Editor’s Letter, Winter 2022

From Gastronomica 22.4

Editor’s Letter

“Decline, decline, decline. I’m sick of that word,” was the waterman’s gruff response to my question about the downward trend in annual oyster harvests. It was the early 1980s and I was interviewing a skipjack captain1 at a commercial landing as part of my first job in public history. Fresh out of grad school, I was leading a research and documentation project on the history of local fisheries at the Calvert Marine Museum, a regional maritime museum on the Chesapeake Bay, in Maryland. The project, funded by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, was designed to document the working lives of watermen, so-called because they “follow the water,” harvesting the seasonal round of resources in the bay and its complex network of tributaries.2 Called an “immense protein factory” by Baltimore writer H. L. Mencken,3 the Chesapeake’s long history of spectacular hauls of oysters, crabs, clams, finfish, and terrapin was definitely in decline by the 1980s. A combination of pollution and environmental degradation, ruthlessly efficient harvesting technologies, and aggressive harvesting to meet consumer demands had led to the decline and depletion of species like striped bass (rockfish) and oysters, two of the bay’s culinary stars. A major tenet underlying the project itself was that we were witnessing the end of something, the end of viable commercial fisheries—known as “the water business”—on the bay. The museum, which houses collections of gear and workboats as well as aquaria showcasing various marine species, was well positioned to record the twilight of these historically and culturally significant industries. Indeed, the project revealed that rockfish and oysters weren’t the only species in decline. Watermen felt endangered too.

Despite the downward trend borne out by statistics, life went on aboard workboats, in seafood packing houses, and in watermen’s communities. In interviews, many locals preferred to take a long view, describing the current state of things as part of a pattern of abundance and scarcity that had characterized the fisheries for generations. If we were in a valley, just wait until the peaks of plenty returned. And I struggled, too, to reconcile the trajectory of decline with what I encountered every single day: spectacularly beautiful expanses of water observed from landings, bridges, beaches, and boat decks. Where were the rusty pipes dumping sewage into the water? Where were the factories and chemical dumping sites that would account for the declining water quality? Where could I see the noxious processes that were polluting the water and decimating the bay’s seafood resources? That’s when I learned about non-point-source pollution, the widespread run-off from chemically treated lawns and agricultural fields, livestock and poultry waste, highways, suburban parking lots, and similar impermeable surfaces that permitted oil and other pollutants to enter the watershed. The insidious nature of non-point-source pollution brought home the complexities of ecosystems and the arduous work of trying to change human behaviors to protect the marine environment and coastal communities when all seemed fine on the surface. While my interviews touched on these issues, the stories watermen and their families were eager to tell were about the centrality of water, and the water business, to their lives.4 The resulting archive teems with remarkable narratives of resilience and innovation as watermen pushed hard against the notion that this was the end of something, that the decline was real.

A decade later, I moved to a position at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, an hour’s drive away, but still within the massive watershed of the Chesapeake. When I joined the “Ocean Planet” exhibition team at the National Museum of Natural History as an adviser on fishing communities, the context for concern became global. This project coincided with the 1992 moratorium on cod fishing in the formerly productive waters of the North Atlantic, a shattering event in the lives of fishermen in the maritime provinces. The moratorium came fifteen years after international fleets of highly efficient factory trawlers had been banned from the fishing grounds, but still too late to undo the damage. By the 1990s, the decline was deemed irreversible and in fact six cod populations had collapsed.5 Canadian fishermen paid the price. Amid waves of angry protests, one Newfoundlander created art. Dan Murphy, forced from fishing, began carving what the death of the fishery looked like to him: a carved codfish lying in a wooden coffin.6

While fishing and coastal communities brought me into the world of water, my curatorial work shifted toward food history in the 1990s. The lens of food provided substantially more opportunities to consider the fundamental role of water to critical issues in food studies, such as food production and sustainability; nutrition, health, and the harms of unequal access; food systems and economic policies that are at odds with environmental protection; and the impacts of climate change on global water resources. Now, as we stumble further into the twenty-first century,more people around the world are experiencing firsthand the acute impacts of water—flooding, droughts, rising sea levels, dried-up rivers and lakes, decimation (way beyond decline) of wild fish populations, noxious drinking water and dire health consequences, commercial and politically driven competition for fewer water resources. Within this context, the Gastronomica collective determined that the time was right to launch a special Call for Papers to encourage submissions on water through the lens of food. We left the CFP broad and vague, hoping to inspire a wide range of topics and perspectives.We are notdisappointed. In fact, we aim to continue highlighting water submissions in future issues and encouragemore articles, essays, creative pieces, and visual contributions on the theme, broadly conceived. The well for insightful, relevant water work is nowhere near dry.

While fishing and coastal communities brought me into the world of water, my curatorial work shifted toward food history in the 1990s. The lens of food provided substantially more opportunities to consider the fundamental role of water to critical issues in food studies, such as food production and sustainability; nutrition, health, and the harms of unequal access; food systems and economic policies that are at odds with environmental protection; and the impacts of climate change on global water resources. Now, as we stumble further into the twenty-first century,more people around the world are experiencing firsthand the acute impacts of water—flooding, droughts, rising sea levels, dried-up rivers and lakes, decimation (way beyond decline) of wild fish populations, noxious drinking water and dire health consequences, commercial and politically driven competition for fewer water resources. Within this context, the Gastronomica collective determined that the time was right to launch a special Call for Papers to encourage submissions on water through the lens of food. We left the CFP broad and vague, hoping to inspire a wide range of topics and perspectives.We are notdisappointed. In fact, we aim to continue highlighting water submissions in future issues and encouragemore articles, essays, creative pieces, and visual contributions on the theme, broadly conceived. The well for insightful, relevant water work is nowhere near dry.

