Tag Archives: food studies

Daniel Carasso Prize/Premio Daniel Carasso

Just ran across this prize announcement from the  Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation. It seems like there ought to be some solid nominees among SAFN members! Note the deadline: October 23, 2016.

From the web site:

Feeding the world on a healthy diet while safeguarding the planet’s resources is a vital challenge. The Foundation believes that it will require the transition to sustainable food systems, and is convinced that researchers globally have a key role to play in designing tomorrow’s food systems and sustainable diets. Nevertheless, to do so, researchers need to break down silos between disciplines and tackle the various dimensions of sustainability in a more holistic and integrated way. This remains a challenge as most research is undertaken in disciplinary settings.

The Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation created the Premio Daniel Carasso precisely to encourage such approaches and reward its practitioners. The  Premio Daniel Carasso is an international prize awarded for the first time by the Daniel and Nina Carasso Foundation in 2012, then in 2015 and from then on every two years. It is intended to reward and encourage outstanding scientific research into sustainable food systems and diets for long-term health. The Premio is worth €100,000 and the Laureate becomes the Foundation’s ambassador for sustainable food and diets.

The Prize is intended to give more visibility to a mid-carrier researcher and to help her/him inspire junior researchers to develop transdisciplinary approaches to study food systems and their sustainability.

For more information: see the rules of the Premio Daniel Carasso 2017.

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Filed under anthropology, awards, Food Studies

Third International Conference on Food History and Cultures

Recently received conference announcement and call for sessions that should be of great interest to FoodAnthropology readers!

Call for sessions

Third International Conference on Food History and Cultures

1-2 June 2017 – Tours (France)

We are pleased to announce that the European Institute for Food History and Cultures (the IEHCA, Institut Européen d’Histoire et des Cultures de l’Alimentation) is organizing the third edition of its annual international conferences, to be held on Thursday 1 and Friday 2 June 2017 in Tours (France). The event falls within the scope of the continuation of initiatives carried out by the IEHCA for the past fifteen years through its editorial policy, its support for research and its efforts to facilitate networking opportunities among Food Studies researchers.

The success of previous conferences, demonstrated by the participation of almost 150 researchers each year, has reinforced our desire to ensure it becomes an annual gathering and benchmark event, organized in partnership with the Food Studies team (L’Equipe Alimentation – LEA) at François-Rabelais University in Tours.

All proposals pertaining to Food Studies will be considered and all researchers are welcome (doctoral, post-doctoral, research lecturers, independent researchers, etc).  In essence, the conference is multi- and cross-disciplinary, covering all historical periods.

This announcement is first and foremost a call for sessions. Submissions to present thematic panels will therefore be reviewed and selected as a priority. Individual submissions may be evaluated in a second phase.

Sessions should comprise a moderator and two or three speakers and will last 90 minutes in all.

Submissions should be in French or English and take the form of a single PDF document. They should include:

  • A brief presentation of the session as it will appear in the final program:
    • Session title;
    • Name of organizer, their institution and the country in which it is located;
    • Name of moderator, if different, their institution and the country in which it is located;
    • Names of participants, their institutions and the country in which they are located;
    • Title of papers;
    • Independent researchers should indicate this status.
  • A short CV (250 words) for each participant
  • Email address and mobile telephone number for each participant
  • Contact details for each participant
  • A 250-word abstract per paper.
  • The researcher submitting the proposal can be the moderator. However, if they are one of the speakers it is then their responsibility to find a moderator, failing which the organizers will designate one.

Papers can be presented in English or French.

The deadline for submissions is 15 November 2016.

Submissions should be sent to Loïc Bienassis and Allen Grieco, who will also be able to answer any questions: loic.bienassis@iehca.eu ; agrieco@gmail.com

Replies will be sent around 15 December 2016.

NB: Registration fee – 25 euros for non-tenured candidates/50 euros for tenured candidates. This fee includes attendance at a cocktail party held in the evening of the first day of the conference.

