Tag Archives: Palestine

What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, March 12, 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 was only a matter of time before the question of sexual misconduct in restaurants intersected with the issue of tipping. Catrin Einhorn and Rachel Abrams investigate the often fraught relationship in this excellent article in the New York Times. The article includes useful videos. Is it time to end the degrading custom of tipping and just pay people properly?

Every social issue intersects with restaurants, as we have noted before. Here in New Orleans, chef Tunde Wey, working with Anjali Prasertong, a graduate student in Public Health at Tulane University, created an experiment designed to raise awareness of the wealth gap between white people and people of color in the United States. For a normally $12 lunch, people perceived as white were asked to pay $30, while everyone else was offered the regular price. Customers could choose to pay the higher price or not and everyone was interviewed about the experiment. Maria Godoy wrote about the whole thing on the NPR’s The Salt blog.

Have you been to the Spam festival in Isleton, California? This festival commemorates the miraculous survival of Spam cans after the town flooded in 1996. Read about the festival and listen to the Bite podcast, from Mother Jones, here. The latest episode includes additional stories about Tunde Wey’s experiment with food prices (see above) and about a member of Congress with an organic farm and a restaurant.

It is disturbing that Wey needs to remind us of the impact the racial wealth division has on Americans in 2018. This is, in fact, not a new story and we should have learned its lessons long ago. For a reminder of when Americans learned about this in an earlier era (even then, probably not for the first time), listen to this podcast, from the Southern Foodways Alliance program Gravy. Voting rights, along with public health and access to food in the American South in the early 1960s, examined by Sarah Reynolds, retells a story that still needs to be told. Use this in your classes. (The podcast coincides with the republication of the book Still Hungry in America, which you should take a look at too.)

From hunger to plenty: American fast food is notoriously stuffed with enormous amounts of cheese. Could this cheese tsunami be a result of a conspiracy, the work of the “Illuminati” of the dairy world? Writing for Mother Jones, Tom Philpott (who, to be fair, took the Illuminati idea from Bloomberg), says yes. He traces the cheese tide to overproduction and government policy to persuade you to eat more cheese. There is a disturbing cameo from President Trump too.

President Trump’s administration is working on rolling back the regulations put in place to prevent another oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Why is this about food? Because the Gulf of Mexico is where quite a lot of our seafood comes from and because many of the people who work in the oil industry also work in the fishing industry. As the article notes, the regulations were “written in human blood.” What is the price we will inevitably pay for rolling them back? Eric Lipton looks into this in this article from the New York Times.

What is the role of a seed library in Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation? Vivien Sansour, who founded the Palestine Heirloom Seed Library, explains the local and global implications of this kind of activism in an interview with Joshua Leifer, on the +972 Magazine blog.

While we are in the neighborhood, this article by Rafram Chaddad weighs in on the debates about Israeli food by calling attention to the relationship between Jews and the foods of the Arab countries where many of them lived (and some still live). You have probably already heard the debates around hummus, but where does shakshuka take us? What would happen, Chaddad asks, if we recognized the complexities of the real histories of migration and nationalism that surface through food debates? Share this with your students next time you teach about cultural appropriation, ethnicity, or nationalism.

Forget John Le Carré novels. If you want espionage, read this article by Jessica Sidman from the Washingtonian. She reveals some of the antics that go on behind the scenes as restaurants strive to identify and please critics. Also, Le Diplomate, in D.C., is indeed very French.

Did you know that the organic food advocate Jerome Rodale died on the Dick Cavett show, at the age of 74, moments after declaring that he would live to 100? What impact does the untimely death of longevity advocates have on their credibility? Readers of this blog will probably not be surprised to learn that many people do not understand science very well. For instance, nutrition research that provides results for populations is often misunderstood as advice for individuals. For useful perspective, read this article by Pagan Kennedy, from the New York Times. And remember, we make no claims concerning how long you will live if you read this blog.

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

Food Research and Political Action: Why I support BDS

Editor’s note: SAFN is a section of the American Anthropological Association. The AAA is currently holding a vote on a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions. There has been a great deal of useful debate around the issue, some of which you can read about here. Although SAFN has not taken a position on the resolution, we welcome commentaries from anthropologists that do advocate positions on the resolution (from any perspective). In keeping with the mission of this blog, commentaries related to the resolution should have some relationship to the anthropology of food and nutrition. The election that includes the resolution closes on May 31, 2016. Please send commentaries for the blog to dberiss@gmail.com.

Anne Meneley

As the recently departed and much mourned anthropologist Sidney Mintz argued so persuasively, food links the quotidian needs of humans, inflected by their culturally inculcated memories, desires, and emotions, to wider global political economies that often include exploitation and oppression. In my study of extra-virgin olive oil, I was inspired, as so many of us food anthropologists were, by Mintz’ classic work on sugar, especially his emphasis on the need to understand different moments in a food commodity’s life: in the political economies of production, consumption and circulation. I began work on Palestinian olive oil a decade ago. Even if I had not been trained, as most of my generation was, to critique an anthropology that ignored the overarching structures of colonialism, there was no way to ignore the shocking impact of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. My work on olive oil production required that I witness firsthand the effects of land confiscations, settler violence, the fragmenting effects of checkpoints on people’s time and social ties, and the destruction of their beloved olive trees along with their livelihoods. An Oxfam report noted that the Israeli blockade of Gaza which so strangles the import of food, also blocks the export of olives and olive oil, so essential to Palestinian diet and culture, from the West Bank to Gaza.[1] I was asked by Palestinian activists, olive oil professionals, and academic colleagues, to participate in boycott activities, from consumer to academic, in an attempt to address the injustices of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank; it is the very least I can do to reciprocate for the help they have given to me in my research.

Most of you have not had the opportunity to do the kind of research that I have done.  Nonetheless, I hope many of you will join me in voting “yes” to our AAA boycott vote, as part of an ethical stance that we can take as anthropologists to address a grave injustice in our world.

[1] Lara El-Jazairi.  The Road to Olive Farming: Challenges to developing the economy of olive oil in the West Bank.  Oxfam International October 2010.

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Filed under AAA, anthropology, Israel, Palestine