Under the heading “Changes in the Water,” four articles look at the impacts of environmental change on particular places, communities, resources, and foods. Chanelle Dupuis writes about communities in the Peruvian Amazon for whom local waters have always been and remain essential to their livelihoods, sense of identity, and culture. Dupuis’ research reveals how changes in the smell of surrounding waters, detected and described by Indigenous communities, has emerged as an indicator of environmental change. She discusses the association between the increase of putrid smells with pollution and contamination of the Nanay River, as industrial and consumerist practices in the Amazon continue to degrade water quality and affect the quality of life. She argues that changes in the sensory landscape are nontrivial and indicate serious disruptions of basic health and, importantly, spiritual connections with water.

Rebecca Irons writes from South America as well, from the coast of Peru, where she explores the underlying politics of ceviche and Peru’s gastronomic revolution. As an official part of the country’s national heritage, and a candidate for UNESCO designation of intangible heritage, the tension between the gastrotourism-based approach to ceviche and the history of the dish as prepared according to local practice reveals deep fissures in Peruvian society. With historical links between raw fish and cholera, the participants in Peru’s globally recognized gastronomic ascent seek to distance their ceviche from any sense of coastal communities that are associated with disease, dirt, poverty, and nonwhite handlers. This study also looks at how the rise of microplastics in the world’s oceans presents an additional health-related concern that is still playing out among advocates for a national dish that has already turned its back on history.

Dawn Starin’s article “Pirogues to Paradise?” explores the global politics of fish and fishing, and the desperation faced by traditional fishers in The Gambia, a small country on the west coast of Africa. In an all-too familiar pattern, Gambian fishermen, who have been struggling for years, have been effectively put out of business by highly efficient international trawlers working off the coast. The ocean that supported generations of Gambian fishermen and communities is now perceived as just an escape route toward a better life elsewhere. Starin foregrounds the tales of desperate Gambians who have taken to the open ocean in their pirogues—small, open, wooden boats—heading toward Europe. Many do not survive, but others believe the risks are justified. These themes of small-scale fishermen up against a global economy built on the exploitation of ocean resources and without regard to people of color who have little political power continue to hasten the decline of species and the despair of coastal communities.

Holly Brause, whose essay rounds out the “Changes in the Water” section, is looking at water scarcity and heritage crops in New Mexico, where she is researching the future of the state’s chile industry. This iconic crop, in all its varieties and hyperlocal nuances, is essential to New Mexican cuisine, identity, and culture. While factors such as international competition, labor issues, disease, and pests have negatively affected the industry over several decades, the lack of water for irrigation is the major, and infinitely more complex, problem to solve.

Like other states in the American West, New Mexico is suffering from an extensive and devastating drought, an ongoing crisis that deepened in the summer of 2022. Without adequate winter snowpacks or natural rainfalls, water allocations from shared sources like the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers are being renegotiated and reduced, putting crops, livestock, and livelihoods at risk. Brause describes how chile farmers in New Mexico are adopting measures such as water rationing, letting land lie fallow, and investing in more efficient irrigation technologies to survive. Yet she warns that such measures can have unintended consequences; the all-important taste of different varieties of chiles can be affected by changes to the land, their terroir. The impacts of the drought on New Mexico’s chiles, cuisines, and communities are multiplying and the uncertainty of a future without water weighs heavily. While Brause writes there is no easy answer, she is certain that protecting heritage crops like chiles—including how they taste—will need “imagination, dedication, vision, and collaboration.”

The issue’s second section, “Drinking Water,” includes three articles on that most basic compound essential to maintaining life and health. The authors discuss aspects of water for drinking in New York, Tokyo, and Phoenix, and explore the extraordinary innovations, engineering, and planning behind the quest for safe, reliable, and tasty water for human consumption. James Edward Malin’s “Give Us Seltzer That We May Drink” provides a sobering look at the history of drinking water in New York City in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with particular focus on the horrendous conditions endured by Jewish immigrants living in the city’s tenements. Disease was rampant, and deaths from waterborne bacteria were common. Discrimination was also rampant and Jewish neighborhoods were denied the infrastructure and safeguards provided to the city’s wealthy and elite populace. The arrival of seltzer—bottled, carbonated water—stanched the flow of sickness and helped improve overall health. This story of innovation and resilience underlies the fierce loyalty Jewish New Yorkers accord seltzer and its status as a cultural icon.

The second article in this section comes to us from Tokyo and Gastronomica collective member James Farrer, who takes us on a voyage of discovery on the Kanda River, revealing how centuries of engineering have made the river a viable source of municipal drinking water. While working with a film crew, Farrer encounters the canal structures and deep tunnel built to control the river’s flow. Farrer’s former sense of the river as an unimportant eyesore to his understanding of its extraordinary history and utility reinforces the notion that the surface of water never tells the whole story of what lies below.

From Tokyo we return to the American West, specifically Phoenix, Arizona, where Christy Spackman and her co-authors Marisa Manheim and Shomit Barua present their research findings from a project they developed to engage citizens in shaping the future of municipal water in the city. As cities like Phoenix grapple with water scarcities now, and look into the future, questions such as how municipal water should taste may be left on the margins. The researchers developed a series of activities to engage diverse visitors at an exhibition about water resources and the future and share both the research design and results in their fascinating contribution.

