Tag Archives: agriculture

MOOC “Sustainable food systems: a Mediterranean perspective”

This is an announcement for a free, on-demand, on-line, course on sustainable food systems. It is an intriguing model for providing certain kinds of education about food (and other things, of course). SAFN readers may find it interesting to follow along. This could also provide a useful tool for student debates in classes you teach. Enroll in the course here.

Sustainable Food Systems: a Mediterranean Perspective

Course Description

The Mediterranean region is one of the most biodiverse in the world, home to a complex and intricate patchwork of cultures, climates, and cuisines. Food systems in the region — represented worldwide by the “Mediterranean diet” — are equally complex, demanding analysis across the political, social, cultural, economic and nutritional spectrums from landscape to table.

The ability of Mediterranean agriculture to sustain its peoples — and the planet — is now threatened by several issues:

  • Unsustainable agriculture production and limited agricultural diversification;
  • Overexploitation of natural resources, including loss of soil fertility and agricultural biodiversity;
  • Water scarcity and poor water management;
  • Limited agricultural diversification;
  • Increasingly poor nutritional value of food products and diets;
  • Food loss and waste; and
  • Decline in food culture and food sovereignty, highlighting the struggle between modernity and tradition.

This course discusses the challenges and opportunities of the agricultural sector in the Mediterranean basin. It summarizes global-to-local challenges related to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG); outlines the history and culture of agriculture and its main characteristics with a focus on the “Mediterranean diet”; explains agricultural data with a focus on rural development models and value creation; explores EU policy frameworks and international agreements related to food and agriculture in the Mediterranean; and highlights emerging opportunities linked to innovation and sustainability in the sector.

This course is for:

  • Students at the undergraduate or graduate level interested in the main challenges facing the Mediterranean region;
  • Current and future practitioners in the agriculture, food and beverage sectors who wish to gain useful insights about current and future trends and business opportunities; and
  • Policymakers and regional stakeholders who want to deepen their knowledge of agricultural policy, investment, and decisionmaking in the region and globally.

How do we produce more, better quality, and safer food while simultaneously achieving social and environmental goals? Join this course to find out.

Course Structure and Requirements

This course is offered on demand, which means that the content is available in its entirety with no closing date. Students may enroll at anytime, and may complete all content at any time suitable to their schedule. While on demand courses are not monitored by course staff or instructors, we encourage students to share their experiences, questions, and resources with one another using the discussion forum anyway.

Structure: Video lectures, readings, and quizzes

Estimated time commitment: 2 hours per module

Cost: Free

Requirements: An internet connection

Certificates: Students who successfully complete the course will receive a digital certificate of proficiency, signed by the course organizers. In order to successfully complete the course, students must score an average of 70% or higher on the quizzes, all of which are multiple choice. Students who score 85% or higher will receive certificates of proficiency with distinction. Certificates will be distributed within 2 weeks of completing the course.

Credits: While this course is not credit granting, we encourage students to work with their own institutions to explore the option of granting credit for online coursework.


Syllabus

Prologue: Prof. Jeffrey Sachs

Module 1. The Mediterranean challenges around food and agriculture
1.1 Introduction to this MOOC (Prof. Alessio Cavicchi)
1.2 Mediterranean challenges and innovation in food systems (Prof. Angelo Riccaboni)
1.3 Theoretical framework, objectives and course outline (Prof. Alessio Cavicchi)
1.4 Contextualizing the SDGs for the Mediterranean region: what do the SDGs mean for the countries of the Mediterranean? (Prof. Phoebe Koundouri)

Module 2. History of agri-culture in Mediterranean basin and Mediterranean Diet (Prof. Ayman Farid Abou-Hadid)
2.1 The origin of agriculture
2.2 Civilisations
2.3 Middles ages and early modern
2.4 Modern agriculture
2.5 Agriculture and habits of local communities: the origin of the “Mediterranean diet”

Module 3. Poverty alleviation, economic and social rural development 
3.1 Economics of food systems
3.2 Rural development
3.3 Markets and supply chains
3.4 International trade
3.5 Development enhancing investments
3.6 Food governance

