Tag Archives: food studies

What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, June 17 Edition

We have a global and eclectic collection of readings for you this week, with a lot of hidden treasures among the links. See below. If you are inspired by food and nutrition related items you find, please send them to us at either dberiss@gmail.com or LaurenRMoore@uky.edu.

What is the market for religiously sanctioned foods? The French daily Le Monde reports on the growth of the halal meat market in that country. Anthropologist Florence Bergeaud-Blackler, author of a book on halal practices, notes that French companies started exporting halal meat to Muslim countries decades ago. Today halal meat may be a 5.5 billion Euro market, sold in both specialized butcher shops and big supermarket chains. The article is in French.

Historian and food activist Michael Twitty responds to queries about the intersection of sexuality, faith, race, and food activism in this blog article: “There is a dialogue in the world of food about homophobia in the industry kitchen and little whispers about queerness and food—but what happens when you sit at the crossroads of gayness, Blackness, and faith and do this sort of work?

A nice little video in which an organic seed rants in a foul mouthed way about big ag, chemicals, GMOs, and other aspects of our food system. Fun, with poop jokes.

From the website “The New Food Economy,” a series of articles devoted to considering the impact of Michael Pollan’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” ten years after it was first published. This includes a timeline of what they think of as milestones in “the new food economy,” commentary from luminaries from many corners of the food activist world, and more. Curiously U.S. centric – it would be interesting to see what something equivalent with a global viewpoint might look like. There are alternative views of the timeline proposed in the series, including this one from the Small Planet Institute and this one from Brad Wilson, farm activist and blogger at FamilyFarmJustice.

This two part series in Sapiens by Karen Coates starts with a food diary from her work with a bomb clearance team in Laos, a country with a stunning amount of unexploded ordinance left over from the U.S. war in that region. The food the team prepared and ate while working there reflects the problematic local food economy and ecology, related to the history of war, the global trade in endangered species, and poverty. Useful ethnography with potential to set off great classroom policy discussions.

The seafood industry raises additional global issues. In this article, the author examines the exploitation of workers in that industry in sites ranging from Southeast Asia to Louisiana. She also documents efforts to organize workers and police the conditions in which they work. Meanwhile, fishers in Louisiana struggle to make a living in a context in which they are challenged by the global trade in seafood, disaster, weak U.S. regulation of imported seafood, and other issues, as explored in this excellent article by Michael Stein.

The Southern Foodways Alliance podcast Gravy recounts the strange phenomenon of Jubilee, in Alabama’s Mobile Bay. Why do thousands of fish, shrimp, crabs, eels, and more suddenly fling themselves on the shore in the middle of the night? Strange and true stories from the Gulf Coast.

In this short (around 9 minutes) documentary, Sol Friedman interviews a very philosophical ninety-year-old Jewish woman whose faith has been shattered by Google, among other things and who, as a consequence, decides for the first time in her life to try bacon. But not before considerations of faith, reason, family history, and the potential for God’s wrath.

After you consider all this, you are probably getting anxious about publishing your own research. Emily Contois has just published a very helpful guide to food studies journals on her blog. Get those articles submitted!

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Filed under anthropology, anthropology of food

A Food Anthropologist at the John Dewey Kitchen Institute

Rachel Black
President, Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition
Connecticut College

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the John Dewey Kitchen Institute at the University of Vermont. The goal of this three-day workshop was to “emphasize experiential education, of course in teaching about food but also as an important pedagogical approach for teaching any subject.” As a long-time believer and practitioner of hands-on learning, I was eager to hone skills and think more about how to create opportunities for experiential learning in my anthropology of food classes.

Getting our senses warmed up straight away, we passed around, smelled and identified plates of herbs and spices. The instructors then asked the 12 participants to think of a life experience we could relate to a specific herb or spice. These flavorful narratives were a great way to get to know each other. At this point, we also began to discuss John Dewey’s philosophy of education, which would provide the underpinnings for our activities and reflections over the next few days. Instructors Lisa Heldke and Cynthia Belliveau gave the class a list of 12 Deweyan tenets. These ranged from “Education is experience” to “Enquiry is value-laden”. The tenets were an attempt to answer the questions: “What does it mean to learn, and how should that understanding inform our teaching and learning in the food studies classroom?” and “What is the world like, how does inquiry work, and how should these inform our teaching/learning?”


