Currently browsing posts about: Food-culture
John Germov & Lauren Williams, eds. A Sociology of Food & Nutrition: The Social Appetite, 4th ed. Oxford University Press, 2017.
I know about this book mainly because my NYU colleague Marie Bragg and I have a chapter in it, “The politics of government dietary advice: the influence of Big Food.”
The book is meant to introduce readers to the field of food sociology through themes. It divides chapters by various authors into three sections: the social appetite, the food system, and food culture.
Its aim is
to make the sociological study of food relevant to a multidisciplinary readership, particularly those across health, nutrition, and social science disciplines. Our further aim is to reach a broad readership so that those interested in food, nutrition, and wider issues of food production, distribution, and consumption can discover the relevance of studying the social context of food.
The chapters plunge into the controversies and come with summaries of the main points, sociological reflections, discussion questions, and ideas for further investigation.
The sociological reflection on Marie’s and my chapter says:
Dietary guidelines and food guides, although apparently “science-based,” are created by individuals who serve on government committees and are subject to the same kinds of influences as any other members of society. Because the food industry is the sector of society with the strongest stake in the outcome of dietary guidance, government agencies and committee members are strongly lobbied by industry. Controversy over dietary advice derives from the contradiction between the health-promoting goals of public health and the profit-making goals of food companies.
If you are looking for a quick introduction to food sociology, here’s a place to begin. The editors are Australian academics so there are plenty of Australian examples.
If you are in New York or can get to it, go see Julia Cho’s play, Aubergine (“Eggplant”) at Playwrights Horizons.
Ignore the tepid review in the New York Times. The reviewer, Charles Isherwood, doesn’t seem to be either a foodie or a food studies scholar.
If you are either or both, or just open to the deeper meanings of food in society, you will get the point of this play right away: the emotional significance of remembrance of meals past.
The acting is terrific (even Isherwood says so). The characters are warm, funny, foodie, and deeply touching. And you don’t even have to speak Korean to understand them.
It’s only playing until October 2. Aubergine deserves an appreciative audience.
And while you are there, keep your eye on that turtle. No spoiler here: you will need to see the play to understand its role (it should get acting credit).
Here in Australia, yesterday was Australia Day (somewhat equivalent to the American Fourth of July) although many prefer to call it Invasion Day, Survival Day, or Day of Mourning and to make it an occasion for protest. Hence: the fuss over the what Google Australia posted as the day’s Google Doodle.
Newcomer that I am, I celebrated with some Glebe Street gelato:
Can’t read the sign?
“Celebrate Australia Day with Vegemite Gelato on toast!”
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.
While I’m thinking about trade negotiations, I came across this example of why trade negotiators fight over every word.
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?
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!
Sandra M. Gilbert. The Culinary Imagination: From Myth to Modernity. WW Norton, 2014
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.