABC-CLIO. The book, designed for libraries and classrooms, was designed to accessibly hook readers, middle school through college, into the study of food and culture through the “weird/wow” factor of foods with which they may be unfamiliar, keeping in mind that some of our most cherished foods (stinky cheese in my case) seem bizarre to others or bizarre when you take time to examine them closely (honey).

Based on that book, I am compiling a follow-up called We Eat What?, which will focus on regional foods in the US. We have a number of entries done or in revision from the previous volume but continue to seek contributors.

These are 1,000 word entries that cover the identity, history, cultural use, and nutrition of foods or dishes. They include a recipe either for the food itself or for something cooked with the food.

Contributors of two or more entries are provided a copy of the book on publication.  Last time we had strong contributions from both established and emerging scholars. I hope you will consider joining us.

For more information or to claim an entry, please contact Jonathan Deutsch at jdeutsch@drexel.edu and Ben Fulton at bjf67@drexel.edu. Deadlines will be rolling throughout the spring, but we hope to have a complete draft by June 1.

Thanks for your consideration.

Available entries:

Akutaq
Alligator
Barbacoa
Bean Hole Beans
Bear
Bialy
Boudin Blanc and Noir
Brains
Buffalo
Burgoo
Cannabis
Chaudin
Cheese Curds
Chislic
Chow Chow
Cincinnati Chili
Coddies
Coffee Milk
Deep Dish Pizza
Deep Fried Fair Food (Oreos, Milky Way, Butter)
Emu
Fluffernutter
Fried Green Tomatoes
Frito Pie
Frog Eye Salad
Fry Bread
Fry Sauce
Funnel Cake
Garbage Plate
Geoduck
Goetta
Gooey Butter Cake
Grits
Gumbo
Half Smoke
Hoppin’ John
Horseshoe Sandwich
Hot Brown
Hotdish
Hushpuppies
Jambalaya
King Cake
Koolickles
Livermush
Loco Moco
Loose Meat Sandwich
Muffuletta
Olive Loaf
Peanuts, Boiled
Pemmican
Pickled Pig’s Feet
Pig’s Ears
Po’ Boy
Poke
Polish Boy
Pork, salt
Red eye gravy
Reindeer
Shoofly Pie
Slinger
Son of a Bitch Stew
Sonoran Hot Dog
Spam
Spiedies
Squirrel
Steamed Cheeseburger
Succotash
Turducken
Watergate Salad
Whoopie Pie

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Review: Sacred Rice

Davidson, Joanna. (2016). Sacred Rice: An Ethnography of Identity, Environment, and Development in West Africa. Oxford University Press. (249 pp.)

Reviewed by Mark Dailey
Green Mountain College, Poultney, VT

In Sacred Rice: An Ethnography of Identity, Environment, and Development in West Africa, anthropologist Joanna Davidson presents a nuanced and in many ways classically holistic ethnography of rice production and the way this key crop ripples meaningfully through all aspects of West African Jola society. Rice is much more than a major food crop for the Jola of Guinea-Bissau: it is also the key idiom and central metaphor through which they express and negotiate household, community, gender, ritual, religious, political and economic relationships. This reality, which Davidson compellingly explores in thematically focused chapters, is all the more compelling given its contemporary unraveling due to climate change. Rice is central to Jola agriculture and identity, yet declining rainfall in the region is increasingly rendering adequate rice production impossible. Davidson’s book therefore revolves around two key questions: How does the centrality of rice production mediate social reality among the Jola; and in Davidson’s words, “what happens when this changes? How does something so totalizing unravel and disentangle itself from spheres of social, cosmological, moral, economic, political, and familial life?” (8) She draws equally on theoretical literature and on details of villagers’ lives to address these questions, and in so doing presents a rich ethnographic portrait of agricultural and social transition.