Using all our senses to think about lunch at the Dewey Kitchen Institute.

After a brief kitchen orientation, we engaged in our first hands-on activity–knife skills. We were instructed how to chop onions and carrots and then given knives, cutting boards and ingredients. What became quickly apparent was the amount of focus the activity took, whether you were a professional chef or someone who eats out for most meals. This is when I began to understand that the goal here was not learning to cook but rather cooking to learn. It was the reflection on the embodiment of skill and the presence of the mind in the body that resonated with me in this first lab. This activity was focused on the fifth tenet “play”: “Far from being trivial, play is “interested absorption in activity for the sake of activity itself.”

A diagram of mise en place.

A diagram of mise en place.

The next day we discussed the concept of mise en place and how this type of kitchen organization task might be used to get students to think about planning and organization in new ways. As we drew out our mise en place, I began to think about the spatial relationships between sensory experiences. That was a new dimension for me. I never really gave much thought to where I put my ingredients and why. After some reflection, we  began to prepare lunch. This was an activity that not only fed us but taught us to think about divisions of labor and timing in the kitchen. This activity could be seen as an exercise in “education as a practice of democracy”. Having to organize ourselves and work together put this tenet in to action. I began to think about all the applications for such skills beyond the kitchen.

We did a number of tastings in the course, from the herbs on the first day to local craft beers on the last day. We were not provided with tasting sheets but we did discuss the different ways in which we might structure tastings in order to achieve specific learning outcomes. Here we explored the tenet “theory is practice” and how “when theory and practice operate together effectively, learners act reflectively and inquiringly, with a sense of purpose and for the sake of learning.”

On the last day, we were given a market basket and asked to cook lunch in teams. We were told that our dish had to embody one of the Dewey tenets. This was a challenging culinary and organizational task. My partner and I focused on “chance and change.” Although we ultimately produced some tasty poached eggs on toast with a romesco sauce, we felt that the experience was mediated by this tenet: we did not know what we would get for ingredients, what would happen in the cooking process, and we felt the need to adapt to the unexpected.

As an anthropologist, I kept thinking about the ways I could introduce cultural diversity in to these exercises. While Dewey’s philosophy is second nature to most of us who do fieldwork, this workshop was an opportunity to bring the worlds of food studies and anthropology together. As I prepare my courses for the fall semester, I will be thinking of ways to bring experiential learning scenarios in to my anthropology of food courses.


Cooking to learn.


Filed under anthropology, anthropology of food, food education, Food Studies, teaching

Eating Insects Detroit

Gina Louise Hunter
Illinois State University

Eating Insects Detroit: Exploring the Culture of Insects as Food and Feed, held May 26-28 at Wayne State University brought together industry leaders, researchers, activists, and “ento-prenuers” of all stripes. While insect foods are relished by people throughout the world, most Europeans, Americans, and Canadians cannot stomach the thought of eating bugs. Yet, recent years have seen the introduction of a number of insect-based food products on the North American market, such as Chapul’s protein bars made with cricket “flour.” Getting consumers to overcome the yuck-factor was one theme at the conference. A free vendor exhibit allowed the 150 registered conference goers and over 70 members of the public to sample cricket and mealworm products (pasta, cookies, chips), an insect-based meat substitute, roasted insect snacks, and a variety of protein bars.  What does One Hop Kitchen’s Cricket Bolognese sauce taste like?  Bolognese sauce! Crickets, the so-called “gateway bug,” and mealworms are by far the most common insects raised for human-food due to long industry experience with these two as pet feed and perhaps because they are seen as easily integrated into the North American diet.


Chocolate glazed donut with ant sprinkles, photo by Gina Louise Hunter

That, at least, is the hope of conference attendees who see insects as the future of food. While a number of papers focused on market research, branding, and product development, there was a consistent undercurrent of the revolutionary potential of insects as food and feed. Insects are efficient feed converters, have a small environmental foot-print, and are very nutritious—high in protein and fats, vitamins and minerals. Farmers are still working out many of the details of scaling up production, regulations, and international trade. An open, informative meeting of North American Edible Insects Coalition allowed participants to voice perspectives on how the industry should develop—if insects are an alternative and sustainable protein source, can the industry develop in ways that uphold other alternative values such as transparency, traceability, organic production, and social justice in the food system?  Attending the conference felt less like an academic exercise and more like joining a movement.

