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.

Consumer Citizenship: A Preview of the Gastronomica/SOAS Distinguished Lecture | Amita Baviskar

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.


Maggi_masala_noodles (1)Across northern India, roadside stalls and restaurants announce themselves as ‘Maggi Point’ and ‘Maggi Corner.’ Maggi, a brand of instant noodles introduced in the late 1980s, is now not only a popular snack, but the favorite comfort food of an entire generation of young urban Indians. What is the secret of Maggi’s success? And what does it tell us about taste and desire in the heart of a consumer economy in a deeply unequal society?

I began noticing products like Maggi noodles when they first appeared in village shops. Surely the novelty of splurging on these brightly packaged bits of junk must be limited to the well-off few, I wondered. However, such products were soon crowding each other on grocery shelves. What I was witnessing was part of an explosion in the consumption of industrial foods, as Jack Goody called mass-manufactured edible commodities produced and distributed by corporate firms.

256px-Maggi_GorengMy growing interest in the life of industrial foods has led me to students and migrant squatter settlements, street vendors and supermarkets, advertising companies and processing plants, television studios and government offices as I follow the threads of how instant noodles are produced, distributed and consumed. At first glance, this seemed to be a familiar story about the commodification of diets in an era of economic liberalization. Soon, however, I came to realize that it was also about citizenship, about poor and low-caste people who continue to be denied social and economic rights striving for respect and dignity. The success of instant noodles is partly sparked by their aspiration to belong to a nation increasingly defined by the consumption of fetishized commodities.

Instant noodles also compel us to look more closely at youth and how their tastes dictate food practices within households, overturning the standard narrative about Indian families, age, and patriarchal power. This simmering broth of social relations which industrial foods add to and transform is a critical part of India’s cultural landscape. It’s exciting to be able to contribute to a subject that concerns public policy on nutrition and health.

 

IMG_1419Amita Baviskar is Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi.  She studies the cultural politics of environment and development in rural and urban India. Her current research looks at food practices and the transformation of agrarian environments in western India. Baviskar has taught at the University of Delhi, and has been a visiting scholar at Stanford, Cornell, Yale, SciencesPo and the University of California at Berkeley. She was awarded the 2005 Malcolm Adiseshiah Award for Distinguished Contributions to Development Studies, the 2008 VKRV Rao Prize for Social Science Research, and the 2010 Infosys Prize for Social Sciences.

 

 


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.


Image credits: Maggi Masala noodles by Sixth6sense – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40729391; Magi Goreng noodles, as served at Restoran Khaleel, Gurney Drive, Penang, Malaysia By amrufm [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Word Salad Challenge: Answer Key

Did you take the Word Salad Challenge quiz in the latest issue of Gastronomica? Take the quiz at gcfs.ucpress.edu, then check your answers with the answer key below.


Aunt Jemima: Instant Oatmeal, Pepsico, 1889

The Green Giant: Roasted Veggie Tortilla Chips, General Mills, 1928

Duncan Hines: Simple Mornings Wild Maine Blueberry Muffin Mix, Pinnacle Foods, 1952

Betty Crocker: Fruit Gushers, General Mills, 1924

Sonic the Hedgehog: Franco-American Pasta with Cheese (canned), Campbell Soup Co., C.2000

Elsie the Cow: Cremora, Grupo Lala, 1936

Uncle Ben: Rice Time Mexican Chili, Mars Inc., 1943

Kermit the Frog: Lipton Tea, Unilever, 2014

Rastus: Cream of Wheat, B&G Foods Inc., 1893

 

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A taste of the next Gastronomica/SOAS Lecture: “Let Them Eat Stuffed Peppers” | David E. Sutton

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.

In advance of the next event on March 16th, UC Press author and distinguished anthropologist David E. Sutton gives readers a taste of his upcoming lecture, “‘Let Them Eat Stuffed Peppers’: An Argument of Images on the role of Food in Understanding Neoliberal Austerity in Greece.” 