The book’s initial chapters frame these questions in some detail, convincingly emphasizing both the “sacralization” of rice and its material centrality. Chapter One provides a useful and interesting overview of the history of rice, drawing attention to the underappreciated endemic diversity present in West African varieties. The following chapters serially explore the role of rice in mediating dimensions of social life: we learn how rice production is gendered, how rice becomes a ritual ingredient of cosmological significance at spirit shrines, how its productive requirements filter through family and community relationships, and how the very bases of knowledge and morality cannot be construed without rice. Her treatment of rice’s mediating centrality of all things social is anthropologically familiar, recalling, for instance, Herskovitz’s “East African cattle complex” and Evans-Pritchard’s study of witchcraft among the Azande. Unlike these foundational studies, though, her portrait captures motion and transformation: by drawing upon fieldwork in 2001-2002 and a return visit in 2010, she shows us Jola lives in transition, struggling with outmigration, changing family norms, and even the key moral values that tell them “who they are.” We richly sense what is happening and become acquainted with significant trends, but like Davidson and the Jola themselves, we cannot see with certainty what the future will bring. (Although she acknowledges global trends of deruralization and agricultural modernization, a richer comparative basis would have been welcome.)

As an anthropologist, Davidson does several things very well, eschewing convenient tropes and easy essentialisms at every turn. Her constructivist caveats about African environmental studies, gender, the basis of knowledge, and the concept of “sacred,” for instance, subtly but critically remind us to avoid thinking through easily derived categories. The wealth of community-level data makes this possible, and pleasurable: she weaves together the lives of key informants with her own experiences in compelling ways. Her authorial presence is ample enough to humanize and ground her ethnography in rich and instructive stories, but they do not overtake the wealth of empirical data and theoretical contextualization that provide the book’s broadest foundation. We meet and hear the stories of real Jola individuals, and watch as their lives are clearly contextualized within macro-level data on climate, economics, demography, and national politics. The perceived value of “hard work” begins to unravel in the face of diminishing agricultural returns; families slowly turn to institutional educational opportunities versus subsistence production-oriented lives; and parental authority negotiates the new realities of unwed daughters returning pregnant from city schools.

One shortcoming of the book is more likely due to an editorial miscasting than to any deficiency by the author. The book is part of Oxford University Press’s “Issues of Globalization: Case Studies in Contemporary Anthropology” series, but there is precious little globalization here—and in fact, there needn’t be. As anthropologist Ted Lewellen has pointed out, globalization too often becomes a totalizing perspective, the default analytical frame of reference, when the phenomena we seek to explain are often best addressed by local, regional, and national levels of analysis—with globalization simply offering another level of context. And so it is with Davidson’s exploration of Jola lives. Given the theoretical contexts the author offers throughout the book (Chapter Four on the role of secrecy among the Jola, and between Jola and outsiders, is as fascinating as it is theoretically rich!), the paucity of scholarly attention to globalization studies is noticeable. Her book feels shoe-horned into Oxford’s series on globalization studies.

Nonetheless, Joanna Davidson’s scholarly presentation of the interesting, holistic, and changing world of Guinea-Bissau’s rice-farming Jola is impressive ethnographic work, and useful for environmental anthropologists, development experts, agricultural and social policy makers, agricultural and food historians, and both undergraduate and graduate audiences. For anyone interested in the multiple and inextricable ways that social lives and material production are mutually embedded, in fact, this book provides clear evidence, good story-telling, and a case-study that continues to unfold.

 

 

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Review of: American Cheddar Cheese-Ways

Edgar, Gordon (2015) Cheddar. A Journey to the Heart of America’s Most Iconic Cheese and what is can tell us about our history, cultural identity, and food politicsWhite River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing.

Reviewed by Ellen Messer (Tufts University)

If you ever wondered what’s to like about the dairy lubricant flavoring Mac&Cheese, or why there is so much noticeable variation in identifiably named, branded cheddars, this book has the answers.  The lucid and sometimes witty text, crafted by San Francisco Rainbow Grocery Cooperative cheese-monger Gordon Edgar, unpacks the science, technology, arts, crafts, and cultural, economic, and political history behind cheddar, which was America’s favorite cheese (until pizza-mozzarella surpassed it!).  The fourteen chapters cover the methodologies for producing this cheese, the enterprising individuals (in the case of NY, a married couple) who figured out how to mechanize what had originally been a “farmhouse” process, and the localities that hosted increasing numbers of cheese factories.  It also traces the adulterations (skimmed milk cheese or vegetable-oil filled cheese) that ruined the U.S. superior quality cheddar export industry, which had previously dominated the original U.K. cheddar market, earlier undermined by the same problems. The book celebrates the recent resurgence of smaller-scale, exquisite American cheddars and industrialized aged cheddars expanding a quality niche in-between the artisanal and processed American cheese.  Throughout, there is also attention to labor, gendered social organization of production, economics, and political–especially policy—issues.     All are part of the story that makes cheddar “America’s most iconic cheese” and for delectable reading and eating-guidance for patriotic celebrations.

