Tag Archives: Anthropology of Food

Eric Holt-Giménez at AAA 2019!

Alert readers of this blog may already know that Eric Holt-Giménez, executive director of Food First, will provide the distinguished lecture at the joint SAFN and C&A event at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association later this week.

The title of Holt-Giménez’ talk is “Food, Capitalism, and Social Movements: Recipe for Transformation?” which is likely to be both timely and provocative. Holt-Giménez has an impressive record as an activist, writer, and scholar. You can read a brief bio here. You may also want to read about Food First, which is an impressive organization with a deep commitment to and long track record in building an effective food movement.

You may also know that SAFN and C&A are holding what promises to be a fabulous reception after the distinguished lecture event.

What you may not know, however, is that the AAA schedule (as of this writing) may be a bit confusing concerning which of these events is which. So, officially, here is what you need to know and where you will want to be on Friday, 11/16.

7:45-9:15 PM. Joint Distinguished Speaker and Awards Event, SAFN and C&A, San Jose Convention Center, MR 212 C (This is the event where Eric Holt-Giménez will speak. We will also announce and hand out awards for some amazing work at this event, so come see what people have been up to.)

9:15-11 PM. SAFN and C&A Joint Reception, Loft Bar and Bistro (Off site, but not far…This is where we eat, drink, and have intense discussions about the lecture.)

These are both going to be great events. Hope to see you there!

 

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Eric Holt-Gimenez & Other SAFN AAA Highlights

Amanda Green

The SAFN program committee (Amanda Green, Ryan Adams, Jennifer Jo Thompson) are excited to announce SAFN events for the 2018 AAA meeting in San Jose, California.

First, with Culture & Agriculture, we will be hosting renowned scholar and activist Eric Holt-Giménez as our Distinguished Speaker. Holt-Giménez will speak on “Food,

Eric_Seattle_2013

Eric Holt-Giménez

Capitalism, and Social Movements: recipe for transformation?” The event will be followed by a Joint Reception at Loft Bar and Bistro. It is walking/short taxi distance from the Convention Center. We have worked closely with C&A to select and plan this year’s Distinguished Speaker and Reception. We hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity to network and spend some time with our excellent C&A colleagues. The events begin on Friday (11/16) at the Convention Center Room MR 212 C at 7:45 pm. The reception begins at 9:15 pm and includes food and drinks.

Our Business Meeting will take place on Saturday at 12 pm at the Hilton in the Winchester Room. Come hear what SAFN has accomplished in the past year, and learn how you can contribute to and become engaged in our activities. Non-members are welcome!

We have several co-sponsored panels we want to draw your attention to. With C&A, we have co-sponsored “Anthropological Contributions to Theories of Food Systems Change I: Eating Away at Food Systems Problems.” The panel is Wednesday at 2:15-4:00 pm in Convention Center LL 20 C.

With the Society for Medical Anthropology (SMA), we have co-sponsored “Bodies and their Materials: Creating and critiquing “good” care.” It takes place Saturday at 2:00 pm, currently in the Marriot San Jose Ballroom 4 though continue to pay attention to changes in Marriot schedules.

With the Society for Linguistic Anthropology (SLA), we have co-sponsored “Food, Money, and Morals: Semiotic Reconfigurations of Value.” It takes place Saturday at 2:00-3:45 pm in the Hilton Winchester.

Finally, with C&A we have co-sponsored a second session “Fixing territory: place-based products out of place (part 2).” The panel is Sunday, 10:15 am – 12:00 pm in the Convention Center Ballroom 210C.