Payment of the fee is due once your submission has been accepted and before the publication of the programme. It is not refundable in case of withdrawal.

Please do not hesitate to pass this information on to colleagues who may be interested.

Appel à sessions

Troisième Conférence Internationale d’Histoire et des Cultures de l’Alimentation

1er-2 juin 2017 – Tours (France)

Nous avons le plaisir de vous annoncer que l’Institut Européen d’Histoire et des Cultures de l’Alimentation (IEHCA) organisera les jeudi 1er et vendredi 2 juin 2017 à Tours (France) la troisième édition de sa Conférence Internationale. Cette manifestation s’inscrit dans le prolongement des actions que mène l’IEHCA depuis quinze ans à travers sa politique éditoriale, son soutien à la recherche et son travail de mise en réseau des chercheurs en Food Studies.

Le succès des années précédentes qui ont chacune réuni près de 150 chercheurs nous a conforté dans notre volonté de pérenniser cette manifestation et d’en faire un rendez-vous de référence, organisé en partenariat avec l’Equipe Alimentation de l’université François-Rabelais de Tours (LÉA).

Toutes les propositions relevant des Food Studies et tous les chercheurs seront les bienvenus (doctorants, post-doctorants, enseignants-chercheurs, chercheurs indépendants…). Ce symposium est par essence pluri- et transdisciplinaire et couvrira l’ensemble des périodes historiques.

Le présent appel est en priorité un appel à sessions. Seront donc examinés et retenus les candidatures portant sur l’organisation de panels thématiques. Les candidatures individuelles ne seront éventuellement examinées que dans un second temps.

Les sessions dureront 90 minutes. Elles devront comprendre un modérateur et deux ou trois communicants.

Les candidatures devront être en français ou en anglais. Elles devront comporter, en un seul document PDF :

  • Une présentation brève de la session telle qu’elle figurera dans le programme final :
    • Intitulé de la session ;
    • Nom de l’organisateur avec son institution de rattachement, pays où se situe l’institution de rattachement ;
    • Pour les chercheurs indépendants, le mentionner.
    • Nom du modérateur, si différent, avec son institution de rattachement, pays où se situe l’institution de rattachement ;
    • Nom des participants avec leur institution de rattachement, pays où se situe l’institution de rattachement ;
    • Titre des communications.
  • Bref CV (250 mots) de chaque participant
  • Adresse mail et n° de téléphone portable de chaque participant
  • Un résumé de 250 mots pour chaque communication
  • L’organisateur pourra être le modérateur de la session. S’il est au nombre des communicants, il lui revient de trouver un modérateur ou, à défaut, un modérateur sera attribué par les organisateurs de la conférence.

Les communications pourront être présentées en anglais ou en français.

La date limite d’envoi des candidatures est fixée au 15 novembre 2016.

Elles sont à adresser, ainsi que vos questions, à Loïc Bienassis et Allen Grieco : loic.bienassis@iehca.eu ; agrieco@gmail.com

Les réponses vous parviendront aux alentours du 15 décembre 2016.

Frais d’inscription : 25 euros pour les chercheurs non-titulaires / 50 euros pour les chercheurs titulaires.

Cette somme comprend l’inscription au cocktail-dînatoire du 1er juin au soir. Elle sera à verser dès l’acceptation de votre candidature et ne sera pas remboursée en cas de désistement.

N’hésitez pas à faire circuler cet appel autour de vous.

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Filed under anthropology, Call for Papers, conferences, Food Studies

What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, September 22, 2016

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

We begin by recognizing the passing of Dorothy Cann Hamilton, founder of the International Culinary Center (formerly the French Culinary Institute) in New York and one of the leaders in the American food movement of the last few decades. The New York Times obituary is here, more commentary has been gathered here. There was also a moving interview with Chef José Andrés on NPR, which you can find here.