The “First Person” section flows away from the water theme and into personal narratives that connect deeply to themes of family, labor, ethics and choices, and artistic expression. In “Don’t wait for me for lunch,” Camille Bégin traverses across generations and continents, family recipes and wartime deprivations, the end and beginning of life, all as she wades with intention and care through her family’s extensive archive. The stimulus for this archival journey is best told by Bégin herself, but it’s not giving anything away to say that she and her mother shared the goal of making “something of all the stuff” in the family archive as COVID-19 and other circumstances limited their mobility. Bégin shares what the archive holds in terms of personal recipe books kept by three generations of women living in Paris, Algeria, and, for a short time, Lebanon. The collective cuisines and memories contained in the books provide a view into her family’s lived experiences in food. The main focus of Bégin’s article, however, is her great grandfather’s letters, written while he traveled for his work as an inspector of the French lycées (secondary schools funded by the government) abroad after World War II. The letters, which serve as his travel journals, included memorable trips to Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, as well as French West Africa in 1948 and 1949. He wrote of his encounters with people and places, but his comments on food raised questions that Bégin explores. This food-centric family history is a labor of love and survival; if there are more such treasures in this remarkable archive, we can only hope she will continue making “something of all the stuff.”

We often hear about the challenges of farming and labor in the United States, but seldom in the words of the farmer herself. In “How the Work Gets Done,” Margaret Ann Snow describes the small, organic vegetable farm in Alabama that she and her husband own and, how, over many years, they have contended with finding reliable and capable workers to help plant, cultivate, harvest, wash, and store various crops. Almost a decade ago, they decided to participate in the H2A visa program, which allows guest workers from other countries to live and work on American farms on a temporary basis.7

Snow’s essay describes how, over nearly a decade, she and her family have employed the same three farm workers and their close friends and relatives from Mexico. The genuine relationships that Snow and her family have built and nurtured with these individuals who are supporting their families in Mexico through their labor, contrast with reports about exploitation and abuses of temporary workers elsewhere. She reflects on how laws that have shaped farm labor lead to questions about equity, as well as what it means to be a responsible employer in American agriculture.

Rounding out this section, Amy Finley writes about living her values. In this case, considering the environmental costs of meat production and making a different choice—rabbit. Finley takes us along as she encounters vociferous opponents in the United States to the idea, practiced broadly elsewhere, that rabbits are a viable source of protein and should be more widely available and consumed. She compares the environmental cost of raising rabbits to raising beef and makes a case for Americans to become more comfortable with the environmental impacts and realities of eating meat of any kind. Finley shares the complexity of her thoughts as her convictions are put to the test.

While food stories can be found in many pages of Gastronomica, the act of storytelling frames the two contributions in the “Food and Storytelling” section of this issue. In “Mieux” by Oliver Pagani, we are taken into an imaginative tale based on one of Aesop’s fables and related folklore involving the practice of beating walnut trees to encourage growth and increased production. Within the setting of a nunnery in the Iraty beech forest of southwest France (Basque Country), an ancient walnut tree is brutalized by a group of men while Mieux, a nun who cannot bear to witness the violence, retreats to a cave where she regularly makes a highly prized type of cheese. At day’s end, she emerges to find the wounded tree as well as a visiting priest with whom she begins a conversation. Pagani engages the reader in this richly sensory narrative and then rewards us with a recipe for a dish that evokes spring in the countryside of Mieux’s tale.

Migration stories that also involve food are highly valued among food studies scholars and wider audiences alike, and “Fried Goose Eggs” by Sandra Trujillo rounds out this issue in a memorable way. Trujillo weaves together bits of tales told by the author’s T´ıas about Grandpa Manuel, nicknamed El Tacaño, The Stingy One, because of his actions as the family migrated years ago, on foot, from California to Colorado. She links that story to a more recent visit to El Tacaño, proving that the nickname still applies. Yet the visit yields two giant goose eggs that are exclaimed over and consumed with delight as more stories about food and family are exchanged. Recipe included.

In many ways this is an extraordinary issue of Gastronomica, and I congratulate the authors for their excellent and marvelously varied contributions. The reviewers— Noah Allison, Natasha Bunzl, Noha Fikry, Julia Fine, Kashyapi Ghosh, and Peter A. Kopp—deserve tremendous thanks and recognition for providing such insightful reviews of new scholarship. Finally, I wish to thank members of the collective, and especially Managing Editor Jessica Carbone, who keeps this ship of food scholars on course. And, speaking of which, please consider sharing your research and writing on food, water, environmental change, and related topics for future issues. There is no decline (decline, decline) in our interest to support work on water.

—Paula J. Johnson, for the Gastronomica Editorial Collective, Port Republic,
Maryland, August 2022

1. Skipjacks are traditional wooden workboats used for dredging oysters under sail in the Chesapeake Bay. They are the last commercial fleet to work under sail power in the United States.

2. The term “waterman” refers to those who harvest seafood and make a living on the water in the Chesapeake Bay. The term is rarely used in other maritime regions of the United States. English exploration and settlement along the bay in what are now the states of Maryland and Virginia dates from the sixteenth century, including Sir Walter Raleigh’s expedition in 1585. “Watermen” in England referred to those who handled cargo and passenger boats on rivers, canals, and other waterways. The Company of Watermen & Lightermen of the River Thames, for example, was founded in 1514. https://watermenscompany.com. The gendered term as used in the Chesapeake reflects the fact that the vast majority of the seafood harvesters and boat owner/operators in the bay are male.

3. H. L. Mencken, Happy Days (New York: Knopf, 1940), chap. 4, “The Baltimore of the
Eighties.” Kindle.

4. The research and interviews were used for the volume Working the Water: The Commercial Fisheries of Maryland’s Patuxent River, edited by Paula J. Johnson (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1988).