We have several additional panels that feature excellent scholarship on food and nutrition. On Wednesday, find “Cuisine and Constructions of Boundaries and Belonging” in Hilton San Carlos 1 from 4:30-6:30 pm. On Friday, find exciting discussion of #Metoo in the restaurant industry with SAFN president David Beriss in the session “Minimum wage, Migration, #Metoo, and Media: Restaurants at the Center of Social Change” in Hilton San Carlos 1 at 2:00-3:45 pm. On Saturday at 10:15 am, “Food and the Mediation of Health” begins in Hilton Almaden Ballroom I. At the same time in Convention Center Executive Ballroom 210G, you can find “Rural to Urban Agricultural Transformations for Households and Communities: Resistance, Resilience, and Adaptation of Local Food Systems.”

We want extend our gratitude to Culture & Agriculture for collaborating with us on this year’s meeting. Special recognition to C&A’s Caela O’Connell for her work, and special thanks as well to our SAFN program committee members: Ryan Adams, Amanda Green and Jennifer Thompson. If you’d like to be involved with next year’s planning, please come speak with us at our Business Meeting.

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Review: Making Milk

Making milk cover

Cohen, Mathilde, and Yoriko Otomo. Making Milk: The Past, Present, and Future of Our Primary Food. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. ISBN: 9781350029965

Kerri Lesh
Center for Basque Studies
University of Nevada, Reno

This interdisciplinary book offers a unique view on the scholarship of milk, which is enhanced by the diverse academic backgrounds from which the authors come. By loosely combining each author’s expertise, to include juridical, political, social, economic, artistic, historical, biological, and environmental perspectives, Making Milk examines ways in which milk embodies meaning, from production to consumption, through the lens of various intersectionalities. It provides food for critical thought by emphasizing the influential role that humans play in supporting or deconstructing the current systems in which milk exists.

The book is organized into four parts and starts by including a historical, theological, and political look at milk, continuing into the technological and natural means of milk production, all while cross-referencing and comparing milk within the dynamics of gender, race, class, and species. The book concludes in the last and fourth part by discussing plant milk, which in the final chapter emphasizes the influential role that humans play within the production and consumption of milk, offering a “DIY plant milk” recipe for those who might wish to more carefully ponder the relations they engage and resist in through milk.

New interpretations and ideas about milk are revealed throughout the book that make the reader reflect on our current, narrow interpretations of its importance, where it comes from, and how we formed a taste for it. For example, in Chapter 11, Gaard shares the passage from the Hebrew Bible in which the Promised Land is referred to as a “land flowing of milk and honey,” for humans that were the “chosen people for an exploitable land.” She explains that, according to the Talmud, the “honey” mentioned was actually plant honey, citing that the milk was derived from goats (not cows), and is interpreted by some as not being milk at all, but white wine. This passage forces the reader to acknowledge various interpretations of what milk is, in turn, questioning its modern standardized forms. Historical (mis)interpretations such as this, along with other accounts, demonstrate the ever-changing views on what milk has been, does, and should be.

In chapter one, Maillet notes that the Medieval medical interpretation of milk was considered to be “blood whitened in utero through the process of dealbation” transmitting characteristics of resemblance from a mother to the fetus, as “Milk is blood cooked in the uterus.” During and shortly after the Medieval period, the spiritualization of milk and its ability to take the place of blood was of great importance. Religious images of the lactating Virgin Mary can be seen on almost every wall of late Medieval churches, while stories of martyrdom liken the “realm of heaven” to having received mother’s milk.

Yet, in chapter four, the book juxtaposes such positive notions of receiving a mother’s milk to the inappropriateness of such practices in eighteenth-century Europe. There, Jackson and Leslie describe how breastfeeding practices were largely determined by race and social class. They explain that “Wet nursing was considered an acceptable occupation of working-class and non-white women—whose bodies were deemed closer to those of animals,” and that aristocratic women believed that breastfeeding would ruin their figures and interrupt social activities.