“Food Liberation: Why the Food Movement Is Unstoppable” is the headline on this fascinating manifesto from Jonathan Latham. The headline is hyperbolic, but the article lays out the food movement as a kind of anarcho-environmental movement (a characterization Latham would probably object to, so read the article) that takes a fundamentally different approach to all forms of life. If you are interested in interspecies anthropology or the food movement, you should read this.

Listen to this. Seriously, take some time and listen to this. The Gravy podcast, from the Southern Foodways Alliance, devotes an episode to Repast, an oratorio written by Kevin Young and composed by Nolan Gasser. It recounts the story of Booker Wright, who upset the discourse about race relations in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1966 when, in an NBC documentary called “Mississippi: A Self Portrait,” he told the harsh truth about his experiences as a waiter in a whites-only restaurant. You can see that scene from the documentary here. Why was equal access to restaurants central to the Civil Rights movement? This is a powerful resource for thinking about that, as well as for raising questions about the ongoing struggle for equality and respect for black Americans.

Are mushroom pickers among the last foragers in the industrial American food system? Brian Barth provides some insight into their world—in the Pacific Northwest—in Modern Farmer. For a related perspective, read this piece from Nicky Ouellet at NPR.

The latest issue of Anthropological Forum is devoted to questions of food sovereignty in the anthropology of food. The introduction, by Graeme MacRae, seems to be available for free and, if you are lucky, the other articles should be available through your library’s subscription.

On a related topic, this article from Gilles Lhuilier, on the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers website, argues that there are dangers built into the growing role of environmental NGOs in managing fisheries on behalf of come countries. He seems to be suggesting that in their efforts to combat climate change, they end up harming local fishing communities. In addition, he writes, the NGOs operate outside any kind of democratic control.

Following up on last week’s controversy over Bon Appetit’s effort to teach us all to eat pho, here are two more analyses of the controversy. The first, from Dakota Kim at Paste Monthly, provides a nice overview of some issues around cultural appropriation. The second is from blogger Khanh Ho, who looks at the “cultural optics” of this event.

Pho is not the only food that has been caught in the crossfire of the cultural appropriation/authenticity wars recently. About a week ago, as the dust was settling from the pho feud, Disney posted a video and recipe for “healthy” gumbo on the Facebook page related to their movie, “The Princess and the Frog.” The gumbo lacked a roux and included kale and quinoa, which led, of course, to a firestorm of amusement and outrage from folks in Louisiana and elsewhere. This article from nola.com provides links to a lot of what was written. It is worth noting that a drunken comedian made the Disney recipe and found it to be pretty tasty…as long as you don’t mistake it for gumbo. On a more serious note, asking students to think about the different responses to these two controversies could raise a wide range of useful topics for discussion in classes.

A few weeks ago we noted the passing of Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, whose was noted, among other things, for calling attention to the Gullah communities in South Carolina. Now this essay from Nicole Taylor on Civil Eats discusses the work of other activists engaged in recording, teaching, and preserving the ways of Gullah communities on the east coast.

If you are going to blatantly mix and match foods and techniques from nearly everywhere and do so without any pretense of authenticity and maybe with a whiff of daring, you would probably be Lucky Peach. So we end this digest with a truly astonishing collection of ways to “hack” your dried packet of ramen. We confess to having tried one of these (the ramen fried chicken, with meh results). If you share these with your students—who eat a lot of ramen, for sure—they may think it is the most useful thing you have ever taught them.

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Filed under anthropology, anthropology of food

Blackness, Food, and State-Sanctioned Violence

Ashanté M. Reese, PhD

I began research on food access in Washington, D.C., knowing that I wanted to learn about a) what people were eating b) where they were shopping, and c) how (if at all) they engaged urban agriculture movements.