It’s a movement that is gaining momentum. Certainly entomophagy is not new. Gene R. DeFoliart (1925–2013) published the The Food Insects Newsletter from 1988 until 2000. Recently interest in insects surged with the publication of the FAO’s watershed report, Edible Insects: Future prospects for Food and Feed security (2013). Former FAO Senior Forestry Officer and coordinator of Edible Insect Program, Paul Vantomme, perhaps the international guru of edible insects, was on hand to offer insights and concluded the conference with a presentation of hope and caution on how insects might feed the world.


Cricket kebab. Photo by Gina Louise Hunter.

The conference program reveals the diversity of presenters and perspectives as well as the significant international participation. Session were a highly entertaining, if somewhat bewildering experience — in one half hour span, for instance, we heard a scientific paper on the nutritional profile of fish raised on insect feed, a market study on consumer acceptance of insect foods, and a testimonial from a “micro-rancher.” There were even a few humanities contributions: Amy Wright (Austin Peay State University) read from her piece in Gastronomica, Laura Shine (Concordia University) offered a sensorial and Latour-ian approach to experiencing insects, and David Gracer (Community College of Rhode Island) emphasized the role of stories and mini-manifestos in creating culture change.

And anthropology? Conference organizer, Julie Lesnik (Wayne State University) studies the potential role of termites in the Australopithicus diet but is broadly interested in entomophagy. Her broad interest was reflected in the conference, yet it was clear that most attendees knew each other or knew of each other and the conviviality was contagious. Me? I’m a cultural anthropologist interested in the insect food movement and, thanks to the conference, I’m a newly confirmed entomophagist.



Mealworm fritter on cricket risotto. Photo by Gina Louise Hunter.

With so much delicious food on hand, how could one not eat insects? Detroit food truck, Monkey Business, offered cricket kabobs, (real) ants on a (fake) log, chocolate glazed donut with ant sprinkles, and mealworm quesadillas inspired by recipes from the Eat-A-Bug Cookbook author, David George Gordon, who was also a presenter.



The pièce de résistance, however, was a five-course gourmet dinner with cocktails and wine-pairings, prepared by local chefs and sourced with insects from Detroit Ento. Held in the hip Salt and Cedar letter press studio space, the dinner featured insect ingredients in everything but the wine. Pictured here is a mealworm fritter on cricket risotto and a Thai-style coconut curry soup with wild rice, mealworms, and silkworm pupae. How did it all taste? Well, you’ll just have to get some bugs and try them for yourself.


Thai-style coconut curry soup with wild rice, mealworms, and silkworm pupae. Photo by Gina Louise Hunter.


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Filed under anthropology, Entomophagy, food activism, Food Studies

4th Annual Yale Food Systems Symposium

Feeding a Growing World:

Perspectives in 2016

Yale University, School of Forestry and

Environmental Studies

September 30th, 2016

Request for Proposals

Half a century out from the Green Revolution, our food system is as technologically advanced as ever. Yet our innovations have presented long-term sustainability challenges, while both global hunger and obesity persist. We are now faced with the question of where to go from here–with the knowledge and technology we have obtained and challenges before us, what approaches do we take to feed the world in a manner that is sustainable for both the population and the planet? Stakeholders across the food system as well as scholars hold divergent perspectives on where to focus solutions. A productionist view may point to the need to produce more food through even more advanced technology and seed engineering, while others may take a distributionist view that stresses social justice rather than yields, while still others may seek methods to reduce food waste. Some may focus on the nutritional quality of what we are growing, while others emphasize the need to shift diets to those less impactful on the environment. These and other perspectives vary in the populations they target, including farmworkers, consumers, corporations, or governments. This conference seeks to stimulate conversation among practitioners, scholars, and community members to understand these diverse perspectives and consider collaborative solutions in moving forward as our world population grows, diet-related diseases increase, and natural resources are depleted.