Modern day discussions surrounding the idea of breastfeeding include the concept of male lactation. In chapter eight, titled “The Lactating Man,” various ways in which males can participate in breastfeeding are detailed. The chapter discusses socio-cultural assumptions as to the gender of breastfeeding, explaining that fathers can breastfeed through a supplemental nursing system (SNS). The authors also explore the idea that males can participate in the breastfeeding act by taking part in other behaviors, such as supporting the breastfeeders to ensure their comfort and health, or by doing more childcare and housework to compensate for the time breastfeeders spend nursing.

This book encompassed a wide range of ideas surrounding the making of milk, supporting modern day ideas of milk-making through historical documentation. My own dissertation chapter, titled “Milk,” will benefit from this book by using a comparative analysis to understand its importance among different cultures and across time. In the book and in my own work, milk producers struggle to find balance between profit, authenticity, and safety as they consider these elements through processes such as industrialization, marketing, and pasteurization. Such issues demonstrate how milk can be used as a lens to highlight a culture’s political, social, economic, and even linguistic values to create a meaningful product for consumption.

This book analyzes milk in a new way by incorporating multiple frameworks used for studying gender power relations, sex, ecofeminism, and “tranimalities.” These frameworks force us to consider a larger picture and address issues that include how we view relationships between humans and other mammals and plant species. Such discussions would be relevant in a wide range of disciplines including sociology, anthropology, food studies, environmental studies, and gender studies, reading the book as a whole, or by using one or more sections for a more focused study. Making Milk proves through its carefully researched and detail-oriented descriptions to be a helpful resource to those wanting an understanding of what milk has been over time and place, for whom it is intended, the problematic issues behind how it functions symbolically in modern societies, and finally, suggestions on how to view milk going forward.

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Filed under anthropology, anthropology of food, book reviews

Perspectives On U.S. Food Policy: Farm Bill 2018

 

Ellen Messer

An essay inspired by Amy Goldstein’s JanesvilleAn American Story (2017, Simon and janesville-9781501102264_hrSchuster).  What this account of economic decline and increasing social polarization in a post-industrial American town reveals about the limitations of local household and community coping strategies and the failures of government safety nets.

Introduction

At the June, 2018 annual conference of the Association for Study of Food in Society (ASFS) and Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society (AFHVS) in Madison, Wisconsin, some number of us SAFN members participated in an open forum on the 2018 Farm Bill and also took the opportunity to learn more about the history of the food movement in Wisconsin.

When I proposed this session, I hoped to involve food and nutrition anthropologists and other professionals in run-up and follow-up conversations, sharing information about how these professionals participated in Farm Bill related research, education, and outreach, including advocacy activities.  The round-table session would focus attention on the hot-button issues in the Farm Bill 2018 news, which from January through June included cut-backs and structural changes to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), reductions in conservation agriculture and community-food security initiatives that threatened to derail promising programs in urban agriculture and grants to support new farmers and ranchers, discussions of crop insurance and who should be able to collect benefits payments (only actual farmers or also non-farming family members), and overall discussion of environmental protection agendas, including permissible pesticides, organic regulations, and payments to users to encourage conservation practices.  The goals of this open forum were practical as well as research and policy oriented: to learn what ag/food/nutritional professionals were doing (and observing) with regard to the Farm Bill, and to learn what information and outreach formats work best to engage populations of farmers and non-farmers, including students and university faculty and administrators, to influence politicians responsible for the final form of this multi-faceted, “omnibus” legislation.  Finally, a question that cross-cut this Farm Bill and other food-movement discussions, concerned what are the most promising platforms for sharing information and perspectives, to generate ongoing exchanges of information.