During my first interview, a participant made it clear that a) she did not want to talk about any of those things right away, b) she would get to them when she was ready, and c) there were other more pressing things I needed to know so that I could understand her food choices. That first interview sent me back to the drawing board to reconsider how I conceptualized the study of food.  After conducting 40+ interviews with D.C. residents (and another 40 interviews with Baltimore residents for a separate project), I now realize that most of my participants talked about, theorized, and understood their lives at the intersections of multiple forms of state-sanctioned violence. I came to them wanting to discuss food access. They came to me with stories about their lives, the histories of their neighborhoods, gentrification, policing, and other black people they didn’t know but to whom they felt a connectedness. Food, the subject that brought us to the table, provided a framework for discussing some of the precarious elements of navigating spaces in black bodies.


Photo taken at a protest/rally in Ferguson, MO. April 2015

In the most terrifying, in your face moments, we watch Black Death on repeat as video after video captures unarmed black people being shot down in the streets by officers of the state. It is heartbreaking and sometimes terrifying to watch. Yet, as I learned from my research participants, these murders occur within a larger frame of the everydayness of violence they witnessed or experienced. State-sanctioned violence not only shows up in public murders and the collective trauma in their aftermaths but also in the ways in which people experience (and navigate) inequalities on a daily basis that provides context for the food research we conduct. We need only examine the systematic ways Black farmers were denied access to federal funding that could have made a difference in their abilities to compete in the transitions toward agribusiness. Or the ways federal and state governments co-opted the Black Panthers’ Free Breakfast for Children program while at the same time blacklisting, criminalizing, and surveilling the Panthers themselves.

State-sanctioned violence normalizes death and inequalities through the slow but steady unraveling of individuals’ character in the moments immediately following their public executions, the decline of publically available resources, and through the now colloquial understanding of “food deserts” that points to outcomes (lack of food access, individual choice, etc.) but often obscures processes (systematic racism, increased suburbanization, etc.).  Though it is easy to compartmentalize, these different forms of violence  stem from shared roots that attempt to curtail black mobility in and access to public space.  Some are very public, instantaneous deaths at the hands of police like those of Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, and as of today, Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott. These are the spectacular, shocking deaths (although, they are happening often enough to question if they are as shocking as they were). Others are slow, walking, everyday deaths: the lack of access to healthy, affordable foods; the continuous expansion of multinational food corporations that not only control access but also wages of folks who produce food; the cutting (and erasure) of social services.


Photo taken at a protest/rally in Ferguson, MO. April 2015

I see the critical examination of these intersections as part of the work Sidney Mintz envisioned when he challenged food anthropologists to engage with–not run away from–the power structures that shape access, tastes, and perceptions. The worlds in which we live–the worlds in which my predominantly Black research participants, friends, and I live–are circumscribed by power dynamics that shape not only food access but also experiences with other forms of state-sanctioned violence that are sometimes literally a matter of life or death.



Filed under anthropology, food, food activism, food deserts, food politics

Fear of Foodways? On Trigger Warnings, Horses, and a Dropped Class

David Beriss
University of New Orleans

A few years ago I received an angry email from a student, informing me that she was dropping my “Food and Culture” class. It was early in the semester and we had just had a vigorous discussion about how food is defined in different societies. The eating of cats and dogs had been raised and we had explored why “pets” are often distinct from “food.” But what really set her off was our discussion of eating horses. The discussion, which drew in part on a blog entry I had written on the topic, infuriated that student. Her angry note stated that she would not participate in a class that allowed the discussion of anything as inhumane as the killing and eating of horses.

I was surprised by this on many levels. First, I should point out that in nearly two decades of teaching, this is the only student I can recall dropping a class because the content offended them. Second, anthropology is by its very nature a discipline in which students may encounter practices and ideas that they find shocking. The whole point is to understand the full range of human behavior and thinking, allowing us to get at some putative idea of what makes us all human, while also helping us think more critically about societies in general. The “Food and Culture” class is an advanced undergraduate course and most of the students who take it have already had introductory level anthropology, so they should be aware of the nature of the topics that may be discussed. Third, tastes in food, even within one society, can be very different. I was raised to eat ketchup on macaroni and cheese (the bland Kraft variety). I have learned over the years that this practice is viscerally repulsive to many people. When we cross social and cultural boundaries to discuss food practices, beliefs, etc., we are bound to encounter things that are a lot more challenging than that. Things like killing and eating horses.