The 2016 Yale Food Systems Symposium (YFSS) will bring diverse scholars and practitioners to work together in action-oriented sessions that address the complex ecological and socio-economic dynamics of feeding the world, including food production, consumption, climate change, and urbanization. We seek a diversity of proposal formats: panels, working groups, roundtables, and papers. We welcome perspectives from the natural and social sciences, from applied disciplines, and from community practitioners. Proposals that bring scholars and practitioners together, work across disciplines, or partner emerging and established researchers are especially encouraged.

Call for proposals

Submissions topic areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Nutrition, diet shifts, and sustainable diets
  • Food, ethics, and religion
  • Private market-based solutions, private governance, and sustainable supply chain management
  •  Solutions to reducing pre- and post-consumer food waste
  • Agricultural production and management
  • Plant biotechnology and GMOs
  • Global geo-political structures influencing food production and food security
  •  The right to food, food justice, and food sovereignty movements
  • Agricultural biodiversity
  • Industrial ecology approaches to food systems analysis
  • Land sparing versus land sharing/sustainable intensification
  • Urbanization, land use change, and food systems planning

The above list is simply intended to serve as a guideline. We welcome ideas that span across categories or do not correspond directly to those outlined.

Abstract Submissions

Deadline for submission is June 15th, 2016. Abstracts & Workshop Proposals should be 200-300 words and include a title and keywords. Please submit online using our abstract submission form.  Accepted proposals will be notified by August 1st, 2016.

Please see the conference website, www.yalefoodsymposium.org for more information. Abstracts may be submitted through the survey form located on the website. Questions about proposal submission and registration may be directed to yalefoodsymposium@gmail.com.

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Filed under anthropology, Call for Papers, Food Studies

Italian Football Hooligans and Little Shoes

Markus Bell

In Italy, many working class men feel that the EU and the Italian government have abandoned them. In such desperate times, these men cling to each other, and to football (soccer), as a force that gives their lives meaning. Much ink has been spilt on the hard drinking habits of so-called football hooligans, but little has been said about the gastronomic preferences of the legions of the “beautiful game”.

Several months with a small group of Ultras (the Italian equivalent of football “hooligan”) in Perugia, Italy offered me insight into the intimate story of Italian football fans’ lives, the centrality of food and drink to masculine sociality, and why it matters to Italy’s future.


The Ultra groups of the Curva. Photo by Markus Bell.

The art of football hooliganism

Italy boasts a long history of football-related violence both at home and abroad. In 2004, Daniele De Santis, a far-right Roma Ultra leader, known amongst supporters by his pseudonym, “Gastone,” strolled onto the pitch during the Roma-Lazio derby and demanded that Roma captain, Francesco Totti, cancel the game.

De Santis deemed this a suitable response to a (false) rumour that police had killed a local child. “We decide if and when you play,” he informed a baffled Totti, before turning on his heel and marching back across the field. The game was called off. The Ultras had made their point.

Going beyond filling seats in the stadium and adding flair to occasionally lacklustre games, the almost mythical status surrounding Ultras in Italy have made them as much a part of football as the game itself.

Home grown in Perugia

The landscape of the Ultra groups changes with the times. Over several spritz-Campari, Dr. Marco Milani, a University of Bologna researcher, explained,

“During the 1980s and 90s, rightist Ultra groups started to appear across the country. At first, the rightists and the leftists battled each other for control of the Curva (the sector of the stadium behind the goal reserved for Ultra). Especially in the last decade, however, the political emphasis weakened and the Ultras have joined forces against the police.”


The Ultra groups of the Curva. Photo by Markus Bell.

Battles for the Curva take place between Ultras supporting different teams and Ultras supporting the same team but divided by politics. The team you support and the Ultra you join is further dependent on the team your father, brothers, and friends’ support.

Perugia, Umbria has long identified as working class and politically left of centre. The Perugia Gryphons football team, founded in 1905, has spent much of its existence in Serie B, the second division of the Italian league. Its reputation for hard, grinding football is matched by the zeal of its Ultras.

Perugian Ultras’ latest claim to notoriety came via pre-match “riots” with Lazio Ultras in the summer of 2014, and then further violence directed against the Pescara Ultras in December of the same year.


Two Ultra members wearing Perugia Griffo hoodies. Photo by Markus Bell.

“Do you like to fight?” Fabio interrogated, clearly testing my resolve. I declined what I worried was an offer. “We used to get into some scraps with the fascist supporters. But these days,” he hesitated, “we’re too old.”