5. Ransom A. Myers, Jeffrey A. Hutchings, and Nicholas J. Barrowman, “Why Do Fish Stocks
Collapse: The Example of Cod in Atlantic Canada,” Ecological Applications, 7.1: (1997):
91–106. Also see Jenn Thornhill Verma, “30 Years after the Moratorium, What Have We Really
Learned about Cod and Science?” CBC News, July 10, 2022. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/

6. One of Murphy’s cod coffin carvings was featured in the exhibition and catalog, Ocean Planet: Writing and Images of the Sea, edited by Peter Benchley and Judith Gradwohl (New York: Harry N. Abrams and Times Mirror Magazines, Inc., in association with the Smithsonian Institution, 1995), 166. The object was added to the permanent collections of the National Museum of American History and has been on display since 2009 in the exhibition On the Water: Stories of Maritime America. https://americanhistory.si.edu/on-the-water/fishingliving/ commercial-fishers/atlantic-cod/what-happened

7. The scope of the program is significant. In 2021, over 317,000 visas were certified for seasonal farm jobs in the United States, per the Wilson Center. http://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/look-h-2agrowth- and-reform-2021-and-2022

Winter 2022, Volume 22 Number 4

Editorial Letter | Paula J. Johnson


The Smell of Water: A Liquid Witness to Environmental Change in the Amazon | Chanelle Dupuis

Ceviche Revolution: Coastal Cholera, Marine Microplastics, and (Re)Fashioning Identities in Postcolonial Peruvian Gastropolitics | Rebecca Irons

Pirogues to Paradise? | Dawn Starin

The Uncertain Future of New Mexico Chile: Can a Heritage Crop Adapt to Water Scarcity? | Holly Brause


Give Us Seltzer, That We May Drink: How Soda Water became a Jewish Icon | James Edward Malin

Seeing the Kanda River | James Farrer

Tasting Water at Canal Convergence 2021: An Experiment in Embodied Remembering | Christy Spackman, Marisa Manheim, and Shomit Barua


“Don’t wait for me for lunch”: A Voyage and Memory Collage through a Family Food Archive | Camille Bégin

How the Work Gets Done | Margaret Ann Snow

Concerned about Climate? You Should be Eating Rabbit | Amy Finley


Mieux | Oliver Pagani

Fried Goose Eggs | Sandra Trujillo


Caribeños at the Table: How Migration, Health, and Race Intersect in New York City, by Melissa Fuster
reviewed by Noah Allison

Front of the House, Back of the House: Race and Inequality in the Lives of Restaurant Workers, by Eli Revelle Yano Wilson
reviewed by Natasha Bunzl

Moveable Gardens: Itineraries and Sanctuaries of Memory, edited by Virginia D. Nazarea and Terese Gagnon
reviewed by Noha Fikry

Imperial Wine: How the British Empire Made Wine’s New World, by Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre
reviewed by Julia Fine

A Taste of My Life: A Memoir in Essays and Recipes, by Chitrita Banerji
reviewed by Kashyapi Ghosh

Brewing a Boycott: How a Grassroots Coalition Fought Coors and Remade American Consumer Activism, by Allyson P. Brantley
reviewed by Peter A. Kopp

Editor’s Letter, Fall 2022

From Gastronomica 22.3

Digesting Tensions and Change

It has been way too long since we entered the so-called “new normal” life under a global pandemic. At Gastronomica, our editorial letters have documented the inevitable influence of these transitions, with each new issue chronicling how our worlds continue to be transformed. This editorial letter, alas, maintains what seems to be now a tradition. COVID-19 continues to be an ongoing presence in our lives, even as we seek to return to our “old” normal. Yet, it is not at the top of the news cycle. The War in Ukraine, which began back in February 2022, has been sharing the news spotlight for some time. Yet, more keeps on coming. Writing from the United States, our attention has diverged to concerns over the impending erosion of women’s reproductive rights, painfully in contrast with the inertia in the face of increasingly common mass shootings. We are also being reminded of the fragile state of democracy. Violence, war, and assaults on reproductive rights form part of a growing list of ongoing issues, seemingly expanding the more time I take to finish this letter. Organizing this issue amid this ongoing ambiance of social distress had the potential to serve as a welcome distraction. While some of the pieces contained within did provide a needed pause, conflict was indeed top of mind as I attempted to put together this puzzle.

This issue of Gastronomica brings together contributions that make us think of the tense intersection between permanence and transformation, or tradition against innovation. We are reminded of the discomforts inherent in change, and how food— much like ourselves—is always adapting and changing, despite our wishes or attempts for preservation. The issue organization recreates some of this push and pull, intertwining thematic sections that present forced or intentional changes and adaptation with those that present a place for rest from conflict, of imagined immutability and resistance to change.

We open with Conflict and Transformation, with articles that have tension at their core, discussing change through conflict, innovation, and movement. The article, “The War in Ukraine and Food Security in Eastern Europe” by Eszter Krasznai Kovács, Agata Bachórz, Natasha Bunzl, Diana Mincyte, Fabio Parasecoli, Simone Piras, and Mihai Varga is a timely discussion of the ongoing conflict. The piece resulted from a panel discussion held at New York University in March 2022, when the conflict started to unfold. The authors presented on the potential food security consequences and the refugee crisis we can now see in the region and beyond. The resulting article expands on this discussion by unpacking the regional capacities to address the crisis, the role of the European Union, and the importance of civil society “bottom-up” responses, while also tackling what the authors refer to as a “popular misconception” of Eastern Europe being “backwards” or belonging to “Russia’s sphere of influence.” In doing so, the piece brings a contemporary view of adaptations forced by conflict, while we continue to see how the situation develops in the region, as the full ramifications of the conflict are yet to be known at the time of writing this letter.