And yet it is too easy to assert the cross-cultural nature of anthropology as a license to challenge our students’ sensibilities. In the case I mentioned, we were not mostly focusing on foreign cultures. It is true that Americans do not generally eat horse these days, but they have eaten horse in the past and the practice has waxed and waned over time. While we require our students to practice cultural relativism in trying to understand other societies, it is legitimate for them to raise ethical concerns about practices within their own society. One of my intentions in raising the issue in the class was (and remains—I still use the topic) to show that the things we designate as food reveal deeper questions about how we make sense of our world. Horses are, in the U.S., ambiguous animals, not entirely work animals anymore, not necessarily pets. Confronting that ambiguity in our own culture is supposed to make students uncomfortable. I want them to understand that our own society is just as “exotic” and potentially shocking as any other. I also want them to learn to analyze the cultural categories and social structures that frame our practices with animals (food or otherwise). If they are going to make ethical decisions about such things, they need to understand them at a deep level.

So I now include a warning on my course syllabus. I guess it is a “trigger warning,” although I was not aware of that term when I started using it. It reads:

Warning: In this class you will be exposed to ideas and practices that may be radically different from those you find familiar and comfortable. You may read about or see images of people engaging in behavior you find shocking. This is of course standard for anthropology, but because this is a class about food, the possibility is perhaps higher than usual. If you are unable to tolerate being exposed to such difference, this class is not for you.

Nobody, as far as I know, has dropped the class because of this warning. I have a colleague who has used a similar warning on all of his syllabi for decades. I sometimes suspect that these warnings may actually attract students. Maybe it gives our classes a reputation for being risqué. We dare you to take them.

At the same time, my classes need to be welcoming to all students. I have vegans, vegetarians, halal-observant Muslims, kosher-keeping Jews, Creoles, Cajuns, aggressive fans of bacon, and people who seem to subsist on energy drinks. Because I teach in New Orleans, I also have a lot of students who work in food-related jobs, especially waiters, bartenders, and line cooks. I have students who come from rural backgrounds and many who have family who work in the seafood industry. They already know a lot about food and I learn quite a lot from them every semester. But I also try hard to provoke them out of their comfort zone and, for the most part, they seem happy to be provoked. Our students do not demand coddling and, I doubt that many do anywhere, despite the fantasies of pundits. On the contrary, they are eager to learn and participate. Sometimes they shock me out of my comfort zone too.

So I include the statement above in my syllabus as both a warning and a challenge. If they accept the challenge and stay in the class, then my job is to make sure the class really does provide them with an opportunity to learn. The class is about food, so I need to ensure that they are learning to think carefully about what food is and how food choices are shaped by history, political economy, and culture. But the class is also about practicing critical thinking. Do they feel encouraged to raise questions and challenge me and each other in the class? Can they turn their readings into thoughtful analyses? Can they express those analyses in class and in writing? These critical thinking and writing skills are learning objectives for many good liberal arts classes and they are also the key to success in a lot of careers. Oddly enough, the student who dropped my class over a discussion of horse meat was sort of on the right track. She understood that deeper issues were at stake. She even wrote about them in her email telling me that she was leaving. But she should have stayed in the class so that others could continue the discussion. That, after all, is what learning is about. You have been warned.


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

What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, September 6, 2016


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

The recent floods in Louisiana have had a significant impact on small farmers. You can read about that here, in an article by Brian Barth in Modern Farmer that also provides some ideas about how you can help. Vendors and farmers who sell at the Crescent City Farmers Market were hit hard by the floods, which Judy Walker writes about here. The Crescent City Farmers Market has established a fund to directly assist in their recovery. Click here to contribute.