Module 4: Fisheries and Aquaculture 
4.1 Our Ocean: A Finite Resource
4.2 Dance of the plankton
4.3 Marine Food Chains
4.4 Fisheries Economics and Management
4.5 Aquaculture and Mariculture
4.6 Sustainable Management of Fisheries
4.7 Summing it up

Module 5. How to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in the Mediterranean – The way forward 
I. Water resources and Fisheries Management (Prof. Maite Aldaya)
5.1 Challenges
5.2 Theoretical chapter
5.3 Successful case studies in Mediterranean

Module 6. How to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in the Mediterranean – The way forward
II. Sustainable farming systems under environmental and climatic constraints
6.1 Challenges (Prof. Riccardo Valentini)
6.1b Challenges at Mediterranean level
6.2 Theoretical chapter (Arbaoui Sarra)
6.3 Successful case studies in Mediterranean (Arbaoui Sarra)

Module 7. How to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in the Mediterranean – The way forward 
III. Food value chain for regional and local development
7.1 Challenges of the Mediterranean food value chains (Prof. Angelo Riccaboni)
7.2 Theoretical chapter (Prof. Stefano Pascucci)
7.3 Successful case studies in Mediterranean (Prof Stefano Pascucci)

Module 8. How to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in the Mediterranean – The way forward
IV. Reducing food waste and enhancing by-product innovations
8.1 Challenges (Prof Ali Abdelaziz)
8.2 Theoretical chapter (Prof Ali Abdelaziz)
8.3 Case studies in Egypt (Prof. Amr Helal)

Module 9. How to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in the Mediterranean –  The way forward 
V. Nutrition and Education
9.1 Challenges (prof. Gabriele Riccardi)
9.2 Theoretical chapter (prof. Gabriele Riccardi)
9.3 Successful Case studies in North Africa and Middle East (Prof. Reema Tayyem)

Module 10. New professional profiles in a Mediterranean context (Dr. Sonia Massari – Gustolab International Food Systems and Sustainability)
10.1 Professional needs to face sustainability issues
10.2 Youth & food: new entrepreneurs in the Med food systems
10.3 Professional profiles in the agrifood sector
10.4 Professional profiles in the “sustainable tourism” sector: food as destination branding driver
10.5 The role of Higher Education Institutions: international cooperation, exchange and mobility
10.6 A job for the future: the “innovation broker”

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Filed under anthropology, Food Studies

AAA CFP: Time and Power in Agrarian Environments

CFP: AAA 2018

American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, November 14-18, 2018

San Jose, California

Organizers:

Natalia Gutkowski (Harvard University) and Ashawari Chaudhuri (MIT)

Time and Power in Agrarian Environments

Time has emerged as a locus of critical theoretical inquiry in anthropology over the past three decades. Nancy Munn’s influential essay “The Cultural Anthropology of Time” published in 1992 not only circumscribed the production of time as opposed to time as an already established constant, but also opened the floodgates of thinking about time and temporality as seats of power. This panel explores the imbrications and juxtapositions of time in/with agrarian environments. While producing and managing agrarian environments have often been tied with control of spatial and human resources (land, water, labor), in the era of growing social-environmental precarity, agrarian environments are becoming a matter of temporal control as well.  Recent scholarship reflects on the time of uncertainty, anticipation and preparedness that are bound with agro-environmental politics and power in cases such as GMOs, climate modeling, time techniques in land grabs or the state of finitude of resources and species extinction. Horizons of future are, however, one way of formulating relations between time, agriculture, and the environment. Papers can be about the following: How time is read and told among communities of practice, tools of time-reckoning and what remains and what gets submerged in these tellings, seasonality and the constant techno-scientific attempt to push its limits, and rhythm of the market and the state in understanding the past and future of agriculture and environment.

Finally, the panel will explore the multiple uses of time as a technique of power and social control in agrarian environments. We ask, how can we better understand political processes and power relations in the agrarian environments when time is added to our analysis? How does it change a social dynamic when we understand the different temporal imaginaries that various actors hold? What, if anything, can be learned anew about agrarian environments through a focus on their temporalities? 

Please send abstracts (250 words max) to both Natalia Gutkowski (ngutkowski@fas.harvard.edu) and Ashawari Chaudhuri (ashawari@mit.edu) by the end of the day on Tuesday, April 3. Please include your name, affiliation, title of paper, and email.

