Summer 2018, Volume 18 Number 2

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Summer 2018, Volume 18 Number 2

FROM THE EDITOR
Editor’s Letter | Melissa L. Caldwell

SOAS FOOD STUDIES CENTRE DISTINGUISHED LECTURE
Consumer Citizenship: Instant Noodles in India | Amita Baviskar

RESEARCH ESSAYS
Advertising Indians | Neil Oatsvall

Transparency and the Factory Farm: Agritourism and Counter-Activism at Fair Oaks Farms | Jan Dutkiewicz

“You Can Never Give Up Siyez If You Taste It Once”: Local Taste, Global Markets, and the Conservation of Einkorn, an Ancient Wheat | Nurcan Atalan-Helicke

“Someone Else’s Land is Our Garden!”: Risky Labor in Taipei’s Indigenous Food Boom | Tomonori Sugimoto

Revisiting Coca-Cola’s “Accidental” Entry into Communist Europe | Albena Shkodrova

CRITICAL REFLECTION
Fresh Green Peas | Rose Rappoport Moss

VISUAL ESSAY
Food Sovereignty and Farmer Suicides: Synthesizing Political Ecologies of Health and Education in Karnataka, India | David Meek

REVIEWS
Edible Memory: The Lure of Heirloom Tomatoes & Other Forgotten Foods
By Jennifer A. Jordan, Reviewed by Jessica Carbone

The Politics of the Pantry: Stories, Food, and Social Change
By Michael Mikulak, Reviewed by Ferne Edwards

Fast Food: The Good, the Bad and the Hungry
By Andrew F. Smith, Reviewed by Chin Jou

Ten Restaurants That Changed America
By Paul Freedman, Reviewed by Todd C. Ream

Butter: A Rich History
By Elaine Khosrova, Reviewed by Françoise R.L. Auvray

The Natural Art of Cheesemaking
By David Asher, Reviewed by Theodore Rend Barton

BOOKS AND FILMS RECEIVED

JUST DESSERTS
Reactive Taste | Richard Wilk

Editor’s Letter, Summer 2018

from Gastronomica 18:2

“Local foods” have become something of a cliché in the food world. In the grocery stores where I do my shopping here in California, “local foods” are now the default, unmarked category for nonpackaged foods (fresh produce, dairy, meat, and bread primarily), and it is foods from “elsewhere” that are designated by labels indicating their geographic place of origin or the names and pictures of the people who grew or produced them. Of course the fact that I live in California is significant, as foods from “elsewhere” typically are stocked only when they are out of season here or if they are specialties not grown or produced here. This does not mean that “local” products are not obvious, but the features by which their localness is identified are more often indicated by claims to farming technique, cultural heritage, authenticity, aesthetic presentation, quality, flavor, and even realness. At the same time, the sheer size of California means that what counts as “local” might be from within the same county or from within the state—distances that can range from a few miles to several hundred miles. The field of Food Studies has seen similar trends. As “local foods” have become preferred themes for authors, activists, and their audiences, scholars have given greater attention to such topics as terroir, appellation labels, family farms, and artisanal food producers, with the presumption that these are the features that best encapsulate and express localness. Certainly these are topics that have become ever more common in the submissions and books that arrive at the Gastronomica office.

When the “elsewhere” issue arises in grocery stores, farmers markets, and scholarly and activist conversations, it is often framed in terms of the circulation of people, goods, and cultural practices that move foods and food cultures to new settings. In a departure from theories of localization that have emphasized how foods move from their original habitats to new places where they are remade, integrated, and (re)localized according to the values and practices of those new places, this insistence on a qualitative distinctiveness to local foods from “elsewhere” instantiates both distance and difference. Tellingly, this perspective is often accompanied by a moralizing sensibility that presents the elsewhere as problematic because it ostensibly displaces or oppresses an idealized local. The local from another place carries with it a taint of elsewhere. There seems to be a distinct and meaningful difference between local foods in their original habitats and local foods that have been uprooted and transplanted to new settings. Yet reconfiguring the “elsewhere” not as a nonlocal but rather as an invading “local” on the move reveals intriguing questions about the nature of the presumed associations among particular foods, places, communities, and cultures, whether these associations dissolve when they move, or whether they might move together, intact, to new destinations. Above all, it is the movement that seems to matter in terms of what constitutes localness. As such, the local is not so much an absolute and stable place as it is a fluid movement through multiple spaces, peoples, and experiences.

The provocative realities of localness, multiplicity, and mobility are recurring themes in the pieces in this issue of Gastronomica, beginning with Amita Baviskar’s SOAS Food StudiesCentre Distinguished Lecture. Drawing from her current research on the changing world of manufactured foods in India, Baviskar focuses on the phenomenal popularity of Maggi instant noodles, which have become the go-to comfort food for a generation of young urban Indians. Ubiquitous across the many places where young adults eat—from small food stands to family kitchens—Maggi noodles offer endless possibilities for customization, which in turn enables diners to flex their consumer citizenship muscles in today’s India. Maggi noodles no longer represent a global industrial food but make possible the flow of local—familial, regional, class-based—culinary cultures throughout India. In this way, Maggi noodles carry with them multiple, mobile locals. This idea of the multiple, mobile local also challenges us to think more critically about the origins of the “local” itself, not simply in terms of whether some origins are more authentic or real than others, but also in terms of whether duration of time is significant. In the case of the Maggi noodle cultures described by Baviskar, even as culinary appropriation and reworking have imbued these dishes with a sense of familiarity and comfort, the processes by which these activities have occurred are recent and so the processes by which authenticity and real have been made can be recalled.

