The Race against Rot: Gastronomica’s New Editorial Team Weighs In on Saving Food

Compiled and edited by Anelyse M. Weiler, Sarah Elton, and Josée Johnston.

Gastronomica’s incoming editorial team gathered in Toronto this past fall to discuss the future of food studies and pressing issues for food scholars today. The new team explored the theme of “saving food” as part of a public roundtable hosted by the University of Toronto’s Culinaria Research Centre. What questions should researchers and food studies practitioners be prioritizing to address the issue of saving food? What are some of the creative new ways of exploring the field? What needs saving, who ought to do it, and what should be left to molder away? To hear what Gastronomica’s new editorial team thinks about these issues in food studies, we asked (some of) them to weigh in on four questions, including a fun glimpse into how they “save” food in their own kitchens.

  • Simone Cinotto (Associate Professor of Modern History at the University of Gastronomic
  • Paula Johnson (Curator at Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History)
  • Eric C. Rath (Professor of History at the University of Kansas)
  • Krishnendu Ray (Associate Professor and Chair of Nutrition and Food Studies at New
    York University)
  • Signe Rousseau (Lecturer in Critical Literacy and Professional Communication at the University of Cape Town)
  • Amy Trubek (Professor in Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Vermont)
  • Robert Valgenti (Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Lebanon Valley College)
  • Helen Zoe Veit (Associate Professor of History at Michigan State University)

What does food need to be saved from?

Johnson: Imagine a world without field plows and fishing boats, cauldrons and cooking tools, family recipes and restaurant menus, culinary correspondence and kitchen stories from places and people in the past. That world, bereft of the historical material culture of food, would be a dismal and oblivious place without tangible connections to the ideas, innovations, and understandings about food, in the broadest sense, from those who came before us. Curators, librarians, and archivists are savers. Through collecting, preserving, and providing public access to rich materials, we help researchers discover treasure troves of data
about who we are, where we’ve been, and what has mattered over time. Our collections continue to reveal new insights on diverse aspects of food history—cultural, social, political, environmental, technological. They provide evidence of people and places that might otherwise be forgotten. And because they are saved for perpetuity, we can only imagine how new
technologies, such as the experimental (emerging?) field of proteomics, might uncover new layers of insight through the analysis of proteins left on the literal pages of history.

Rath: Not all historians recognize the importance of food, though! Food needs to be saved from its perceived banality. It’s not just consumers who take food for granted by expecting seventy brands of breakfast cereal in the supermarket and watermelon in the winter. For far too long historians, particularly in my field of Japanese history, have simply ignored food unless it is relevant to crises such as famine or war. Yet, food is always central to daily life and it needs to be made central to history in the same way that gender, race, or class cannot be ignored.

Rousseau: On the other hand, food needs to be saved from being fetishized, and wasted.

Read more

Spring 2019, Volume 19 Number 1


Editor’s Letter | Melissa L. Caldwell

Legalism in the Kitchen: Relativizing the Ethics and Performance of Gastronomic Expertise | Michael Herzfeld

Potatoes and the Pursuit of Happiness | Rebecca Earle

On Apples and Anarchy | Kathryn R. Falvo

Life below the Bombing: How the Champagne Caves Saved the City of Reims, France, and Its People during World War I | Karl J. Peterson

Digging In | David Haeselin

The Hansik Globalization Campaign: A Malaysian Critique | Gaik Cheng Khoo

Old Sake in New Glasses: Reframing Japan’s National Drink through Global Wine Culture | Chuanfei Wang

Re-examining the Contested Good: Proceedings from a Postgraduate Workshop on Good Food | Katharina Graf, Anna Cohen, Brandi Simpson Miller, and Francesca Vaghi

Making Good Meat: From Draft Animal to Local Speciality | Anna Colquhoun

A Good Death: Livestock Slaughter as Alternative Food System Advocacy | Megan Larmer

Impure Foods: Entanglements of Soil, Food, and Human Health in Bangladesh | Camelia Dewan

Global Food Systems and Local Diets | Mehroosh Tak

Children’s Food: Material and Discursive Contradictions | Francesca Vaghi

The Price of Homemade Bread | Katharina Graf

Can the Food of Our Enemies Become Good Food? | Claudia Prieto-Piastro

The Moral and Ethical Aspects of Gold Coast Foodways | Brandi Simpson Miller

Postcolonial Macau: Race, Morality, Taste, and Power | Mukta Das

Liquid Power: Advanced Orientalism and True Taste in Japanese Whiskies | Merry White

The Fermented Man: A Year on the Front Lines of a Food Revolution
By Derek Dellinger, reviewed by William Barton

Meat Culture
Edited by Annie Potts, reviewed by Nathan Poirer

Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook
By Alice Waters, reviewed by Todd C. Ream

Interpreting Food at Museums and Historic Sites
By Michelle Moon, reviewed by Mark S. Warner


Gastronomica/SOAS Distinguished Lecture: Re-thinking Street Food


Since 2014, Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies has partnered with University of London’s SOAS Food Studies Centre to co-sponsor a Distinguished Lecture Series for leading scholars, students, journalists, practitioners and members of the public to engage in critical conversations about the nature of food, the interconnectivity of contemporary food systems, the role of food in daily life, and emerging trends in food studies.

In advance of the next event on Thursday, January 17, Krishnendu Ray, a member of Gastronomica’s incoming editorial collective and Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at NYU, previews his lecture, “Re-thinking Street Food.”

Consideration of street food in the contemporary world draws attention to the cities of the Global South, where some of the most interesting food is from the street. This new focus can change the politics and poetics of good taste. It has the capacity to decolonize palatal and philosophical expectations of gastronomy that have come to dominate the field. And it also marks the transition from the twentieth-century welfare politics to an unchartered world of micro-entrepreneurship, risk and precarity in the twenty-first century. Based on a case study in Delhi, India I show how democracy works at the ground-level of the marketplace and suggest that rather than eliminating street vending, a better pathway to a livable city would be a nuanced balancing of the laws, which can account for livelihoods of poor people in the short- and the medium-run, along with the liveliness of cities for all, allowing a slow, fruitful traffic in life-sustaining activities on the street. The challenge is to find ways to integrate the life of the foot and pedal with the inanimately powered wheel in the last mile—which is what we call a neighborhood—in a livable city.

rayKrishnendu Ray is the Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Nutrition and Food Studies at New York University and a member of Gastronomica’s incoming editorial collective, which will will assume editorial leadership of the journal in January 2019, following the conclusion of Editor Lissa Caldwell’s tenure. Ray was a faculty member and the Associate Dean of Liberal Arts at The Culinary Institute of America. He is the author of The Migrant’s Table (2004), The Ethnic Restaurateur (2016), and the co-editor of Curried Cultures: Globalization, Food and South Asia (2012). He is currently the President of the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS).

The lecture will be held on January 17, 2019 from 6:15-9:00 PM in the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS, University of London. The event is free and open to the public. If you would like to attend the event please register. Online registration