What distinguishes cheddar from other cheeses are the multiple milk-processing steps, which include, after “ripening the milk,” scalding, salting, milling, “cheddaring,” and finally aging.  This labor-intensive farmhouse-cheese manufacturing process traditionally occupied the time and energy of housewives until ca. 1850, when Rome, NY household producers constructed the first cheese factory, based on observations of best practices across farmsteads.  Because of the intensive labor, women especially welcomed the freedom to ship their milk to central creameries, where dairy cooperatives bulked and transformed milk into cheese.  Significantly, in well-known large-scale, branded cheddars—including  Cabot (in Vermont) and Hilmar (in California)—all  production, processing, and marketing operations are still organized as non-profits or cooperatives, although some of these enterprises have become subsidiaries of large corporations, such as Dean Foods, as a result of mergers, acquisitions, and sales.

These economic histories of particular brands are chronicled alongside what can best be described as an autobiographical cheese memoir about tasting cheddars.  Central chapters feature the state cheddar histories of Wisconsin, where cheese is a central theme of popular discussion and pride; New York, which boasts the origins of industrialized production, and which will engage readers interested in economic history of food and agriculture; and Vermont, where the author indulges in the lushest sensory descriptions of cheddars, although he was baffled by the rudeness and lack of cheese commitment of ordinary Vermonters, as contrasted with Wisconsin, where everyone he encountered loved to talk about cheese.  He is careful to make his terminologies accessible, while not excluding technical terms for those interested in learning more about the cheese science and engineering.  Happily, his findings regarding the expanding production and marketing of high-quality artisan cheddars hint at some contradictions in conventional understandings; for instance, that superb cheese ordinarily produced by more labor intensive methods can be scaled up, even though the blending of milks from multiple farms means that the end product loses the sense and sensibility of terroir (connection to particular grazing places).

For readers interested in sensory terminologies, each chapter also contains tastings, with descriptive vocabulary by an author who managed to combine the passions of his “day job” buying and selling cheese with his avocation, which is food writing.  This writing is uneven, sometimes lyrical and sometimes technical, which goes with the territory. This includes detailed descriptions of the processing along with personal experiences of savoring the end products.  For example, in his introduction to chapter 4, “What is Cheddar, anyway?” he writes, simply: “All cheese … is an attempt to intervene in the natural spoilage of milk” and “The rest of cheddar-making is also dedicated to this goal of creating an age able cheese without rotting.” He continues, informing, that cheddaring (named for the English town of Cheddar first noted for this type, in the 13th century) is the step that distinguishes cheddars from other categories. It separates curds from whey by piling up curds in slabs, which puts additional pressure on them to release the liquid whey, and also stretches the fat and protein chains. The reduced slabs are then milled and salted, which stops the fermentation process, and adds flavor and texture; and the resulting solids are packed into forms for ripening. In describing this technology, he intentionally “dumbs down” the language so that non-scientists (like himself) can understand it.

The language describing the resulting cheeses, by contrast, is full blown.  The Queen of Quality cheddar made from Vermont Jersey cows, as a case in point, uses a full palate of technical sensory terms to represent the “deep” but “accessible” sensory experience of savoring this material, which was “dark yellow from the beta-carotene in the grasses and the Jersey milk” and delivered notes of “buttery, salty, grassy, mushroomy, dank, and celery.” A separate chapter dedicated to tasting curds contains evocative language about sensory impressions and labels.  It also offers guidance for understanding why American cheddars seem to be sweeter than earlier or contemporary European cheddars: cheese makers, appealing to what they perceive to be American preferences, deliver a cocktail of microbes that ferment the cheese more quickly and produce more sweet notes.  The reader also learns that, with the exception of Cabot cheddars, the label “sharp” has no standardized flavor meaning; it is unregulated, not based on taste-testing of cheese-blocks, and used expressly as a marketing term.