Yet what about instances when the processes by which claims on authenticity and reality are either more distant or are linked to cultural features that resist critical questioning? Does length of time matter? How long does it take for foods to become local? Is one generation enough? Do foods have speeds? Do some foods move more slowly or faster than others?

These are issues addressed in different ways in the articles by Nurcan Atalan-Helicke, Neil Oatsvall, and Tomonori Sugimoto. In a fascinating article on einkorn, an ancient variety of wheat in Turkey, Atalan-Helicke examines how production of einkorn has moved from the small, mountainous regions across the Mediterranean where it grows to the tables of urban, middle-class Turkish consumers. When einkorn travels, it brings with it eight thousand years of heritage, so that today’s cosmopolitan diners are engaging with a deep and broad history of regional encounters. At stake is what happens to an ancient grain when it is mobilized for contemporary culinary practice, and by extension, what happens to idealized notions of origins and authenticity. How does our knowledge about foods and food cultures—and local foods in particular — change when we reorient our perspective to the longue durée?

Neil Oatsvall tackles related questions from a very different vantage point: what happens when notions of an original and authentic local are a myth shrouded in a longue durée that stakes its legitimacy in indigeneity, notably the identities and cultures of indigenous people. Through a carefully documented analysis of Mountain Valley Spring Company, an American bottled water company, Oatsvall shows how the company created advertisements that laid claim to an older and original American cultural heritage, but in so doing recreated themes of the conquest and exploitation of indigenous peoples by white Americans. Consequently, when indigeneity becomes a valuable selling point, it also dislocates indigenous people from their own pasts and local communities.

Tomonori Sugimoto similarly explores the theme of indigeneity and its significance within cultural projects of preserving cultural heritage while simultaneously moving it into more contemporary political concerns with community and national well-being. Specifically, Sugimoto pays careful attention to the ways in which the foodways of Taiwan’s indigenous Austronesian people have become popularized as a new food trend among Han Chinese consumers. Yet as Sugimoto argues, the popular attention given to these foodways overlooks the realities experienced by the very people whose physical and intellectual labors produce these foods. Specifically, urban Pangcah/Amis people, especially women, must engage in risky labor to provision indigenous foods for nonindigenous consumers. As a result, the trendy preference for “local” foods rests on the exotification and exploitation of indigenous communities and their heritage. At stake here is the increased vulnerability of indigenous communities and their ability to claim authentic localness.

Although themes of indigeneity, multiplicity, and mobility are more oblique in the articles by Jan Dutkiewicz and Albena Shkodrova, these authors similarly raise questions about the civic, public life of mythologies of a distinctive, unique local. In the case of Dutkiewicz, it is the phenomenon of agritourism at a factory farm that invites tourist-consumers to enter the intimate settings of a working farm and personally connect with the animals and farmers who make the food that lands on their plates. Invoking the trope of knowing the farmer and knowing the animal as a means for signaling a “localness” that is different from a presumably generic nonlocal, this agritourism encounter attempts to craft intimate, personal encounters within a tourist experience that is explicitly mobile.

For Shkodrova, the mobile local has more to do with the changing dynamics of global geopolitics. In this account of Coca-Cola’s adventures in Bulgaria, Skhodrova maps out the movements of people, beverages, and politics across political and geographic borders. One of the consequences of these shifting dynamics was a shifting terrain as distinctions between local and global, East andWest were reconstituted. The local was not just on the move, but on the march across a Europe otherwise marked by Cold War landmarks.

When taken together, these articles invite us to rethink the very premise of “the local” itself. It is no longer necessarily a geographic orientation or a claim to a particular form of culture. Rather “the local” becomes a dynamic mode of being, notably a form of motion that travels across and between spaces and times. Sometimes it moves quickly, at other times more slowly. Sometimes it moves subtly, while at other times its movement is overt, even jarring. In all instances, what becomes clear is that “the local”—and all of the qualities associated with it—is never stable but always in emergence.

Melissa L. Caldwell

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A Preview of the Gastronomica/SOAS Distinguished Lecture “Changing Tastes: The Effects of Eating Out”

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 March 21, Alan Warde, Professor of Sociology in the School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester and Professorial Fellow of Manchester’s Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI), offers readers a sneak peak of his upcoming lecture, “Changing Tastes: The Effects of Eating Out” 


There continues to be some suspicion of the catering trade, that its products may be bad for health, may waste the money of the poorer sections of the population, and may erode the bonds of the family. In this, it is part of wider concerns about the over-extension of markets and market logic into the realm of everyday life. Repairing to restaurants may entrench poor quality mass culture, reduce capacities for self-provisioning by eliminating cooking skills, and replace mutually enriching social interdependencies with impersonal and instrumental economic exchange.