At present (mid-July 2018), the final form of the 2018 Farm Bill awaits reconciliation of House and Senate versions that have now passed their respective chambers.  A key sticking point are major eligibility and funding-level changes to SNAP, the most important US government program protecting people from hunger.  At our Open Forum, colleagues shared various and sometimes contentious points of view they had witnessed among particular rural and urban populations regarding such government food programs.  Particularly in the midwest heartland, some of these professionals found considerable push-back against government income transfers targeted for food. Some of these hardworking folks (the particular example involved farmers) indicated they expected everyone to work harder and not have to rely on government-sponsored food entitlements at taxpayer expense.  For strong supporters of SNAP food-security benefits, including myself, these ethnographic observations were troubling, and revealed how much we who champion SNAP don’t know about the thinking or situations of opponents.  We read the household-level economic and nutritional studies and are confident that significant benefits are present and assume such results, in some sense, speak for themselves.  This situation, combined with a growing awareness of Wisconsin’s recent history, which showed Wisconsin state government and national electoral politics had shifted from “blue” to “red” raised the question: why do people vote against their own interests, and the well-being and future of their state, by reducing public spending for basic quality education and health care, which inevitably disadvantages everyone who has much to lose from an undereducated, underemployed work force that is also likely to be more sickly and threaten the public health of everyone?

As I pondered these questions, I looked for recent books and found two very recent publications on Wisconsin society and politics.  One was Amy Goldstein’s Janesville. An American Story (Simon & Schuster, 2018)Sometimes a book outside food and nutritional anthropology’s immediate, specialized area of interest provides important insights into science and policy issues that may be missing in studies that ostensibly more directly engage our targeted professional interests.  Janesville proved to be a case in point.  Although its evidence extended only through 2016, it offered a context to discuss proposed changes to USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as “food stamps”), in the 2018 Farm Bill, which US legislators still hope to finalize by 30 September 2018 when the 2014 Farm Bill expires.

As we found out from participants in our Open Forum, most Americans don’t follow the specifics of this enormous (“omnibus”) piece of agriculture, food, and nutrition legislation. Nor do they realize that close to 80 percent of the Farm Bill’s roughly $800 billion expenditures go to food and nutrition programs, the largest of which is SNAP.

SNAP, as we food professionals know, is the most important US food-security program, an income transfer program targeted toward improving low income household access to food, which expands and contracts according to expansion and contraction of employment and incomes.  The most recent SNAP participation figures, which the government tracks monthly, yearly, and state by state, indicate an estimated 41,240,974 Americans, living in 20,467,521 households, relied in part on SNAP benefits to put food on their tables because their existing income did not suffice. Average benefits per person were $126.76 per month or $255.41 per household.  That said, numbers of participants have steadily declined year by year since 2015, when more then 45 million Americans accessed SNAP in what was then a lower-employment and lower-wage environment, although average monthly benefits remained relatively unchanged.

Key proposed changes in the House Farm bill, which passed in late June, are reductions in overall eligibility and benefits, additional bureaucratic burdens of monthly recertifications, and mandatory work requirements for all able-bodied adults.  These specifics, including financial and social welfare analyses that demonstrate these changes will increase food-insecurity among those eligible and newly ineligible, can be found on the updated Center for Budget and Policy Priorities website.  Instead, consistent with David Himmelgreen’s well-reasoned “In Focus” essay on hunger, which used anthropology to put a human face on hunger numbers, I use Amy Goldstein’s Janesville interviews, which tracked individual and family histories from the great recession of 2008 for five years through 2013 (with brief “epilogue” updates through 2016), as a kind of ethnography, to examine the implications of changing US Food Policy.

The Findings

This book tells a distressing story, a case study showing how post-industrial American cities have fared in situations where their well-paying manufacturing jobs have disappeared.  Janesville, Wisconsin was a General Motors town.  Most of the residents, male and female, worked for the automotive company directly, in their assembly lines, or indirectly, producing parts (e.g., Lear engines), accessories, or services that went into the finished vehicles or provisioned laborers and their families.  Some worked, alternatively, at the other signature employer, Parker Pen, which also ceased operations during the period of study (2008-2013).