The author’s historical account extends also to public health and regulations.  In the late 19th century, and then again in the late 20th century, cheese made from milk from cows fed brewers’ or distillers’ grains tasted “yeasty, bitey, and boozy.”  These flavor notes were considered a defect or virtue depending on tasteful marketing for artisan cheese.  During the period around World War I public-health concerns about milk as a carrier of tuberculosis and other infections caused a revolution in the dairy industry. Pressure mounted for mandatory pasteurization, which could eliminate these disease threats.  The resulting industry concentration, to accommodate the new science and technology, sparked the evolution of big brands like Borden and Kraft, and also encouraged the market for processed cheese. Kraft Velveeta, as a case in point, met industry desires for efficiency, yield, and flavor standardization as well as food safety, and technological aim for a product “that would last longer without spoilage, would be healthy (even if vitamins would start to be added as nutrition was lost in the process), and would feed people more cheaply.”  American know-how and efficiency was captured in its iconic naming—American cheese: “Factory food—safe and designed with nutrition in mind—was America’s contribution to the world.”  The author notes that from the consumer’s perspective, Velveeta, the heavily advertised scientific and technological wonder food, was comfortably satisfying, nutritionally balanced, and would not rot!  It also melted and blended well with other flavors and ingredients—hence its preferred role in mac-and-cheese or Mexican Nacho dips.

All this combined food-safety, economic rationale, and industry concentration had come at the expense of much smaller-scale production, which valued flavor and not standardization.  Ultimately, ca. 1990, American cheese makers and tastes began to return to appreciation of flavor and “place” as values.  Such turns were partly nostalgia, but also show entrepreneurial spirit, and Americans’ newfound desire to connect to the land and support small farmers. This history once again favored women, who had originally been in charge of household production; then displaced by males who took charge of factories; but who achieved renewed prominence in emergent artisan cheese businesses.

As a coop devotee and employee, the author also marvels at the community spirit that he encounters even in large dairy coops, like California’s Tillamook, whose cheddar and labor relations he finds—or defines— as iconic American.  Importantly, while recounting continual changes in food safety and technologies, he firmly rails against food-safety regulations developed to protect consumers and workers from the ills of large industrialized operations, without thought for careful, smaller operators, with their more limited capacities to comply, or the flavors they value.

The takeaway: like the American people, cheddar is one and many, an ever changing range of types that respond to new science, technology, economics, and marketing opportunities and demands.  Like Jasper Hill’s Independence Day banner, “Freedom, Unity, and Cheese” it exemplifies all-American values.  If you’re curious like me, visit your favorite supermarket and buy a half dozen cheddars, invite over some friends, and sample them with reference to his tasting terms, as you try to communicate which and why you prefer one over another.

 

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Eating in the Side Room: Food, Archaeology, and African American Identity

Eating in the Side Room Cover

Review of: Warner, Mark S. 2015. Eating in the Side Room: Food, Archaeology, and African American Identity. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.

Ashanté Reese
Spelman College

Mark S. Warner’s Eating in the Side Room reconstructs the foodways of two African-American families—the Maynards and Burgesses—who occupied the same house in Annapolis, Maryland from the 1850s until 1990.  Using archaeological data, archival research, and previously conducted oral history interviews, Warner crafts a narrative of food as a central site of resistance for African Americans. He illustrates this within several contexts: shifts in consumer culture, anti-black sentiments in the Chesapeake region and broader United States, the politics of freedom for African Americans (particularly those who were free during the early nineteenth century), and the racialization of food consumption.

The book is organized into eight chapters. Chapter one briefly lays out the central focus of the book, which is to: “explore how these families’ daily food choices within a newly emergent mass consumer society served as a relatively safe way to express a unique outlook and history, as well as offer a subtle, yet persistent, commentary of the racist stereotypes and violence that surrounded them (2015:2). Warner centers African American agency as salient to understanding communal and individual identities. Chapter two contextualizes the Maynard and Burgess families, detailing their economic lives within the context of Maryland’s growing and diverse African-American community. Chapter three explains the methods used to excavate the Maynard-Burgess house, detailing some of the politics of excavations in Annapolis, a city with a strong investment in colonial history. Chapter four presents the food assemblages discovered and offers analysis on how the Maynard and Burgess families acquired the pork, fowl, and fish that comprised the majority of the assemblages. Chapters five and six zoom out to contextualize the food choices made by the Maynards and Burgesses, demonstrating how their choices connected to broader trends in African-American consumerism and how they were contrary to choices made by whites. The final two chapters return to the Maynards and Burgesses, examining the legacies of food consumption and what those legacies reveal about sociocultural dynamics.

