Tag Archives: Mexico

Mezcal: Hybrid Authentication

The third in our series of abstracts of papers submitted for SAFN’s annual Christine Wilson Award. Winners have been selected and will be recognized at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. From Nicolas Fabien-Ouellet, this one raises important questions about what, exactly, is being preserved in efforts to insure that foods maintain their “authenticity.”

Mezcal: Hybrid Authentication

Nicolas Fabien-Ouellet
University of Vermont

How can foodways thrive in a global market and still maintain their local characters? In January 2016, students from the UVM Food Systems Graduate Program went to Oaxaca, Mexico to study such challenges. During our stay, we met Adolfo who showed us the art of making “authentic” mezcal, that iconic drink of the Mexican terroir some say has the potential to provide the economic incentives needed to repopulate Oaxacan communities impacted by outmigration. This micro-macro analysis deconstructs the “authenticity” dimension of mezcal production, to expose authenticity as a flexible social construct that resembles social branding. By incorporating ethnographic elements, the authenticity branding is coupled with Adolfo’s hybrid approach of production to suggest a way to foster community economic development: concurrently producing a hand-made, “authentic” mezcal for locals and tourists visiting Oaxaca, and another that is scaled-up to capitalize on the global market economic opportunities by convincingly putting the “authentic” Mexican terroir in the people’s mouths around the world. This paper argues that in order to protect Adolfo’s foodways, the aim should not focus at preserving mezcal itself, but primarily at preserving communities where mezcal is produced, and that the mezcal denomination of origin (DO) should be reformed accordingly.

mezcal-production

“Authentic” Mezcal Production: Mezcaleros cutting cooked agave piñas. In the background the open vessels made of an entire cow hide where the crushed piñas are mixed with water for the fermentation process.

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Filed under anthropology, anthropology of food, awards, Christine Wilson

A Sandwich Story and a Street Food Network

David Beriss
University of New Orleans

An article about a monumental sandwich, the torta Cubana, crossed my path recently. Mixing religion (and Mormon missionary work), gender, national identity, and what might be a sandwich induced conversion experience, this is inspiring food writing. Inspiring to go find a torta Cubana, of course, but also inspiring to think about the implications and history of street food and sandwich names. Why does Mexico have the Cubana, but (at least according to the article), Cuba the Cubano? Do people even think about Cubans (of any gender) or Cuba when they eat one or the other? Here in New Orleans we have the “po’boy” (or “poor boy”), a name with roots in a 1929 street car strike. The history, written by my colleague Michael Mizell-Nelson, is fascinating, but I suspect that most people today are unlikely to pause to honor the struggles of the street car workers before digging in.

There are people who are looking into these questions. And asking more serious ones too. In fact, having read the Torta Cubana piece, I found this email from Richard Wilk, with information about a network of such people. Here it is:

The Street Food Global Network (www.streetfoodglobalnetwork.net) was created in 2012 with the aim to link people and organizations directly involved or interested in street food trade and governance worldwide.

The network is meant to be an multidisciplinary space where members can find, share, develop and implement best practices, instruments and strategies fostering an innovative street food.

Members can access a rich documents archive and participate in forums and mailing lists, to share information and ideas.

Rather than a mere virtual space, the network is meant to achieve real cooperation, joint projects, and collective publications.

To date, 180 people from 60 countries have joined the SFGN. Among them: 70 scholars from several fields (Nutritionists, Economists, Sociologists, Anthropologists), 25 professionals working in non-profit local and international organizations (eg. FAO), and 15 public managers.

Several members of the network have recently particpated in the editing of the book “Street Food. Culture, Economy, Health and Governance” by Cardoso, Companion, Marras (eds.) (Routledge, 2014).

The SFGN is managed by the Street Food SQUARE Association (www.streetfoodsquare.org).

 

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Filed under anthropology, Food Studies, Mexico, New Orleans, sandwich