Editor’s Letter, Summer 2019

from Gastronomica 19:2

We talked a lot about eggs this month, after we decided to feature them on our first cover. Eggs feature in all of the food traditions that show up on the tables of our new Editorial Collective. Hard-boiled, then fried and smothered in a rich, tomato gravy, they become an egg curry. Kneaded into a hard flour, then rolled out and cut or filled, they are pasta. Nudged gently in a pan with good butter, they are an omelet. They are also a good metaphor to think with.

Eggs are re-birth, that is, new birth from old. This issue marks the very first produced by a new Editorial Collective. We are fifteen scholars and writers at different stages in our careers (a dozen eggs with several extras). We work around the world in a broad range of scholarly homes and disciplines: large and small universities, a museum, public and private colleges, research centers, food studies departments, and nutrition programs. Here is our goal: we expect to maintain a collective that balances academic and geographic perspectives and upholds high standards of racial, sexual orientation, gender, class, and age diversities.

Collective editing is new to Gastronomica, but the journal itself, by now, has a history which traces that of the world of food studies itself. “Since its inception as Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture in 2001,” writes outgoing editor Melissa L. Caldwell, “Gastronomica has been the go-to journal for important conversations about food.” We agree. Gastronomica, more than any other journal, magazine, or digital portal, can and should represent the space where the breadth of academic scholarship on food cultures meets a public increasingly interested in questions of food, gastronomy, and the culinary arts. With a long history of accessible scholarship, excellent production values, and varied, long-form writing, Gastronomica is uniquely positioned to enable food scholars to interact with our profession and the public to engage directly with the insights of food studies. We believe that a collectively edited Gastronomica can represent the outward face of our field and that an editorial collective can best unite a diverse range of academic voices from different disciplinary perspectives on a global scale, while also offering a venue for public voices to engage with scholars.

In the Summer 2019 issue (a special issue we are calling “Saving Food”), we will introduce more of the features, organization, and vision of a collective Gastronomica. This issue, however, is our opportunity to listen to new voices, past editors, and former editorial board members. For this issue, we highlight “New Voices” (including students, junior faculty, innovative activists, emerging artists, and starting food practitioners) to identify exciting new areas of inquiry, methods, forms of presentation, and approaches. In the “Research Articles” section, Sarah Elton reimagines food studies by taking a posthumanist, transcendental approach; Leigh Chavez-Bush suggests foretelling the future of food in the way the work of chefs is expressed in contemporary media ecology; Miranda Brown recovers a forgotten tradition of cheesemaking in southern China, thus challenging popular assumptions about dairy-free traditional Chinese cuisine; Mary Beth Mills revisits the notions of authenticity and commodification by looking at how identities are staged at culinary schools for tourists in Thailand. In the “Reflection Pieces” section, food stylist Don Macey self-investigates the ethics of killing animals just for the sake of photographing them; Jessica Gigot urges going beyond food as science and art to include the emotional and moral realms food invokes, something she calls a “poetics of food”; Henna Garrison calls for new food studies to combine scholarly methodology with the making and the multisensual experience of food. Rick Halpern’s photo essay takes us inside the Muslim Quarter, or Huimin Jie, in Xi’an. In black-and-white clarity, his photos capture the gastronomic vibrancy of street life. All of these diverse contributions, we believe, introduce novel perspectives and sensibilities.

At the same time, we recognize that we are new eggs in a basket—that new life hatches from old. As we consider the future of the study of food, we look also to the past, reflecting on how the journal has provided a place for so many people, within and beyond the academy, to think critically about food history and cultures. We turned to our editors emeriti: Darra Goldstein and Melissa L. Caldwell. In an oral history conversation, collective member Simone Cinotto asks them to elucidate their editorial visions and, based on their experience, to think about what new voices may be asking and answering. We also asked past members of editorial boards to write a letter, email, text, or tweet to new food studies practitioners. What are the emerging new questions? What older avenues of inquiry still need following? And, to introduce ourselves individually, we plunged into the back issues to identify some of our favorite past submissions. If you would like to read these past issues, you can find them available online at Gastronomica’s website, http://gcfs.ucpress.edu/, where they will be freely accessible through July 2019.