“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