We will notify authors by Sunday, April 8. Session participants must be registered AAA members and registered for the meeting by April 16.

Dr. Natalia Gutkowski, PhD | Environmental Anthropology

Academy scholar| Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies| Harvard University

ngutkowski@fas.harvard.edu

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Filed under AAA 2018 San Jose, agriculture, anthropology, CFP

A “Hoppy” Bubble? Linking Labor and Capital in Washington State’s Beer and Cannabis Industries

Blog Editor’s note: This is the second installment in FoodAnthropology’s series on Latinx foodways in North America. We welcome contributions from researchers in this area. More details about the series are here

Megan A. Carney
University of Arizona, School of Anthropology and Center for Regional Food Studies

Every fall in the Pacific Northwest, craft brewers and beer connoisseurs alike anxiously anticipate the availability of freshly harvested hops. Ranging from mid-August to mid-October, almost every brewer in the trade premieres a fresh hop beer. The widespread and increasing demand for freshly harvested hops turns the craft beer scene into some kind of frenzy: brewers buy as much as they can as soon as the hops are available and then proudly display their piling heaps of green and gold treasures – mounds of the fresh hop buds – with much fanfare to salivating beer aficionados. The hop bud enjoys much attention, even worship, during this time of year, its image projected onto all forms of marketing and advertising from bottle labels to bumper stickers and billboards.

Washington State’s Yakima Valley is one of the most productive hop-growing regions in the United States, accounting for more than 70 percent of total hop cultivation nationally. It is a $380 million industry that generates over 65 million pounds of popular hop varieties such as Centennial, Amarillo, and Cascade. While an agricultural tradition has thrived in the Yakima Valley for many generations, due in part to its proximity to the Columbia River and fertile soils, more growers have gradually begun cultivating hops. Hops production has been increasing since the turn of the nineteenth century with a particularly sharp increase in 2005.

The elevated status of hops, however, and its near fetishization among brewers and consumers tend to obscure the labor processes and larger shifts in agricultural land use that have enabled the increased availability of hops. Harvesting hops is a labor-intensive process despite certain advances in mechanizing hops production. Migrant workers, whose origins trace from Mexico and Central America predominantly, perform the bulk of this highly skilled labor. One brewery even recently released a beer to pay homage to this migrant workforce. Since hops harvesting is seasonal, these migrant workers often migrate to other regions of the United States in search of work in other seasonal industries. While migrant labor has historically sustained much of the agricultural production in the Yakima Valley, the increasing demand for highly-skilled migrant workers in hops cultivation and harvesting due to the industry’s rapid expansion is a more recent development.

Much remains unknown regarding the specific labor and living conditions of migrant workers employed in the hops industry. However, studies of migrant farmworkers in the Yakima Valley have found substandard living conditions, numerous occupational hazards, high rates of food insecurity, chronic health conditions, and inadequate or limited access to health care as characterizing the daily struggles of this population. My research aims to understand the lived experiences of these workers, specifically the daily and seasonal rhythms of their labor, living conditions, and broader effects for food insecurity and health. In addition, I seek to map the political-economic and institutional arrangements within which the lived experiences and life chances of workers in the hops industry and the “hop-crazed” brewers and consumers are connected.

The greater Seattle region has experienced rapid gentrification with unprecedented population growth during the past decade. Estimates are that the city grows by 1,000 new residents each week, many of them attracted to jobs with tech giants such as Amazon. These residents tend to be younger and wealthier as a whole, but with the city’s housing crisis, many are moving into what historically were more working-class neighborhoods. The shifting demographics of Seattle’s cityscape have been accompanied by the proliferation of microbreweries and recreational cannabis shops, the latter especially since Washington residents voted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana in 2012. Meanwhile, crises loom around illicit drug use – particularly of heroin and other opioids – and widespread homelessness, troubling local residents, public health workers, and policymakers about specific actions to take. The growing demand for artisanal brews and high-quality cannabis among the region’s younger and more affluent residents on the one hand, and the gradual dispossession of the poor and growing homeless population on the other, arguably represent two sides of the same coin.