The chapters, arranged by years, tell the story of the town institutions, politics, and people forced to adapt to these deteriorating economic times. Each year’s framings also include political anecdotes showcasing the most characteristic stances of leading politicians. These politicians included Barack Obama, who was elected twice over this period, and attracted heartfelt support in this largely Democratic, union (UAW) town.  His stirring promises and commitment to the American automobile industry as an icon of American culture and economy, proved to be largely empty, despite costly federal government bail-outs, which seem to have fattened management and investors, not the workers, who were out of jobs.

The other major political figure was Paul Ryan, descendant of a wealthy Irish “mafia” (a local term taken directly from interviews in the book), who represented the upper class in this increasingly polarized community.  Ascending to Republican leadership positions in Washington, Ryan voted to cut budgets and benefits alongside his fellow Republicans, including Governor Scott Walker, who somehow managed to get elected multiple times and defeat a grassroots effort to impeach (recall) him. Why? The reader never quite learns the answer to this conundrum, which saw the state of Wisconsin withdraw healing or life-sustaining health and education funds at exactly the point where they were most needed.

The book begins with some background on Janesville, which had a long and illustrious history of hard working, civic minded people, who took care of their own, and avoided the violence that sometimes erupted in other union towns fighting for labor rights against management.  The general public and union at first assumed they would weather this shut-down as well, but as weeks and months became years of unemployment, the return of high paying jobs became increasingly unlikely, and people had to find other routes to livelihoods—or lose their houses (many were foreclosed), other major equipment (repossessed—although there was not much discussion of this), or move to where there might be better prospects (a handful of men commuted to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where they (nicknamed “gypsies”) worked at the GM plant from Monday morning until Friday evening, then drove back to spend weekends with their families in Janesville.

The narrative is constructed out of household and individual life histories, which detail the disruptions in the lives of four autoworkers’ families; two workers from other local industries (which also shut down), two local politicians (Paul Ryan and Tim Cullen, former and Future Democratic state senator, who tried to negotiate across the growing economic chasm).  There were also three educators, whose efforts to protect homeless students left behind by struggling families, a social studies teacher at the local high school, who created a Closet to provide emergency supplies for students lacking food and sundries for minimally decent and dignified lives because their households’ economies had collapsed.  Two business leaders, who don’t seem to have accomplished very much for the vast majority of those down on their luck, grew in privileged status—self-described “optimists” who distanced themselves from misfortune and unfortunates. Additionally, there were two community leaders who reported on economic situations and tried to bring attention to possible solutions.

Food and Nutrition Implications

For me, a food and nutrition anthropologist, the most evocative vignettes were the descriptions of multi-generational households struggling to put food on the table, once the major wage earners had lost their factory jobs. In these situations, all able-bodied adults and responsible teenagers who worked two or three jobs per person in order to maintain the human dignity and nutritional well-being of their households.  The workers included highly motivated high school kids, whose contributions to household budgets were significant enough to keep families from penury and more extreme food insecurity, but also prevented these households from qualifying for higher SNAP benefits and the college-bound kids themselves from needs-based scholarships.

Households without regular incomes cobbled together food provisions from minimal earnings, savings, and emergency sources, which included a high school emergency “closet,” established by concerned teachers, that contained essential food and sundries the kids otherwise lacked.  Over this period, various local charities, including food pantries and food banks, distributed what emergency food provisions they had and solicited more, but saw their financial resources cut back by what they interpreted to be mean spirited government, especially at the state level. These sections vividly testify to the limits of customary charitable networks, especially where most workers have lost primary sources of income that they have been unable to replace.  Traditionally generous local Christmas and other holiday food efforts continued but had to be scaled back. A community where large numbers were unemployed or had suffered big cuts to wages, saw increasing numbers of people with unmet needs in a context of decreasing contributions.

Social and Moral Dimensions

 The adults’ struggles to find jobs, provision their families, and put food on the table with dignity—as their roles changed from “givers” to “receivers” of charity are forcefully epitomized in these very human stories, short biographies of hard-working and loving families, coping with economic crisis and family disasters through no fault of their own.  For me, the most important findings came at the end of the narrative, which documented the growing bifurcation of what had been a resilient, middle class town, which over a very short time divided into a two class town that separated rich from poor, with the faltering lower class seeing no prospects for regaining their prior middle class life style and culture.