In “Designing the Future of Polish Food: How Cosmopolitan Tastemakers Prototype a National Gastronomy,” by Mateusz Halawa and Fabio Parasecoli, we continue our explorations in Eastern Europe. In a serendipitous conversation with the previous article, Halawa and Parasecoli further enrich our perception of the region through an ethnographic study of tastemakers in Poland and the pre-Ukraine conflict identity tensions in the region. The article discusses change as driven by global food culture, leading to tensions between innovation and tradition. Halawa and Parasecoli explore these tensions through innovations in wine, food, and vodka, via the work of tastemakers and the lens of design thinking. While the authors provide us with an afterword on how the situation has changed in response to COVID-19, it will be up to us, the readers, to be on the lookout for the current work of these tastemakers, and if and how this will continue to change, as the conflict in Ukraine and ensuing refugee crisis continues to unfold.

The next two contributions included in this first thematic section move us from the global to the personal. “Eating America” by Joanne Jacobson is a memoir of change, where food choices are presented as an act of rebellion. The story is rooted in conflict, opening with food traditions in Passover—the Jewish holiday that brings remembrance of slavery and liberation, a time of transition. This sense of liberation permeates the article, recounting rebellion against religious food laws and traditions. As Jacobson recounts from childhood memories of feasting in a local buffet, “for our family, the lush displays of shellfish and pork roasts and meat with cream sauces constituted a liberation from inheritance: a ritual feast of transgressiveness.” In this memoir, food is not shown as static or something to be preserved but as a vehicle for liberation and transgression, “a source of welcomed newness—honoring nerve and curiosity, a way into an America whose boundlessness my immigrant grandparents could not bring themselves to embrace.” The sense of rebellion is continued in the closing article for this first thematic section, with the visual piece “Tangled” by Jaina Cipriano. While not explicit in the author’s framing of the images, the themes of conflict and transformation are still salient in this contribution. It presents items we may recognize as food, transformed into inedible objects, either through the use of color or found objects, such as nails. The images evoke a sense of violence but also of unfinished digestion, in line with the author’s brief introductory text for the images, framing the use of food photography as a vehicle to delve into the author’s fear of vomiting.

The articles presented in the next grouping, Uprooted and Transformed, focus on changed foods, after having gone through a process of transformation. The section opens with “Across Time, Space, and Matter: A Panel Discussion on Food in the Hispanic World,” a contribution I co-authored with H. Rosi Song, Rebecca Earle, Lara Anderson, and Jordana Mendelson, coming from a roundtable organized in commemoration of the New York University King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center’s twenty-fifth anniversary in February 2022. The roundtable contextualizes change through movement and conflict, presenting how food is transformed using the Spanish-speaking world as a case study. Song moderated the discussion, where I had the pleasure of being in conversation with two outstanding food historians, Anderson and Earle, linking together my present-focused work in the Hispanic Caribbean with the past, through the movement of food, covering Spain and the New World, Latin America, and the space in between. This contribution reflects our commitment, in Gastronomica, to read across geographic boundaries and disciplines. It also serves to contextualize the theme of transformation and uprooting exemplified through three foods—yogurt, pineapple, and chicken—in the articles that follow.

In “Who Owns Bogurar Doi? An Ethnography of Placemaking and Craftsmanship in Bangladesh,” Ishita Dey presents an in-depth, qualitative examination of a yogurt (doi) named after Bogura, a city in northern Bangladesh. Continuing the theme of our roundtable opening this section, Dey traces placemaking of this food through its production cycle, proposing a “decolonial reading of placemaking” to “challenge the romantic notions of linking food to place,” as implied in the concept of terroir. Dey does this by examining the ecological and historic shifts resulting in this yogurt’s transformation as Bogurar doi, including the movement of the cows, preparation techniques, and the “triad of soil-water-air.”

We see the transformation of pineapple in Sebastian Ocklenburg’s meditation on “Toast Hawaii,” a German staple, much like the Hawaiian pizza in the United States, although, according to the author, less debated. Through this simple dish, a toast topped with ham, cheese, and pineapple, we are invited to think about food and movement and how such movements result in foods being transformed in our imaginations. That is, the pineapple, a fruit originally from the Americas, has been transformed into one associated with the lushness of the Pacific, in Hawaii. Ocklenburg recounts the origin of this dish and how it spurred a “Hawaii food trend” in 1950s Germany, along with an updated view of the dish today, incorporated into the national culinary imaginary. This theme of incorporation and transformation is continued in the next contribution. We move from Germany to the United States, where Matthew Meduri addresses the transformation of chicken in his essay “Immigrant Birds,” recounting the story of how Serbian fried chicken came to become part of a US-based experience in Ohio. The transformation is facilitated by movement and entrepreneurship, where a globally eaten staple, chicken, gets transformed into pohovana piletina, breaded chicken fried in lard—a Serbian staple—that then becomes the base of the Barberton chicken houses and part of the town’s identity.

From food in community and global spaces, the next section, Adapting for Others, moves us to the inter-relational and domestic. In this third thematic section, we return to the feeling of tension, through articles that address this sensation, as one driven by the need to adjust for the sake of others. Some of this is done reluctantly and some adaptations are out of love. This section opens with “The Language of Spoons” by Kristin King Gilbert, a whimsical contribution that invites us to meditate on the theme of adapting through serving others, via a server’s rationales behind gelato spoon color selections. The tension in adaptation becomes evident as Gilbert shares her reactions to the occasional “philistine” request for a bigger, “American” spoon— perhaps not unlike the one displayed in the patent drawing gracing this issue’s cover. In the end, she begrudgingly obliges, despite this choice being described as “all wrong for eating gelato.”