Another dimension of this research is probing into questions regarding shifts in land use toward hop and cannabis cultivation and the broader political-economic, environmental, and human health consequences. Food system scholars and practitioners consistently highlight the implications of shifting land-use from staple or edible crops intended for human consumption toward crops that support biofuel production, animal feed, or more “luxury” and recreational commodities. Hops and cannabis of course, tend to fit within the last category, notwithstanding arguments for how both crops may support human health in reducing stress and anxiety, or offering pain relief. Yet these crops – especially cannabis – also represent “big business” in generating revenues much higher per acre of yield than say an acre planted in pears or potatoes. Indeed, a substantial portion of Washington State’s land surface area devoted to agricultural purposes is now being cultivated for certain mind-altering substances and libations (e.g., grapes, apples, cannabis, hops). How the broader consequences of such shifts in land use unfold along lines of citizenship, class, and race within the greater Seattle region, Washington state, the Pacific Northwest foodshed, and beyond remain to be adequately understood.

Megan A. Carney is Assistant Professor in the School of Anthropology and Director of the Center for Regional Food Studies at the University of Arizona.

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Filed under anthropology, anthropology of food, beer, Food Studies, Latinx Series, wine

What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, October 9, 2017

David Beriss

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.

In the United States, food activists love to point to the French and their carefully demarcated terroirs for wine, cheese, and other products as an example of how to manage the relationship between food and place. Behind this image of careful attention to land and culture there is often a rough and even violent political history. To get a taste of that, listen to this interview with historian Andrew Smith about his recent book “Terror and Terroir: The Winegrowers of the Languedoc and Modern France” (Manchester University Press, 2016) from the New Books Network. This interview is conducted by Roxanne Panchasi and is part of the New Books in French Studies series.

On the subject of food and terror, New Books in American Studies has an interview with Bryant Simon, author of  The Hamlet Fire: A Tragic Story of Cheap Food, Cheap Government, and Cheap Lives (The New Press, 2017). The immediate incident that is at the heart of this history is a fire in 1991 at a food factory in Hamlet, NC that resulted in the deaths of 25 people, but the broader framework is the combination of American tastes for cheap processed foods and the deregulated industry that produces them. Stephen Hausmann conducts the interview. There is also a New Books in Food series that is always looking for hosts, if you want to get on the ladder to podcast fame.

The popularity of those cheap processed food has been linked to the rise in obesity and other diet-related health issues in many countries. If you have read Frederick Errington, Tatsuro Fujikura, and Deborah Gewertz’s 2013 book “The Noodle Narratives: The Global Rise of an Industrial Food into the Twenty-First Century,” (University of California Press), then you are familiar with some of the ways those foods have become popular around the world. The New York Times Magazine published an excellent overview of this same process a few weeks ago, along with some rather stunning graphics. Share it with your students, start a great conversation.

In a related story, this piece from Bloomberg provides data on what Americans have been eating for the last few decades. When did we start eating more chicken than beef (sometime in the 90s)? What has happened to coffee consumption? Whatever happened to those California raisins? Americans are eating more mango, but fewer canned cherries. And we still love peanut butter. Enjoy the graphs too.

The survival of the American family farm is an ongoing struggle, as endless books and articles demonstrate. But the best of these also reflect on the broader historical and social context of that struggle. One of the more recent books in this genre is Ted Genoways’ book “This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm” (W.W. Norton, 2017). The book was the subject of a short piece on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, as well as an extended discussion on the NPR show On Point, both of which are worth listening too.

We have two strange and unexpected origin stories this week. First, the recent death of Hugh Hefner elicited a wide range of responses, which is not surprising, given his ambiguous legacy. However, one rather unexpected bit of history that popped up during all the discussions about Hefner’s history was his role in the start of Food and Wine Magazine. Food porn is not, it turns out, entirely metaphoric.

The Reuben Sandwich is a midwestern invention, at least according to this charming story from Elizabeth Weil, at Saveur. The story involves a conflict between Weil (whose grandfather seems to have invented the sandwich at a family-owned hotel in Omaha) and food historian Andrew Smith (not the same historian as the one above, by the way) that involved the New York Times. This also helps explain how a very un-kosher sandwich became an iconic Jewish deli food.