The other major insights were reported in two appendices.  The first, a 2013 survey of household economies in Rock County before and after the recession, showed deep cutbacks in quality of life alongside a reluctance to ask government for greater assistance. This may have been partly cultural but also suggests a deep distrust of government capacity to improve their situations.  Contrary to government officials, most thought the country was still in recession. Specifically, over one third of households had lost jobs, three quarters of the households had experienced a significant decrease in home values (a consequence of the separate but related mortgage and real estate crisis). For those who had found another job, more than half were earning less than before. Only 3-5% responded that they thought Janesville would recover to the financial and job security they had enjoyed prior to the crisis. At least half expressed difficulty at some point in paying for adequate food, and more than half had had to cut back on health care and other necessities.  Many acknowledged symptoms of anxiety and depression. But only about a third overall thought that government should be doing more to help people who were out of work (more out of work favored greater government assistance than those who had not lost jobs).

The second survey, which examined the impact of local community college job training programs, revealed that these job-training programs, which encouraged many workers to go back to school and retool for other jobs, did not put them at an advantage over those who did not access job training.   About 10 percent more of the re-employed workers had found employment without enrolling in community-college training. Those who had not gone back to school also appeared to have steadier work and to be earning more.  Local jobs that would have enabled the retrained group to put their new skills to work, at least in the immediate term, were not there.

Such findings bode ill for job training programs that are supposed to put SNAP or other beneficiaries of public food and nutrition programs to work, to earn living wages so they will not have to rely on government assistance. They also suggest an urgent task for everyone who cares about reductions in food insecurity.  It is time to go out to such heartlands, and listen to what people are thinking and doing, and find ways to emphasize the “jobs” connections to food programs, which otherwise will continue to founder through misunderstanding, resistance, and lack of support for entitlements.

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Filed under anthropology, Farm Bill, food policy, food stamps

Want Fame and Glory? Award Deadline Reminders!

SAFN has two glorious awards that are given annually to students engaged in various aspects of food and nutrition related research. The deadline for both is coming up quite soon: July 27, 2018.

Do not miss the opportunity to have your research recognized!

Here are some details, follow the links below for more information on how to apply.

Thomas Marchione Award

Eligibility: all MA, MS or PhD students.

For research exploring “the best and more sustainable approaches to fulfill the right to food” in the words of Dr. Thomas Marchione, whom we honor in presenting this award.

This annual award will be granted to a student whose work addresses food as a human right, including a focus on food justice, food security and access, food sovereignty and other areas where social justice and food intersect. Students should apply, even if they have not fully completed their research, because work-in-progress, and proposed work will also be considered. The winner will be awarded a cash prize ($750) and a one -year membership to the AAA and SAFN.

More information here.

Questions? Contact Dr. Ryan Adams (adamsr@lycoming.edu), Lycoming College

Christine Wilson Award(s)

Eligibility: Undergraduate or graduate students currently enrolled (or enrolled in the last academic year).

The Christine Wilson Awards are presented to outstanding undergraduate and graduate student research papers that examine topics within the perspectives in nutrition, food studies and anthropology.

Papers may report on research undertaken in whole or in part by the author. Co–authored work is acceptable, provided that submitting student is first author. Papers must have as their primary focus an anthropological approach to the study of food and/or nutrition and must present original, empirical research; literature reviews are not eligible. Papers that propose a new conceptual framework or outline novel research designs or methodological approaches are especially welcome. Winners will be recognized and presented with an award at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association and receive a year’s membership in SAFN.

More information here.

Questions? Contact Dr. Ryan Adams (adamsr@lycoming.edu), Lycoming College

 The deadline for these awards is July 27, 2018.