Warner argues that the Maynard and Burgess’ (and other African Americans’) consumption of pork was not due to economic constraints but was instead a form of resistance to shifts in mass consumer culture in which beef was becoming the meat of choice for whites: “while some might argue that a preference for pork is attributable to economic factors, a detailed examination of the archaeological, oral, and documentary record indicates that this was patently not the case. African American’s consumption of pork within this region was a profound expression of an identity as separate from white society. One need only survey forms of African American self-expression as distinct as quilts, blues lyrics, orally transmitted recipes, and folk poems to see the prominence of pork in the collective black consciousness” (2015:3).

This argument, a critical one, is one of the most ambitious and fascinating arguments made in the book. The archaeological and consumer data support the claim that African Americans consumed pork in greater quantities than beef and in greater quantities compared to whites.  Warner also presents an array of examples ranging from quilts to music lyrics to illustrate pork’s central role in African-American expressions. However, I was left wondering if, in fact, the resistance to beef could have been multifaceted? As he carefully shows in Chapter two, the Maynard and Burgess families were not wealthy, but they were economically stable (2015:7). While their reasons for eating pork may not have been economic, is it possible that—given the diversity in economic means among African Americans—it could have been an economic choice for others? This illustrates one of the challenges of writing about African-American foodways and one of the reasons why this book is timely and important. African-American foodways are woefully understudied and are often uncritically examined. In that way, Warner challenges the essentialization of African-American foodways by providing an alternative view of how and why pork was important in African-American foodways. At the same time, the argument rests on a binary: important because of economic constraints or not. Because no assemblages as detailed as that from the Maynard-Burgess house existed, Warner notes it was difficult to compare his findings with other sites (2015:74).  Even with the compelling evidence Warner presents—both archaeological and otherwise—I wonder about the economics of pork consumption for those who were not as economically stable as the Maynards and Burgesses. Is there room for multifaceted forms and interpretations of resistance?

Eating in the Side Room raises critical, important questions concerning African-American food consumption.  The writing style, range of data, and carefully crafted narratives that contextualize the Maynard and Burgess families make it suitable for a variety of courses on food and culture, African American histories and daily life, or courses that focus on the Chesapeake region or the south more broadly. For courses on African-American foodways in particular, an instructor should consider pairing Eating in the Side Room with the newly released Dethroning the Deceitful Pork Chop: Rethinking African American Foodways from Slavery to Obama (2015, University of Arkansas Press), which is a collection of fifteen essays that examine forms of resistance in African-American foodways.

It also has contemporary relevance. As food studies scholars and practitioners continue to grapple with how food consumption reflects economic, social, and health disparities between African Americans and whites, Eating in the Side Room asks readers to step back to think about the roots of such inequalities and consider the ways African-American families have exhibited agency even when alleviation of inequalities seemed nearly impossible. More than just an examination of food remains, Eating in the Side Room places the Maynard and Burgesses’s food consumption in ideological, historical, and contemporary perspective to illuminate power dynamics and resistance.

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Robert M. Netting Best Student Paper Prize

The Culture and Agriculture section of the American Anthropological Association invites anthropology graduate and undergraduate students to submit papers for the 2015 Robert M. Netting Award. The graduate and undergraduate winners will receive cash awards of $750 and $250, respectively, and have the opportunity for a direct consultation with the editors of our section’s journal, CAFÉ (Culture, Agriculture, Food and Environment), toward the goal of revising the paper for publication. Submissions should draw on relevant literature from any subfield of Anthropology, and present data from original research related to livelihoods based on crop, livestock, or fishery production and forestry and/or management of agricultural and environmental resources. Papers should be single-authored, limited to a maximum of 7,000 words, including endnotes, appendices, and references, and should follow American Anthropologist format style.

Papers already published or accepted for publication are not eligible. Only one submission per student is allowed. Submitters need not be members of the American Anthropological Association but they must be enrolled students. Students graduating in the Spring of 2015 are eligible. The submission deadline is August 31st, 2015. Submissions should be sent to Nicholas C. Kawa (Ball State), nckawa@gmail.com.

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