Is eating alone a bad thing? Some people think so, including writer Lloyd Alter, who begins his article with a citation from Baudrillard, “Sadder than the beggar is the man who eats alone in public.” Baudrillard meant this to be a critique of American society, but Alter takes it into the realm of actual physical health and links it to the aging population. There is probably an interesting theoretical point to be made related to French theory and American journalism, but meanwhile, it is an interesting read.

The debate around cultural appropriation may be a classic example of what the French mean by the phrase “dialogue de sourds” and we are happy to keep documenting it here. This piece, “Craving the Other: One Woman’s Beef With Cultural Appropriation and Cuisine,” from writer Soleil Ho, was originally published a few years ago and was recently republished in the 20th anniversary edition of Bitch Magazine. Has anything changed since it originally appeared?

Is the great American casual dining chain doomed? Applebee’s, Ruby Tuesday’s, Houston’s, TGI Friday’s, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Friendly’s, and more, restaurants known for walls full of strange junk, waiters wearing flair, and huge piles of mostly inoffensive food, may be facing a crisis. This series from Eater.com explores the situation, raising questions about the American palate, the American middle class, and the fate of suburbia.

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

CFP: Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics

We have received the following call for proposals from David Kaplan, which may be of interest to FoodAnthropology readers and researchers:

Call for proposals:  Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics, 2nd edition. Eds. Paul B. Thompson (Michigan State) and David M. Kaplan (University of North Texas)

We are accepting contributions on the ethical dimensions of food, agriculture, eating, and animals. Entries should be 2,000 words (min) to 4,000 words (max).  Deadline for proposals: September 1, 2017

Contact David M. Kaplan (University of North Texas), David.Kaplan@unt.edu to indicate your interest. Dr. Kaplan will send you the Table of Contents.  Please suggest a topic (and a title) that is not included in the list.

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Filed under agriculture, anthropology, ethics, Food Studies

What EM Is Reading and Watching

Another set of thought-provoking readings and recommendations from frequent FoodAnthropology contributor Ellen Messer. Note that while many of these are inspired by items from the Financial Times, Dr. Messer has found links to related stories from other sources. This is because access to the Financial Times is restricted for non-subscribers. If you do subscribe to the FT, you can probably find the original articles quite easily on their web site.

Ellen Messer
Tufts University

Weekly readings offer a few appetizers for reflection:

(1) the Swiss based global trading firm Glencore, which recently underwent reorganization because of its high debt obligations, seeks combination of its Glencore Agriculture unit with Bunge. It aims to break into the “big four” global agricultural trading firms (ADM, Bunge, Cargill, and Louis Dreyfus) at a time when agricultural margins are low because of booming harvests, and as farmers the world over seek leverage to sell directly to buyers, squeezing the big four on profitability. Glencore Ag, which has a major presence in wheat, seeks expansion in the US and South America in soybeans and other commodity crops in which Bunge enjoys comparative advantage. Glencore Ag has the money to do this because the company recently offered a 50% stake in its business that was purchased by two Canadian pension funds, who now, in addition to owning 50% of Glencore Ag also own 50% of its debt, so that the company has raised its potential profitability ratings. Bloomberg news weighs in here, with graphs showing the markets’ reaction.

(2) European and North African olive oil production is way down because of drought, and prices for extra virgin olive oil have risen in tandem. This article gives the official reductions in product for Italy, Greece, and Spain (which it says is the largest producer) but does not discuss whether California olive industry is offering more product in response. Nor does it suggest any further dilution in product, which culinary experts say is always a problem in commercial oils. The Olive Oil Times has a series of supporting articles here.

(3) Coca Cola is trying to raise the desirability of its brand by emphasizing its “inclusivity” —with reference to its historic claim that everyone, however defined by ethnicity or economic class—can afford to enjoy Coke (citing Andy Warhol’s iconic image and phrase) and its efforts to improve its nutritional profile. The company officially endorses the WHO guidance that added sugars should provide no more than 10 percent of total caloric energy intake. The company claims to be contributing to reductions in sugar intake by reformulations or smaller portion size, both of which potentially reduce added sugar intakes in its products. But the company also has to find new revenue streams to replace lost sales from coolers, which are losing sales especially in locations like shopping malls, which are experiencing lower foot traffic as more people shop on line. The official company statement on “inclusive” culture can be read here.

