by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Food-culture

Nov 14 2014

Weekend reading: food history!

Paul Freedman, Joyce E. Chaplin, and Ken Albala.  Food in Time and Place: The American Historical Association Companion to Food History.  University of California Press, 2014.

I was happy to be asked to do a blurb for this one:

This book is a treasure.  Its clear and lively chapters on global food history instantly explain why food has become an essential entry point into the most intellectually challenging problems of our time.  Any reader interested in the role of food in history, culture, or politics, its production or consumption, or the teaching of critical thinking will find this book hard to put down. 

Sep 16 2014

Trade negotiations continued: the meaning of “culturally appropriate food”

While I’m thinking about trade negotiations, I came across this example of why trade negotiators fight over every word.

NPR’s The Salt reports that member nations of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are in the process of developing guidelines for responsible investment in agriculture and food systems.

Responsible investment, they say,

is essential for enhancing food security and nutrition and supporting the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security. Responsible investment is a significant contribution to enhancing sustainable livelihoods, in particular for smallholders, and members of marginalized and vulnerable groups, creating decent work for all agricultural and food workers eradicating poverty, fostering social and gender equality, eliminating the worst forms of child labour, promoting social participation and inclusiveness, increasing economic growth, and therefore achieving sustainable development.

The guidelines are responding to concerns over “land grabs” — the term used to describe how corporations and governments are taking advantage of unclear land ownership in developing countries to buy up large tracts, regardless of consequences for previous users of the land.

Land grabs displace small farmers and have become the focus of advocacy by Oxfam.

In contrast, says FAO, responsible investment contributes to food security and nutrition through:

Increasing sustainable production and productivity of safe, nutritious, diverse, and culturally acceptable food and reducing food loss and waste.

At issue is the meaning of “culturally acceptable.”

The US delegation demanded a definition, objecting that the lack of one could lead to trade barriers against, for example, genetically modified foods.

It suggested this:

For the purposes of this document, consumers, through the free exercise of their choices and demand, determine what food is culturally acceptable.

In other words, says The Salt, “as long as somebody wants to buy it, it’s fine.”

The African delegations forged a compromise.

In the current version of the document, “culturally appropriate food” enables

consumer choice by promoting the availability of and access to food that is safe, nutritious, diverse and culturally acceptable, which in the context of this document is understood as food that corresponds to individual and collective consumer demand and preferences, in line with national and international law as applicable.

Aren’t you glad they got that settled?

Aug 8 2014

For your Food Studies library: Eating Asian America

Robert Ji-Song Ku, Martin F. Manalansan IV, Anita Mannur, editors.  Eating Asian America: A Food Studies Reader.   New York University Press, 2014.

This book was a most welcome gift from the author of one of its chapters, Nina Ichikawa (thanks, Nina).  Her chapter is about how Asian farmers and retailers became food system pioneers.

Others reflect on the Asian-American food experience from the perspective of, to give just a sample, Cambodian donut shops and taco trucks in Los Angeles, Chinese restaurant workers in New York, the incarcerated Japanese mess hall experience during the Second World War, the Filipino culinary diaspora, and the Asian Queer kitchen.

The chapters cover a century of Asian food work in America, necessarily getting into deep issues of culture and politics.

The book ought to stimulate plenty of conversation and argument—perfect for a course in food and culture.

Enjoy the weekend!

Aug 5 2014

Book: Culinary Imagination

Sandra M. Gilbert.  The Culinary Imagination: From Myth to Modernity.  WW Norton, 2014

New Picture

I blurbed this one:

It is hard to imagine how Sandra Gilbert could have produced so broad an overview of contemporary food writing and thought, not only literary analysis but also history, memoir, and bibliography.  Anyone wanting an introduction to the meaning of food culture should start here.  After reading this “foodoir,” you may not want to live her life but you will certainly want to read everything that she did.

Nov 13 2012

Food books worth blurbing: just published

I get asked to blurb books every now and then and say yes to the ones I especially appreciate.  Here are three recently published books, well worth having and reading: 

Fred Kaufman, Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food, Wiley, 2012.

In Bet the Farm, Fred Kaufman connects the dots between food commodity markets and world hunger.  Kaufman is a wonderfully entertaining writer, able to make the most arcane details of such matters as wheat futures crystal clear.  Readers will be alternately amused and appalled by his accounts of relief agencies and the interventions of rich nations.  This book is a must-read for anyone who cares about feeding the hungry in today’s globalized food marketplace.  It’s on the reading list for my NYU classes.

Counihan C, Van Esterik P, eds.  Food and Culture,  Routledge, 2012.

Food and Culture is the indispensable resource for anyone delving into food studies for the first time.  The editors have conveniently gathered readings from classic texts to the latest writings on cutting-edge issues in this field.  Although in its third edition, the book has so much new material that it reads as fresh and should appeal and be useful to students and others from a wide range of disciplines. 

Jon Krampner, An Informal History of Peanut Butter, The All-American Food, Columbia University Press, 2012. 

Creamy and Crunchy is a fast-paced, entertaining, and wonderfully gossipy look at the history of everything about peanut butter, from nutrition to allergies and genetic modification—and with recipes, yet. Everyone who loves peanut butter will want to read this book (personally, I prefer crunchy).

Aug 7 2012

Food Politics at the Department of State: Culinary Diplomacy

I’ve been sent a copy of the Department of State’s Diplomatic Culinary Partnership Initiative. called “Setting the Table for Diplomacy.”

Its mission statement:

The Diplomatic Culinary Partnerships initiative builds on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s vision of “smart power” diplomacy, which embraces the use of a full range of diplomatic tools, by utilizing food, hospitality and the dining experience as ways to enhance how formal diplomacy is conducted, cultivating cultural understanding and strengthening bilateral relationships through the shared experience of food.

I particularly like the idea of “using food as a foundation for public diplomacy programs to learn about different cultures and discuss important related issues such as nutrition, sustainability and food security.”

Yes!

Everybody eats.  This is my kind of diplomacy.

 

Mar 19 2012

New books on ways of eating, American and not

Jonathan Deutsch and Natalya Murakhver, editors, They Eat That?  A Cultural Encyclopedia of Weird and Exotic Food from around the World, ABC-CLIO, 2012.

The editors, both graduates of my NYU department, got their students, colleagues, and friends to write short essays about nearly 100 foods considered weird, at least by someone.  The list includes foods that are anything but weird in other cultures—seitan, durian, nettles, haggis, huitlaloche, vegemite, but also those hardly ever available to even the most serious eaters.  On that list I would put camel, cavy, iguana, and walrus flipper.  As for what I would eat, stinky cheese, yes.  Urine, no way.  The entries put the foods in cultural context and provide references.  Most come with recipes.  This book is fun.

Tracie McMillan, The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields and the Dinner Table, Scribner 2012.

McMillan followed the footsteps of Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed) and went to work at low wage jobs.  She has plenty to say about how hard it is to do them and how little they pay; she provides balance sheets to prove it.  Like Ehrenreich, she’s a good writer and her stories are compelling.  Eating well in America, she says, is difficult—bordering on impossible—for people who don’t have much money.

Feb 7 2008

Welcome to the year of the rat

Thanks to Fred Tripp for making sure that no serious foodie misses yesterday’s Wall Street Journal report on eating rats in Viet Nam. Here is the food system connection: Because so many Vietnamese birds were destroyed to prevent the spread of bird flu, people are eating snakes and cats instead. With these predators out of the way, the rat population has exploded and lunch seems an excellent use for them. Interesting idea. A barbecue stand in Washington Square anyone?