Fabio and I had known each other a total of 12 hours, since we’d met in a Perugia bar and he’d invited me to join him at the Perugia-Ascoli football match the following day.

As we unloaded from the Fiat mini for what would be round one of gin infused spritz-Campari, Fabio introduced me to around 15 men in their forties and fifties, and I was offered my first glimpse of a genuine Italian Ultras organisation.

The ritual of each home game started with drinks and was followed by the pre-game feast. Around the table during our first meeting, members of the “Lunatic Asylum Ultras” – Manicomio Magno Magnini, founded in 1991, passed carafes of Umbria red wine and traded plates of steaming handmade pasta with one another.

“Try this one – Perugina tartufo (truffle) infused pork, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese,” Fabio insisted, as he forked a bale of carbonara my way. Men who had known each other since childhood devoured mountains of local produce while prognosticating on the game to come.

Ripping up a loaf of bread, Andreo used the pieces to scoop up globs of tomato that lined his plate like wounded soldiers on a battlefield. “We call this “little shoes,” he told me, waving a little bread-shoe triumphantly above his head. I dutifully manufactured my own “little shoes” and wiped my plate clean.

“Our problem,” Mario interrupted, earnestly, “is that the Italian economy is broken and we’re in the middle of an immigrant crisis. We used to have the church, and the Italian family used to spend time together, but now that’s all gone. Football’s all that’s left. The 3M Ultras are like my brothers. We’ve known each other since we were born.”

The bonds that keep members of the 3M Ultras together run deep. For men who have grown up with each other, the Ultras group is a vehicle for reproducing a likeness of the traditional community and facilitating masculine solidarity.

Perugia vs. Ascoli

“You’re lucky, Fabio informed me, as we slipped in the side entrance of the stadium, “you don’t need to pay, you’re our guest.” Fabio and several other Ultras guided me into the throng of red and white Perugia supporters. The game had started in earnest. Chants ripe with obscenities filled the air.


The Ultra member tasked with leading the chants. Photo by Markus Bell.

The chants quickened. Rows of men tightly packed against one another swayed from side to side. Vendors selling shots of Caffè Sport Borghetti –coffee liquor–snaked in and out of the crowd. The hypnotic sight of a sea of bodies bobbing up and down in unison was accompanied by the pungent scent of marijuana, clouds of which trickled down to edge of the pitch, from where they would have a front row seat until full time. We threw back several more shots of Borghetti.

“We’re left wing, working class, and we hate fascists,” explained Giovanni, above the din. “Ascoli are fascists. It’s as simple as that,” he concluded, before gesticulating aggressively to the Ascoli supporters on the far side of the stadium.


A football supporter sporting a Mussolini tattoo. Photo by Markus Bell.

More Caffè Borghetti. Someone in the front row unfurled a giant red and white flag.

Leading the Ultras’ chanting, a topless man with a large potbelly balanced precariously on top of a railing. Grasping a megaphone in one hand he called out chants that the Ultras echoed back to him.

More Caffè Borghetti.

Just after half time Ascoli scored. One-nil. Someone in the crowed lobbed a burning flare into the air. It landed at my feet and rolled lazily into a pile of newspapers under the stand. The papers caught alight. “Look, Markus,” came a cry. “Fire!” The flames spread under the seats, offering momentary distraction from a losing game.

Then, as if competing with the fire for our attention, Ascoli scored again. Two-nil. The leadership of the Insane Asylum Ultras headed for the exit tunnel.

Football makes family

A week later we gathered again, this time for a Gryphons’ away game. In Fabio’s apartment, outside the Perugia’s old town, ten Ultras, including Fabio’s elderly mother, the “Prima Ultra of Perugia,” jostled for space around a table buckling under the weight of piadina, asparagus pasta, and homemade wine.

“In Italy,” Fabio informed me, “women cook but men are chefs.” Ultra members arrived with arms full of prosseco. “Here we knock with our feet because our arms are full of gifts,” I was told.

Fabio hovered his glass over the centre of the table. “To friendship and to the Gryphons, Salute,” he toasted.

“Friendship and the Gryphons!” Echoed the others.

Perhaps age had mellowed Fabio and his Ultras. While the priorities of the “Old Guard” had shifted from violence to the subtleties of the perfect ravioli, their passion for the game certainly hadn’t subsided.