(4) And finally, not really a “food” story but a feel-good sheep textile story, which replaces “farm-to-table” with “sheep-to-shop” traceability and authenticity, as people can watch their clothing being created in iconic textile mills with high skilled artisan labor input that they are willing to pay for. The designer realized that low cost Chinese labor would always outcompete British firms, and came up with this new old idea to compete on quality and local employment. The name of the entrepreneur is James Eden; the town was once known as Cottonopolis. The FT article can be accessed here.

In other news:

US PBS (National Public Television) has some food shows that are worth viewing for their stunning visual presentations of food and food culture, story lines, and possible critique. “A Matter of Taste” “Food—Delicious Science” aired in mid-May 2017. The lessons in the chemistry of taste and food preservation feature British science filmmaker Michael Mosley and ethnobotanist James Wong. For starters, they showed that taste is organized into five flavors, which can be reduced to their purified chemical essences—sweet, bitter, salty, sour, umami. These findings were connected to particular foods, which showed how acidity (sour) can be measured (by pH) that turns out to be pretty constant across fruit categories (watermelon is the least acidic), even though one senses that fruits such as strawberries are more sweet than sour. The reason for this is that aromatics enter into perception of sweetness, but the chemistry of this trickery and its connection to complex flavors was not well communicated. The program would have been more insightful (and more fun!) had it featured U.S. taste psycho-physicist Linda Bartoshuk describing her own experimental findings, which show how volatiles (the aromatics) leverage sweet taste perceptions and complexity. (An engaging interview about her career can be accessed at here. But further surfing on the web reveals that BBC already did a Bartoshuk piece, so maybe what we see here is Mosley, a BBC showmaster, distancing himself from the competition (Veronique Greenwood) and Wong, an ethnobotanist, privileging plants over people (psychology).

The other featured foods included traditional Andean freeze-dried potatoes. This segment featured Wong (who spoke Spanish pretty well) visiting a highland Andean community, which grows many varieties of potatoes, and singles out an especially bitter variety for freeze drying into chunyo, a series of steps that take place at an even higher elevation. I did not think that the segment communicated the complexity of the process, which involves multiple days of washing, freezing, stamping out bitter alkaloids. They made the process look simple, and the taste of chunyo look delicious, which is a stretch. Another featured food was Iberian black pig. This segment showed plump pigs nosing out acorns as nourishment, which the narrator informed is what flavors the meat with its extremely delicious umami taste. Although butchering was the theme, the visuals showed limited blood and gore, as an extended family gathering around a festival table to share the annual pig-slaughter and processing ritual, which uses all parts of the animal in some culinary fashion. There were then multiple scenes of multiple people shaving off thin slices of exquisite ham, which they ecstatically sampled. The idea of traditional foods guided by flavor and artisan technologies informed both pig and potato segments; the filmmakers could have made more connections to tomato and strawberries, which are also preserved with value added through artisan technologies.

This is the second of three in their series, “Secrets of Food,” which aim to illuminate the biology, chemistry, and physics of the items people eat, although as reviewers emphasize, few Brits (or Americans) will have tasted many of the examples.

PBS also has new American Masters shows featuring lives of major chefs and cookbook writers, including Jacques Pepin, Julia Child, James Beard, and Alice Waters. So far, viewing them at night, they’ve put me to sleep, but that may be due more to the knock-out pollen load this spring in Boston and their relatively late viewing hours. For anyone teaching relevant course materials, they should provide opportunities to compare the relative advantages of visual media vs. text for communicating the food and restaurant history in the US. The Alice Waters story, “Delicious Revolution,” uses the metaphor of food politics and performance, which will provide a useful backdrop to my summer graduate seminar: “Local to Global Food Values: Policy, Practice, and Performance”.

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Filed under anthropology, anthropology of food, applied anthropology

What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, April 21, 2017

David Beriss

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.

As the Trump administration nears its 100 day mark, it is worth noting that the US Department of Agriculture, with over 100,000 employees spread out over 29 agencies, regulating parts of an industry that contributes around $992 billion to the U.S. economy, is still without a confirmed leader. Lack of leadership has not stopped the Trump administration from acting, however. For instance, a rule proposed under the Obama administration that would have protected the rights of farmers to sue corporations for whom they raise chickens and hogs has been suspended for six months—and possibly permanently—much to the dismay of some of those farmers. The unconfirmed nominee has had a hearing, with mixed reviews, as you can see here and here.