In this talk I examine, in the light of a range of empirical evidence, what are the effects increases over recent decades in the habit of eating out. I explore how eating out has been affected by, but also how it mediates, the impact of major social, cultural, and economic changes. The focus is on the forces of globalization, commodification and aestheticization and their counter tendencies. I illustrate the talk with detailed evidence from a re-study of eating out in three English cities. In 1995 a survey and some interviews were conducted. These were repeated in 2015, allowing for systematic assessment of change over a 20 year period.

By examining how eating out in restaurants and the homes of family and friends has changed—how manners, menus, companionship, and mobility have evolved—I assess the impact of fundamental cultural and structural shifts on taste and the practice of eating. The talk will also address issues of method and of explanation of taste.


Alan Warde is Professor of Sociology in the School of Social Sciences, University of Manchester, a Professorial Fellow of Manchester’s Sustainable Consumption Institute (SCI). Research interests include the sociology of consumption, the sociology of culture, and the sociology of food and eating. Current projects are concerned with applying theories of practice to eating, analyzing change in eating behavior in Britain, and conducting a re-study of an earlier investigation of eating out in Britain.

The SOAS Food Studies Centre is an interdisciplinary centre dedicated to the study of the political, economic, and cultural dimensions of food, historically and in the contemporary moment, from production, to exchange, to preparation, to consumption. The Centre’s primary purposes are to promote research and teaching in the field of food studies at SOAS and to facilitate links between SOAS and other individuals and institutions with an academic interest in food studies.


The lecture will be held on March 21 from 6:00-8:00 PM at the​ Wolfson Lecture Theater, Paul Webley Wing (Senate House), SOAS, University of London. The event is free and open to the public. However, we encourage all guests to register to guarantee a place.

Editor’s Letter, Spring 2018

from Gastronomica 18:1

“What is the relationship between food and value?” This succinct but complex question stimulates many debates and discussions within critical food studies. Is the relationship dictated by the type of food or ingredients used? A particular recipe or the background of the person who picked, prepared, served, or consumed the food? Is it the way in which foods flow through personal, regional, or global networks? Does value arise through combinations of aesthetic, sensory, and cultural qualities? Is it a blend of some or all of these qualities? Or is something else at play?

In this issue of Gastronomica, Micah Trapp takes this question in new and fascinating directions by exploring the world of American grocery auctions. Through a detailed ethnographic case study of what actually happens during grocery auctions in Mississippi and Maryland, Trapp examines how the spoils and excesses of an industrialized food system are transformed into valued foods. In so doing, Trapp complicates our understandings of market capitalism in a world where scarcity, excess, desire, and need are remade. Themes of value also emerge in Jake Young’s provocation on offal. Once commonplace in American food cultures but now increasingly rare, offal’s presence and absence challenges Americans to grapple with their feelings about animal flesh. Which pieces of animal flesh are desirable and for whom? How do American consumers think about waste and wastefulness, as well as desire and enjoyment, when animal bodies are at stake? Read more

Spring 2018, Volume 18 Number 1

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Spring 2018, Volume 18 Number 1

FROM THE EDITOR
Editor’s Letter | Melissa L. Caldwell

RESEARCH ARTICLES
Grocery Auction Games: Distribution and Value in the Industrialized Food System | Micah Marie Trapp

The Julia Child of Chinese Cooking, or the Fu Pei-mei of French Food? Comparative Contexts of Female Culinary Celebrity | Michelle T. King

Exploring the Christmas Eve Menu in Lawrence Durrell’s Avignon Quintet | Merrianne Timko

Anti-Intellectualism and Natural Food: The Shared Language of Industry and Activists in America since 1830 | Michael S. Kideckel

Rebelling Woman: Culinary Crime in Pedro Almodóvar’s ¿Qué he hecho yo para merecer esto!! | Rebeca Maseda

(Re)tasting places | Liselotte Hedegaard

CRITICAL REFLECTION
The Offal Truth | Jake Young

VISUAL ESSAY
Who Harvests Our Food? The Indigenous Roots of a Migrant Farmworker—The Story of Gervasio Peña Lopez | David Bacon

REVIEWS
Chow Chop Suey: Food and the Chinese American Journey
By Anne Mendelson, Reviewed by E. N. Anderson

The Routledge History of Food
Edited by Carol Helstosky, Reviewed by Jacqueline Grady Smith

The Architecture of Taste
By Pierre Hermé, Reviewed by Ellen M. Ireland

Packaged Pleasures: How Technology and Marketing Revolutionized Desire
By Gary S. Cross and Robert N. Proctor, Reviewed by Zenia Malmer

Le sacre du roquefort: L’émergence d’une industrie agroalimentaire—Fin XVIII
siècle–1925
By Sylvie Vabre, Reviewed by Rengenier C. Rittersma

Mincemeat: The Education of an Italian Chef
By Leonardo Luceralli, Reviewed by Younes Saramifar

BOOKS AND FILMS RECEIVED