 

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Filed under anthropology, awards, Christine Wilson, Thomas Marchione

The Agroecological Prospect, Cheese Curds and Radishes

David Beriss

Last week I attended the joint annual meeting of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society and the Association for the Study of Food and Society. The conference was in Madison, Wisconsin and the AFHVS folks were in charge, which probably accounts for the very agriculturally-focused theme: “The Agroecological Prospect: The Politics of Integrating Values, Food, and Farming.” This is always a great conference, well worth attending. The University of Wisconsin campus is lovely and historic. We were there at the same time as a conference/reunion focusing on Madison in the 60s, which meant that there was a constant buzz of nostalgic discussions of radical politics and counter-cultural activities in the air.

This is a small conference. I think there were around 500 people participating this year. It is also very open to students. There are a lot of graduate students who present research and even some undergraduates, along with faculty, professional researchers, activists, people from government agencies, and nonprofits. People are generally quite approachable, and it is easy to meet scholars and make new connections. This is probably helped by the wonderful snacks provided between sessions (hey, it is a food conference), which in Madison included some very crunchy radishes.Radishes Madison Farmers Market

We had a nice contingent of SAFN members at the conference. SAFN sponsored several sessions (at least four, I think), including a session on food activism in higher education, another on restaurants and social movements, a roundtable discussion with representatives from funding organizations, and another on the relationship between food studies programs and local communities (many thanks to Amanda Green and the SAFN program committee for organizing all of this). There were many anthropologists on the program outside our sessions as well. Rachel Black and I organized a little gathering of SAFN members (I apologize for the confusion regarding the location), which included a little wine (as an aside, it is amusing to go shopping for wine with a wine scholar, especially in a store that markets primarily to college students) and nice conversation and ended in a beer and bratwurst establishment that featured mediocre brats, but also lovely little triangles of deep fried macaroni and cheese. Highbrow stuff, you betcha.

A lot of conferences have a sort of shadow conference happening on social media and the AFHVS/ASFS conference is especially intense in this regard. Emily Contois, of the University of Tulsa, led this effort and she has provided a sort of round up of the live tweeting from many sessions here. Even though I contribute to this in a modest way, I am still always surprised when people outside the conference (people in the world of food writing, for instance, who might have been mentioned in a presentation) see the tweets and respond in real time. This is both very cool and somewhat vertigo-inducing, as you realize that the conversations you are having are echoing around the planet in real time.

The conference also usually features a day of field trips to food and agriculture-related organizations prior to the beginning of the main conference. This year there were several, including a visit to the Organic and Sustainable Agriculture Collection at the Wisconsin Historical Society, a field trip to two social justice organizations that are linked to food and agriculture (the Badger Rock School and the Farley Center), a trip to Milwaukee to visit a variety of food-related activist organizations, a sustainable meal hackathon, and much more. I took a tour of the campus of Epic Systems, a company located outside of Madison that specializes in health-care software. The company’s campus is built with an eye toward sustainability, especially through the production of food for their employees. The site is indeed quite remarkable.

Rhubarb Madison Farmers MarketMadison is, by the way, a lovely city. If you happen to visit, be sure to stroll around the capital on a Saturday morning to see the Dane County Farmers Market and get some cheese curds (or actual cheese) or any of the great produce. Strawberries, rhubarb, and, of course, radishes were especially abundant while we were there. Such good radishes.

Next year’s conference will be in Anchorage, Alaska, June 26-29, 2019. Start making your plans now.

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Filed under AFHVS, anthropology, ASFS, Food Studies

What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, May 31, 2018

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.

It is summer, so we are going to begin with something light, at least in spirit, if not in substance. Boston Cream pie, it seems, is under attack. And it really isn’t pie anyhow. Alert SAFN member (and frequent FoodAnthropology contributor) Ellen Messer sent us this story of scandal, outrage, and culinary history, which is by Kara Baskin, writing in the Boston Globe.