Also on agriculture, but on a more global scale, the Lancet has recently started an open access online publication, “The Lancet Planetary Health,” that will focus on “human health within the context of climate change, water scarcity, biodiversity, food and nutrition, sustainable fishing, agricultural productivity, environmental exposures to contaminents, waste management, air quality, or water and airbourne diseases.” The first issue is worth a look. It includes an editorial about the role of smallholder farms in the global food system and several related articles.

And while we are still thinking about agriculture, take a look at this article and short film about a form of urban agriculture that is rarely discussed. The focus here is on farmers in Guangzhou, China, who continue to farm even as their village has vanished around them, replaced by endless rows of skyscrapers. This process is an old one, but watching this raises a lot of questions about food, culture, and the future of our food supply.

There has been a lot written about American barbecue cultures and racism in recent years. This New Yorker article, by Lauren Collins, focuses on the particularly bitter history and present of Maurice’s Piggie Park, in South Carolina. Collins does a great job of unpacking the nuances of this particular story in a way that would make for a great discussion starter in a class on…food, racism, American society, or the country’s political present. Alas, this is an article about barbecue that may cause you to lose your appetite.

From the UK, we have this interesting observation about a new restaurant in Seattle that will feature foods from the American South…served with an “encyclopedia” that explains the cuisine. The idea is to combat racist perspectives associated with the cuisine.  Food that insists you think.

Everyone wants to know where their food comes from, but who looks at how it gets to you? This episode of the podcast Bite focuses on an interview with Alexis Madrigal, who has his own podcast series on the world of containers and shipping. In this instance, he discusses the place of small batch coffee in the world of enormous containerized shipping. The way this shapes the world of food is really so huge that it is hard to fully grasp. You should listen to this; it is where much of what you eat comes from. Also, the podcast starts with a brief segment on Indian cooks in America who are thrilled with their Instant Pot electric pressure cookers…which ought to be inspiring for anyone who has one.

Many people are distressed at the demise of Lucky Peach, which provided a place for all kinds of food writing that was hard to find elsewhere (at least in an accessible format). For an example of why, read this amusing (yet possibly serious) article on the most beautiful Taco Bell in the world. Also, if you draw, you could join the Taco Bell Drawing Club.

Why are so many people being asked to work for free? This has been a crisis in the arts for a while, of course. Internships, mostly unpaid, seem increasingly necessary for college students before they can hope to start developing careers. Unpaid labor is also an important part of the world of food, with cooking school graduates and other aspiring cooks often engaging in “stages” (one of the culinary world’s words for “internship”) in restaurants. How useful is this? How exploitative? Is it even really legal? Corey Mintz explores these questions by looking at the astonishing extent to which the world’s most elite restaurants actually depend on unpaid labor.

The hipster food world is in love with mobile food vendors, perhaps best represented by trendy food trucks. Along with trendy trucks, a lot of food vending happens in carts that sell nearly every imaginable food.  This very useful article by Tejal Rao illustrates a day in the life of a New York City food vendor. His food looks great, by the way, but it is the result of hard work and what look like terrible economics.

In the realm of obscure-but-fascinating items, historian Paul Freedman provides this brief overview of the history of food at private clubs. The article includes lists and photos of current specialties at a variety of clubs around the U.S. One might expect the food to be rarified and elegant, but the photo of macaroons with Halloween candy corn suggests otherwise.

Finally, the first round of the French presidential elections is this Sunday (4/23). The outcome is anything but certain and, depending on your politics, you may need a drink afterwards. A French friend recently sent a clip from the movie “Le Tatoué,” with Jean Gabin and Louis de Funès demonstrating how to eat and drink with gusto. Even without faith in French politics, this should inspire everyone to have at least some faith in French cuisine, no matter the outcome. Remember this advice: “Manger des tripes sans cidre, c’est aller à Dieppe sans voir la mer.” Enjoy.

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Filed under agriculture, anthropology, anthropology of food, film, Food Studies