Who are the Ultras? And what is it that keeps them returning week after week to back their team? Food? Football? Fraternity? In his 1990 football ethnography journalist Bill Buford captured the raw energy of the hooligan; the unrestrained hatred fermenting inside the right-wing racist, and the channelled frustration of disenfranchised youth.

My experiences with the Perugia Ultras showed me that instead of violence comes family. And you can’t separate family from football. Football makes family and family continues to be held together with bindings of the “beautiful game.” Like football, in family there’s love, anger, and outbursts of raw fury. And passion. So much passion.


The Perugian Ultra’s drink of choice:

Gin infused Spritz Campari (on ice)

One third Campari (about 80-90 mls)
One third Prosecco (about 80-90 mls)
A glug of gin
A dash of sparkling water
Garnish with a slice of blood orange

Consume while basking in the Umbrian sun.


Filed under anthropology, anthropology of food, Italy

Austerity Bites: Food Stories from Lewisham

Are you planning to be in or near London anytime between May 25 and June 6? If so, you may want to head over to Lewisham, where you can see an exhibit on the foodways of the area organized by the Goldsmiths Department of Anthropology. The exhibit, “Austerity Bites: Food Stories from Lewisham,” will open on May 25, but if you happen to be around on May 24, there is a reception that is open to the public.

According to the web site, the exhibit is based on a project exploring the impact of the UK’s austerity policies on the foodways of people in this very diverse borough. The research seems to have ranged widely, including ethnography, workshops, collection of objects, interviews with groups, story collecting, etc. You can see some of what was done on the blog devoted to the project here. Topics include food memories among immigrants, what constitutes a reasonable price for lunch (as well as what a reasonable lunch might look like), and the history and practices involved in growing one’s own food in an urban environment.


Venue: Weston Atrium, Stuart Hall Building, Goldsmiths
Private View: 24th May, 17.30
Dates: 25th May – 6th of June
Opening Times: Mon-Sat 9.00-21.00

The exhibit was curated by Gabriella Nicolescu, Dominique Santos and Henrike Donner.

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Filed under anthropology, Food Studies, United Kingdom

What FoodAnthro Is Reading Now, May 18 Edition

A selection of items from around the internet of possible interest to readers of FoodAnthropology. If you have items you think our readers should read, send a note to LaurenRMoore@uky.edu or dberiss@uno.edu.

Historian and food writer Rien Fertel has just published a new book about whole hog barbecue culture and history. You can read his moving chapter on the life, smoking traditions, and fate of Ricky Parker, one of the pitmasters, here.

It turns out that the lobbying groups/boards that represent commodities like pork, milk, beef, eggs, etc.—do not think they should have to reveal information about their activities to the public, despite being quasi-governmental organizations (overseen by the USDA).

So it should not surprise anyone that a cartoonist (and farmer) who did political cartoons for Farm News was fired after apparently being too critical of Big Ag. The New York Times covered this here. A more in depth analysis from the Columbia Journalism Review is here.

What happens if Congress changes the way it measures community eligibility to serve free meals to all school students? We may soon find out.

Does industrial chicken processing count when people say they want more manufacturing jobs in America? If so, they may want unions and health regulation with that, because otherwise they may need to wear diapers to work. Health conditions and bathroom breaks in the poultry industry, as reported by Oxfam.

Is urban agriculture the key to sustaining and reviving our cities? Here is a useful interdisciplinary overview of studies on urban agriculture from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future.

Want to struggle with the nature/culture divide? Or do you prefer watching the FDA and NPR do the heavy lifting? Read this.

How did food studies become respectable? And why? An overview from Australia, in which anthropologists are recognized for having led the way.

At some point, we need to write something here about food related museums. But while we wait, here is an overview of the International Banana Museum, which is improbably (or maybe not, given the sort of museum it is) in California.

Last item for today is either indicative of the next paranoid health trend or is merely absurd, but in any case cries out for research by anthropologists. Getting your microbiome sequenced, because…well, you might find out something useful. Probably not, but you might. (Meanwhile, check out the American Gut Project, which is doing crowd sourced science related to your microbiome.)

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Filed under anthropology, food, food activism, food history, food policy, Food Studies