From spoons, we move to food adaptations, with “The ‘Worst Dinner Guest Ever’: On ‘Gut Issues’ and Epistemic Injustice at the Dinner Table” by Megan A. Dean. The piece was inspired by a Venn diagram from a 2012 post in the popular recipe blog, The Kitchn, where multiple dietary restrictions, allergies, and intolerances overlap to showcase what was called the “worst dinner guest ever.” Dean examines adaptations as part of the host–guest relationship when it comes to food allergies, intolerances, or what Dean calls “gut issues,” inviting us to think about how we view the request for accommodations, as hosts, and what influences whether we are believed, as guests with “gut issues.” Most of us have been on one or both sides of this equation. This shared experience led to extended conversations within our Editorial Collective, inspiring us to extend this article into a fuller forum within this issue. We invited a triad of responses, traversing across disciplines. First, Robert T. Valgenti extends Dean’s philosophical take with a response titled, “When Knowledge Is Not Enough.” Valgenti examines our duties as hosts “to believe in the implicit veracity of a guest’s claims about food allergies and intolerances despite the various obstacles to empirical proof.” This is followed by a response from Matthew Smith, who in “Doubtful Guests, Harassed Hosts, and the Golden Rule” adds a perspective from the realm of health history. Smith underscores hosts’ adaptations as a response to being empathetic, “thinking a little bit about what it is like navigating the world where food is not only a form of sustenance but also a threat” resulting in adapting ingredients or overall menus. And lastly, Jacques Rousseau chimes in with “Epistemic Exuberance at the Dinner Table: A Response to Megan A. Dean.” Coming from studies of ethics and logical reasoning, Rousseau provides a counterargument, asking whether Dean brings up a “non-problem,” in light of data that shows that dietary concerns are overstated and reminding us of our agency in choosing dinner companions and whether to accept invitations from hosts that would not accommodate “gut issues.” While I tend to fall into Rousseau’s camp, I appreciate how Dean’s contribution, and its responses, got me to think at a deeper level about this “non-problem,” including my own food avoidances and whether they fall within the domain of “gut issues.”

The last contribution in this section comes from Noha Fikry with “Short Breaks Are for Hot Chocolate, Long Breaks Are for Salads, Weekends Are for Baking: On Being a Graduate Student during COVID-19.” The article continues our ongoing documentation of food in the times of COVID-19. Fikry recounts her food routines, planned around a challenging, back-to-back course schedule, after the pandemic led her to starting her Canada-based doctoral degree from Egypt, in the times when teaching moved fully online. Her story reminded me of my own students at that time, some joining class and research team meetings from across the globe, at ridiculous hours of the day. I also identified, sharing the experience of having too many meetings in one day, and forgetting to schedule breakfast and/or lunch in any given day. But the piece is more than that. In Fikry’s story, while not the focus, we see a mother adapting her routine to ensure the well-being of her adult daughter, facilitating meals to be eaten within short and long breaks. Fikry eventually leaves for Canada, reminding us of the growing pain of leaving our childhood home—a pain amplified by the long distance from a move that spans across the globe. But I see something more, as an article that recounts adapting for others out of love, in the changing of an unnamed mother’s daily routine to ensure the well-being of her adult child. The feeling of nostalgia and longing carries into the last thematic section in this issue, Remembering and Preserving. Jay DiBiasio’s “Embodied Knowledge” gifts us with a beautiful moment of generational culinary knowledge transmission, ensuring the enjoyment of a famous thick pizza crust for generations to come. The moment is preserved in a photo, where a family elder is shown transmitting culinary knowledge not through written recipes, but through practice. The second contribution in this section, “Eva’s Bowl,” by Barb Webb speaks to the theme of remembering and preserving through a thrifted Pyrex bowl. The piece is a letter to Eva, the presumed previous owner of the bowl, and explores imagined memories forged with the bowl, alongside Webb’s own memories of her mother’s bowls, lost upon her death. These last two articles allow me to end this letter and issue with a feeling of nostalgia. In contrast with the violence, tension, and uncertainty conveyed in my opening, I want to end with stillness—the quietness afforded by memories preserved in a photograph and those dreamed through a bowl. In closing, I now invite you to take this journey from beginning to end. As you do, my hope is for you to appreciate the wide range of emotions evoked by the contributions making up this issue, prompting a greater appreciation of the power of food in conveying and assuaging tensions, and the role of tension, change, and adaptation in helping us explore the contexts in which foods are grown, distributed, served, and consumed.

—Melissa Fuster, for the Gastronomica Editorial Collective, New Orleans, June 2022

Fall 2022, Volume 22 Number 3

Editorial Letter | Melissa Fuster


The War in Ukraine and Food Security in Eastern Europe |
Eszter Krasznai Kovács, Agata Bachórz, Natasha Bunzl, Diana Mincyte, Fabio Parasecoli, Simone Piras, and Mihai Varga

Designing the Future of Polish Food: How Cosmopolitan Tastemakers Prototype a National Gastronomy | Mateusz Halawa and Fabio Parasecoli

Eating America | Joanne Jacobson

Tangled | Jaina Cipriano


Across Time, Space, and Matter: A Panel Discussion on Food in the Hispanic World | H. Rosi Song, Rebecca Earle, Melissa Fuster, Lara Anderson, and Jordana Mendelson

Who Owns Bogurar Doi? An Ethnography of Placemaking and Craftsmanship in Bangladesh | Ishita Dey

Toast Hawaii | Sebastian Ocklenburg

Immigrant Birds: Serbian-Style Fried Chicken in the Magic City | Matthew Meduri


The Language of Spoons | Kristin King Gilbert

The “Worst Dinner Guest Ever”: On “Gut Issues” and Epistemic Injustice at the Dinner Table | Megan A. Dean