We note with sadness the passing of Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, whose writing and commentary on foodways on NPR played a significant role in inspiring many people to think more seriously about food, culture, and history. Of course, she is perhaps best known for her writing on African American foodways and on the foods of the U.S. South. There was a nice remembrance on All Things Considered here and on Morning Edition here. She received a lifetime achievement award from the Southern Foodways Alliance in 2013 and you can watch her acceptance speech for that here. Or just search the web for her many commentaries and writings. You may lose days, but it will be worth it.

The presidential campaign dust up over taco trucks has provided much needed levity in an otherwise unhappy electoral season. This tasty controversy started with an MSNBC interview with Marco Gutierrez, leader of an organization called “Latinos for Trump,” in which he asserted, in reference to the immigration debate, that “My culture is a very dominant culture, and it’s imposing and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re going to have taco trucks on every corner.” This delicious threat was met with a tidal wave of hilarity on social media and in the press, including this semi-serious economic analysis from the Washington Post of the benefits and costs associated with a massive influx of new taco trucks. A great deal has of course been written more seriously on food trucks, including this piece on the history of food trucks in Los Angeles from a few years ago. It is heartening to see Americans rally behind the idea of taco trucks, but it is also worth remembering that ideas about immigrant foods have often been used to stigmatize, exclude, and threaten people, so there is a dangerous undercurrent to this sort of statement.

We have written before here about the work of Saru Jayaraman and the Restaurant Opportunities Center. Jayaraman has worked relentlessly to inform the public about the dismal labor circumstances confronted by many people in the restaurant industry. Her organization has developed a number of programs that are meant to improve those conditions. In this review of her book and other work, Patrick Abatiell provides a useful history and some critiques of her approach.

Ian Parker has written a portrait of New York Times food critic Pete Wells for The New Yorker that portrays the relationship between Wells, the Times, and New York’s high-end restaurateurs as a mighty struggle. This is particularly interesting to read in the age of social media, when nearly everyone is a critic.

Have you tried one of the “Tasty” recipes (from BuzzFeed) that pop up relentlessly on Facebook and in other social media? It turns out that some people think that these things are the death of food culture. And who knows, maybe they are right. After all, the Food Network was apparently also the death of food culture, back when Emeril Lagasse ruled the airwaves. Read about the controversy here. Then go look at some of the recipes here.

Students are increasingly conscious about the kinds of foods that their university provides. There have been efforts by various food services to make their foods healthier, more seasonal, local, etc. But not everyone is apparently on board. Here is a story from a student who has decided to drop out of her university rather than be forced to subscribe to the school’s meal plan. Discuss this with your students (and don’t tell the upper administration, when they get back from golfing with the Aramark guys, that you heard about it from us).

Sometimes satire resembles a satire of itself. The New Yorker provides us with this article about the work of two Austrian performance artists, Sonja Stummerer and Martin Hablesreiter, apparently calling attention to the unsustainability of modern dining.  If you don’t get the satire in these odd performance pieces, we recommend searching for some Saturday Night Live Sprockets sketches.

On a rather more serious note, this article outlines what the author, Doug Gurian-Sherman, calls an inconvenient truth about industrial agriculture. In this instance, Gurian-Sherman discusses the reemergence of corn rootworm in fields planted with corn that is supposed to be engineered to be resistant to rootworm. The author argues that this problem demonstrates the failure of a genetic engineering approach to farming. This is definitely worth a read.

On a related topic, Marc Bittman recently wrote a column about a new food labeling law that may eventually make information about what goes into American food more transparent. The law in question is meant, in a weak sort of way, to require companies to make available information about whether or not a product contains genetically modified ingredients. However, it does not really require that information be easy to get, just that it somehow be more or less available. Bittman thinks that despite the law’s weakness, it could be the start of efforts to really make food more transparent.