On a related pie/cake note, you should read this wonderful piece from the Oxford American by SAFN’s very own student representative, Kelly Alexander. It is the story of half a cake, includes Rick Bragg and Pat Conroy, southern manners, and Jewish wit. And, Kelly, pick up the phone. We want to know.

We eat red beans here in New Orleans, as everyone knows, but sometimes we also eat white beans and black beans. There are a lot more beans out there, as this great article by Burkhard Bilger, writing for The New Yorker, indicates. The focus is on Rancho Gordo, a company that searches out and distributes a huge range of bean varieties, mostly from Mexico. Questions of cultural appropriation, fair trade, and even implications of anthropology are raised. Good read.

While the Rancho Gordo folks source beans from very specific places in Mexico, your local baker in the U.S. is unlikely to be able to source wheat from particular farms. The desire for locally-sourced grain hits something of a wall in the enormous sea of commodity wheat, as Amy Halloran explains in this article from The New Food Economy. This is a fascinating example of the economics of mass grain production versus the growing desire for local products.

In contrast to the problems faced by bakers who want local wheat, public school systems have not been especially picky about where they source their ingredients for school lunches. In this article, from The Nation, Anna Lappé and Jose Oliva argue that they should. They suggest that school lunch makers should attend to more than the bottom line and should make an effort to source ingredients in ways that “promotes public health, community well-being, animal welfare, social justice, and environmental protection.” Citing the example of the Good Food Purchasing Program, developed in Los Angeles, but now used in other cities as well, they show how this approach can achieve their goals. Curiously, and in contrast to the piece above about commodity wheat, they cite a claim that over 80% of the bread products used in LA schools now come from “California-grown, sustainably produced wheat.” Want to chase that number down? Visit this site.

Circling back to globalization, in this article from Civil Eats, Stephanie Strom writes about new processes for extending the life of foods that must be transported long distances. Beginning with cassava, which can be used to make gluten-free tortillas, she focuses on the development of “an all-natural, virtually invisible coating” from Apeel Sciences that can preserve produce. The idea is to help small farmers in a variety of countries get access to foreign markets.

The famous Balti cooking of Birmingham may be vanishing. The reasons range from generational shifts among the owners (the children of Pakistani immigrants do not necessarily want restaurant careers), to changing tastes among British diners, and more. Daniel Stephen Homer and Natalie Grover explore these issues in this article, from Atlas Obscura.

Everything that happens in society seems to happen in restaurants. This is especially true of the growing opioid addiction crisis. In this article from Nation’s Restaurant News, Gloria Dawson explores the ways restaurants are choosing to address the issue. Some have taken to keeping naloxone shots on hand for anyone who needs it. Others are training their staff to deal with overdoses and providing resources for those with addiction issues. The article points out that this is both a staff and customer issue.

Co-operative organization of workplaces has long been an alternative to the usual way businesses are owned and managed. Given all the social issues confronted by restaurants, could co-operative ownership and management help? In this article from Eater, Brenna Houck explores the question. There are several intriguing examples, including bakeries, coffeeshops, and breweries, and mention of useful organizations, like the Democracy at Work Institute.

Apparently everyone in America is on a special diet. Paleo, Keto, Whole 30, not all of which we have heard of here at FoodAnthropology. In this article from the Washington Post, Sophie Egan looks at why this is. Ironically, it seems that a lot of people are following fad diets because they believe that their bodies are unique. Also, people do not trust what they read in newspapers about nutrition, so they read articles about fad diets (in newspapers) and follow them. Yes, this is why we need social science.

We started this with something light and that is the way we will finish. In this lovely short piece by the New York Times’ Samin Nosrat, she describes leaving her mother’s Iranian cooking behind in order to learn all about Italian pasta, only to eventually cook her way back home by bringing the two culinary cultures together. You will enjoy reading this.

 

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