When Knowledge Is Not Enough | Robert T. Valgenti

Doubtful Guests, Harassed Hosts, and the Golden Rule | Matthew Smith

Epistemic Exuberance at the Dinner Table: A Response to Megan A. Dean | Jacques Rousseau

Short Breaks Are for Hot Chocolate, Long Breaks Are for Salads,Weekends Are for Baking: On Being a Graduate Student during COVID-19 | Noha Fikry


Embodied Knowledge in a Family Photograph | Jay DiBiasio

Eva’s Bowl | Barb Webb


Food in Cuba: The Pursuit of a Decent Meal, by Hanna Garth
reviewed by Olivia Barnett-Naghshineh

Food Insecurity on Campus: Action and Intervention, edited by Katharine M. Broton and Clare L. Cady
reviewed by Michael Classens

Planet Palm: How Palm Oil Ended Up in Everything—and Endangered the World by Jocelyn C. Zuckerman
reviewed by Jamie Cohen

Food for the Rest of Us, directed by Caroline Cox
reviewed by Ayana Curran-Howes

L’unique et le véritable: Réputation, origine et marchés alimentaires (vers 1680–vers 1830) by Philippe Meyzie
reviewed by Rengenier C. Rittersma

How the Other Half Eats: The Untold Story of Food and Inequality in America by Priya Fielding-Singh
reviewed by Tiana Bakić Hayden

Editor’s Letter, Summer 2022

From Gastronomica 22.2

The Miracle of Castelvetro

On the morning of March 4, 2020, wine flowed from the faucets of homes in the small Italian town of Castelvetro di Modena. When residents got up to brush their teeth and wash their faces, they were greeted with a generous flow of bright red, subtly sparkling liquid with notes of ripe berries, toasted nuts, and a hint of ginger. Alarmed at first, they called town officials. As it became clear that the liquid was nothing but Lambrusco and not harmful in any way, some had a free morning tipple. Others gathered as many empty bottles and glass containers as they could find and filled them for leaner days.

The “miracle” of Castelvetro lasted about three hours. During that time, a thousand liters of the finest Lambrusco Grasparossa wine (bearing Italy’s second-highest geographical distinction) flowed from the wrong tap (albeit somewhat diluted). In the early days of COVID-19, this unusual occurrence was destined to break the drab routine of strict lockdown, perhaps even enticing speculations about a supernatural event of biblical proportions. The truth was somewhat more mundane: a faulty valve at the local winery had released the wine into the water system. But this simple explanation did not prevent news organizations around the world from reporting on Castelvetro’s intoxicating hours, nor did it lessen residents’ delight at the extraordinary phenomenon.

There was nothing unusual about the wine itself; residents had likely drunk no small amounts of Lambrusco Grasparossa and similar wines before that day. But there was something transgressive in the wine’s crossing of the iron demarcations of local plumbing, flowing uninhibited from taps usually carrying free and unlimited water. Perhaps residents also felt a sense of excitement at infringing on the winery’s commercial territory from the comfort of their bathrooms (some even called the winery to let them know how much they had bottled). And perhaps the levity many residents described was felt all the more acutely precisely because it contravened the somber reality of the pandemic. “We need odes to outlast this dry season,” writes Gregory Emilio in his poem about the Castelvetro incident in this issue. The issue assembles his poem and similar stories of boundaries crossed, of borders disrespected, of demarcations of food, established, broken, and transgressed. With the attack on the sovereign nation of Ukraine on February 24, borders have once again reached new heights of visibility. Refugees of war seek safe territory beyond their nation’s boundaries, while those who remain strive to defend their borders at all cost. As we continue in this dry season of war and pestilence, the contributions to this issue remind us of the power of unity, of forging connections across divides, and of “outlasting”—against all odds.

Despite the quasi-biblical nature of the events at Castelvetro, they did not involve utterances in tongues; nevertheless, the first section of this issue is dedicated to barriers of language. A new Gastronomica initiative calls for translations and reflections on translations in food studies. As part of this initiative, Gastronomica, the Culinaria Research Centre at the University of Toronto, and the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Kansas recently organized a roundtable on “Translating the Foods of the World.” Hosted by Krishnendu Ray, and featuring Miranda Brown, Saumya Gupta, Eric C. Rath, and Robert T. Valgenti, the event explored what it means to translate food texts, the challenges and opportunities that can be found in translation, and the ways in which translation changes in a field with texts that rely heavily on implicit and Indigenous knowledge. In a rather meta turn of events, the process of translating the roundtable into a text for this issue was itself not without its translation challenges, as the automatically generated transcript clearly struggled to pick up various speakers’ accents—a translational bias built into transcription technology. M´onica B. Ocasio Vega, by contrast, seeks to recover what is “lost in translation” in her article on the Hispanic Caribbean notion of sabor. Her article sets out to trace the “the flavorful moments in which the written language is not enough to represent the wholeness of the dish.” Often misused as a trope to stereotype Caribbean food cultures, sabor, according to Ocasio Vega, is really a multisensorial way of remembering and relating to food that makes room for erased voices and knowledge in the Puerto Rican and Caribbean culinary record. Recipes and literary representations of rice and beans, in Ocasio Vega’s reading, reveal culinary uncertainties with different relationships to sabor: they either obscure the contributions of Afro-Diasporic food knowledge and traditions or accentuate them by articulating that which cannot be grasped through language.