As we have mentioned before, the folks at the food activism think tank Food Tank love to make lists (not that we are against that, of course). Here is an inspiring list of interesting books (with handy synopses) that you might want to read or assign to your students. There is even a smattering of anthropology among them.


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Filed under anthropology, anthropology of food, Food Studies

Shake Shack Burger Fever in Korea

Sangyoub Park
Washburn University

The popular American burger chain Shake Shack just opened its first Korean store on July 22, in the Gangnam District of Seoul, which is known as the Beverly Hills of Seoul. Koreans are hurriedly flocking to the store to taste the famous burger and fries.

The Korea Herald, a local newspaper, describes the grand opening day:

When the store opened on July 22, the online fervor was proven real. Even before the opening of the store at 10 a.m., people were reported to have lined up hours in advance, some having been there all night, to be the first to try the burgers. Around 1,500 people were reported to have lined up for two to three hours on that day (7.24. 2016).

shake shack opening korea

July 25, 2016, Shake Shack (around 9:00 am, people are waiting outside before the opening hour). Photo by Sangyoub Park.

It has been over a month after its opening but the fever has not faded away. It is reported that the Shake Shack store averages 3,000 customers every day. Due to recent sizzling weather in Seoul, the store dispatched a nurse from 11:00am to 6:00pm to prevent heat-related illness while waiting in line. The store is planning to keep a nurse until next month. The store also provides free bottled water and sun-umbrellas (used to block sun in East Asia) to those waiting in line as a cautionary step.

What accounts for this Shake Shack fever?  Why are Koreans obsessed with Shake Shack? First, it is because Shake Shack is the latest novelty from America. Korea has been brimming with American tastes from Burger King to McDonalds’, Pizza Hut, TGIF, Baskin Robbins, Dunkin Donuts, and Krispy Kreme. Koreans love the taste of novelty. Some of these American foods have lost novelty since they are successfully localized. For example, it has been 28 years since McDonalds’ opened the first store in Seoul. Or Baskin Robbins is no longer especially exotic to Koreans since its first shop opened over three decades ago. More interestingly, one of my students informed me that having Western people in the kitchen appears to create a more authentic sense of Americanness.

shake shack burger and fries

Famous Shake Shack burgers with fries and shake, courtesy of Seung-Whan Lee.

Second, it can be attributed to the social media effect known as “eat and tweet” or “foodstagramming” (in Korea, it is called “meok-stagram,” which is a combination of eat, meok-da, and Instagram). Like the U.S., the food photo sharing phenomenon is prevalent in Korea. Posting food photos online is a way of showing off or bragging about one’s hipness or coolness. Sharing food photos is a way of boosting social status, that is, more “likes” means more popularity. These food photos bring recognition. In particular, trending foods like Shake Shack burger could help creating extra coolness. These photos can be used to elicit an image of life is good. They project an image of the good life.

Third, going to popular eating places like Shake Shack has become entertainment and sort of a leisure activity. It is a cool thing to do. Especially for young people, hanging out at such places has become popular entertainment. They are like “special events,” not for filling their stomach. This explains why waiting in line for a long time is not cumbersome to them. Opportunity cost seems not to apply to these queuers in that the end benefits are supposed to outweigh the cost of standing in long lines.

It is too soon to tell when the fever of Shake Shack will cool. But the excitement of this new taste does not seem to be dissipating  any time soon because the second Shake Shack store is slated to open at another place in which is not far from the first store in November.

For more photos, please visit: http://www.eater.com/2016/7/22/12258334/shake-shack-seoul-south-korea-photos.

For the grand opening of Shake Shack, please visit: http://news.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2016/07/22/2016072202608.html.

Sangyoub Park is professor of Sociology at Washburn University. He can be contacted at sangyoub.park@washburn.edu

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Filed under anthropology, Food Studies, korea