 

9780520280557 “We all ate it together,” was the claim of Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos as he tried to explain the origins of the so-called Greek Crisis to an angry crowd of protestors back in 2011. This phrasing struck me at the time because it extends eating together, or “commensality,” into the domain of national politics. Such food imagery fit with my long study on the island of Kalymnos in the Eastern Aegean, where I had been filming people’s everyday cooking practices and writing about the sensory engagement of ordinary Kalymnians with their ingredients and with their kitchen environments, some of the themes that I explore in my book Secrets from the Greek Kitchen: Cooking, Skill and Everyday Life on an Aegean Island. I use my video ethnography of everyday cooking practices to open up questions of memory and transmission of cooking knowledge, tool use and the body, and the potential changes brought about by the advent of cooking shows in Greece. But most importantly in Secrets I try and give a sense of the ways that Kalymnian food culture shapes people’s larger attitudes, and how through their everyday discussions they create a shared food-based worldview, a “gustemology.”

In my talk at SOAS, “Let Them Eat Stuffed Peppers,” I will be continuing this exploration through a look at some of the ways food discourses and practices have developed over the past six years of the Greek Crisis. From debates over the relationship of eating, debt and responsibility, to the growth of solidarity practices such as the “Social Kitchen” movement and the “Potato movement,” to attempts by ordinary Kalymnians to return to past cooking and eating practices as a way of surviving the crisis, food has shaped understandings and responses to new conditions throughout Greece. I look at how certain foods have been associated with protest because of their connection to notions of Greekness, or because of their obvious foreign derivation. I also examine how Kalymnians are dusting off old recipes, and old foraging practices, to cope with times in which sources of livelihood that had been taken for granted for a generation are suddenly under threat.

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Searching for Thanksgiving | Andrew Simmons

For most of the past eight or nine years, Thanksgiving has happened at my partner’s parents’ house in Palo Alto, California, where dinner revolves around the frantic preparation of a Julia Child recipe for braised goose. Featuring an overprivileged bird, a sausage stuffing of veal, pork, and chestnuts, and a flavorful bath birthed from the union of goose fat, onions, carrots, stock, and a bottle of white vermouth, the goose is the perennial centerpiece, an opulent showstopper. Usually largely my responsibility, the sides vary. I start planning in September, never repeating a dish, trying to creatively complement the goose, hoping to play faithfully with the Thanksgiving ethos—one that traditionally begs for a symphony of oranges and tans, deep savory notes, and casseroles upon casseroles. One year, we made enoki mushrooms, butter, and black vinegar in parchment pouches, Brussels sprouts with kimchi and bacon, honey-glazed potatoes, and watercress-ginger soup. Another year, we did macaroni and cheese with kabocha squash and porcini powder, whipped sunchokes, and a pickled green bean salad with fried shallots and country ham.

The goose is my father-in-law’s domain. The shock of white hair undulating on his head, he ties on an apron, drinks a little Sapporo, and assaults the goose, skewering the vent, browning the neck, gizzard, and wing tips in a wide pan sizzling with rendered fat. Despite his years of goose-braising experience, he never feels confident taking the goose out of the oven himself. The murky braising liquid sloshes dangerously close to the edge of the pan. He’s always unsure of the goose’s doneness. His mise en place is a disaster. He never remembers to slice the onion and carrot before he needs them. Wrestling with half a dozen other dishes in the small kitchen, I always look up to see him desperately waving me over. “Onion,” he says, uncharacteristically curt in the midst of an emergency. I slice an onion. “Can you?” he suddenly yells an hour later, pointing at the oven door. I’m elbows-deep in sweet potatoes. I dash over to prod the goose. “Where is the vermouth?” he shouts. I stare blankly. The preparation is always a messy whirlwind, and I am caught in its eye. My mother-in-law laughs and slips downstairs to nap or play cello. Their daughters escape to take walks. Despite his self-doubt, the goose is done when he suspects it is. When it hits the table, it is glossy and crisp-skinned. Having exchanged its flavors with the bird’s, the stuffing tumbles out of the cavity in crumbly hunks, rich, slightly sweet, and addictive. The reduced sauce pools luxuriously under fanned goose breast slices. Absurdly satisfying in conclusion, satisfyingly absurd in preparation, the goose sums up the family’s approach to the holiday.

We may not eat it again.

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