For those who traverse not only linguistic but also physical borders, food can offer a way of connecting across migrant communities. In “what is fried is gold,” Jason Edward Pagaduan encounters the comforts of fried food and friendship among a group of immigrant women from various parts of the Caribbean who form part of a mall walking club in Toronto. Connecting exercise with regular breakfasts at McDonald’s, the club functions as a network of informal support among first- and second-generation Canadians, whose relationship to fried and other food is characterized by notions of care and a communal “richness,” defying Western boundaries of healthy nutrition. Migrant experiences solidify into assertions of authenticity in Consuelo Carr Salas, Colleen Hammelman, and Sara Tornabene’s article on online reviews of Latin American and Caribbean restaurants in Charlotte, North Carolina. In a place of rapid demographic change, reviewers of restaurants establish authority, draw boundaries around expertise, and perform belonging to a place or group through food. Food experiences across borders have the power to reaffirm but also reshuffle webs of affinity and kinship. At the same time, the reality of migration is often erased within constructions of migrant cuisines. As Jennifer Dueck shows in “Seeing Mediterranean: How Food Journalists Re-Imagined the Middle East and North Africa in the Twentieth-Century United States,” Middle Eastern and North African migrants to the United States were conspicuously absent in the imaginary Mediterranean culinary geography created by US food journalists in the last decades of the twentieth century. While their foods were subsumed under a caucasianized cosmopolitanism, their voices remained absent from the Mediterranean discourse. Some, however, pushed back, reclaiming the Mediterranean label to assert their own culinary realities or to resist exoticization. Culinary imaginaries, Dueck teaches us, can uphold as well as erase boundaries.

Food imaginaries also form the core of three pieces that explore the possibilities of rethinking the study and history of food beyond conventional professional demarcations. A recent decision by the Italian Senate to blur the boundaries between organic farming and biodynamic agriculture prompts a reflection by Eleonora Rossero and Andrea Barbieri on the compatibility of biodynamic and scientific approaches to viticulture. Rather than an abdication of scientific principles, they observe, biodynamic agriculture functions as a form of cultural resistance to a managerial, reductive, and short-sighted relationship to the vine. Endia Louise Hayes and Norah MacKendrick challenge the limits of existing professional canons in food activism historiography that locate the genealogy of contemporary food movements primarily in a standard set of white European and North American actors from the 1960s. Against this widely circulating but myopic narrative, they offer an analysis of the food imaginaries of three African American food visionaries—George Washington Carver, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Edna Lewis—based on the historical work of Monica White, Rafia Zafar, and Toni Tipton-Martin. The food imaginaries of this set of actors, they suggest, provide novel visions of food as a pathway to “freedom, autonomy, pleasure, and joy.” Kimberly D. Nettles-Barcel ´on closes this section with an ode to B. Smith, a US-American restaurateur, television host, model, writer, and entrepreneur. B. Smith defied professional and racial boundaries and established herself as the first Black woman to own a white-tablecloth restaurant in New York’s Theater District and as a vastly successful food media personality. Her restaurant also functioned as a meeting space for Black artists and activists. Like the actors examined by Hayes and MacKendrick, B. Smith’s importance goes beyond a mere correction of the food historical record and enhances our understanding of Black food spaces as particularly vibrant arenas of co-construction for food and political activism.

The last section of this issue explores practices of food rearing and preservation defying and blurring the boundaries of time. In her study of Egyptian rooftop gardens, Noha Fikry examines the practice of rearing and slaughtering animals as food for “tomorrow’s meals” on the top of private houses. Rooftop gardens, she shows, extend the household metabolism across spatial and species boundaries. They constitute annexes to the house and kitchen while their animals form familial appendages to the immediate relatives owning them. The gardens recycle waste from neighboring restaurants and households as fodder; in turn, garden produce and animals feed their immediate family as well as the wider community. Rooftop gardens also transgress legal boundaries. A law introduced in 2007 prohibited the rearing of poultry on rooftops, but the law was never effectively enforced. The rearing of rooftop animals is deeply gendered and relies on female knowledge of the “culinary biographies” of animals—where they are from, how they have lived, and what they have eaten. This rooftop knowledge and the gardens where it is generated, Fikry argues, should be recognized as part of Egypt’s culinary infrastructure. Following Fikry, Indira Arumugam’s evocative account of sun-dried provisions in central Tamil Nadu places practices of preserving meat and vegetables at the heart of kinship relationships among village residents. Across geographical borders and familial ties forged over repeated waves of migration and re-migration, preserved dried foods solidified communities and collapsed the distance between nations and generations. “Our kinship was initially formed in flesh, blood and emotions,” Arumugam writes. “It is forged and continuously sustained through exchanging and eating meat and fish.” To close this section, Kelly White has the last word—or in this case, the last two words. Her humorous and pun-laced resignation letter penned by customer service agent “Great-Aunt Berrie” of the FabJam JamLine pays tribute to a confessionary space constructed around the consumption of preserves and other pectin-laced products. Overburdened by the oversharing of her callers, Great-Aunt Berrie figures she has “earned the boundaries” that she has for years told her callers to set for themselves.

This issue thus concludes with a spot of hope, even a sense of lightheartedness, not unlike the relief felt by the residents of Castelvetro over their free dose of Lambrusco on the morning of March 4, 2020. But the events of this year have only sharpened the borders—national, linguistic, professional, temporal—explored in this issue, and in some cases complicated the research that produced the articles assembled here. Fikry’s interlocutors on Egypt’s rooftop gardens operate at the fringes of legality and fear identification by authorities if they reveal too much. Salas, Hammelman, and Tornabene’s restaurants in Charlotte rely on migrant food workers who were subjected to intensified crackdowns by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency during the time of their research, which significantly impacted the researchers’ ability to conduct their work. While the pandemic and the ongoing war have captured much of our attention, it is also the struggles of these workers and food growers—brought about, to a large extent, by the persistence of unequal political borders and arbitrary legal boundaries—that this issue seeks to bring to light.

—Lisa Haushofer, for the Gastronomica Editorial Collective, Zurich, March 2022