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

Summer 2022, Volume 22 Number 2

Editorial Letter: The Miracle of Castelvetro | Lisa Haushofer

Miracle in a Time of Dregs | Gregory Emilio


Translating Foods of the World: A Roundtable Discussion on the Challenges and Triumphs of Translating Foods | hosted by Krishnendu Ray, featuring Miranda Brown, Saumya Gupta, Eric C. Rath, and Robert T. Valgenti

Recipe for Rice and Beans: Sabor and Culinary Imaginaries in Puerto Rico in Ana Lydia Vega and Carmen Aboy Valldejuli | Mónica B. Ocasio Vega


what is fried is gold | Jason Edward Pagaduan

“Looking for true Mexican food in Charlotte”: Insights into How Authenticity Is Produced, Experienced, and Interpreted in Migrant Food Spaces | Consuelo Carr Salas, Colleen Hammelman, Sara Tornabene

Seeing Mediterranean: How Food Journalists Re-Imagined the Middle East and North Africa in the Twentieth-Century United States | Jennifer Dueck


Biodynamic Viticulture, or The Effectiveness of Symbols | Eleonora Rossero, Andrea Barbieri

“Leave No Stone Unturned”: Sustainable Belonging and Desirable Futures of African American Food Imaginaries | Endia Louise Hayes, Norah MacKendrick

B. Smith (1949–2020)—In Memoriam | Kimberly D. Nettles-Barcelón


Today’s Children, Tomorrow’s Meals: Rooftops as Spaces of Nurturance in Contemporary Egypt | Noha Fikry

Preserving Flesh and Spanning Families | Indira Arumugam

Two Words That Will Get You Out of Any Jam and into Your Best Life | Kelly White


Table Lands: Food in Children’s Literature, by Kara K. Keeling and Scott T. Pollard
reviewed by Shayne Leslie Figueroa

A Recipe for Gentrification: Food, Power, and Resistance in the City, edited by Alison Hope Alkon, Yuki Kato, and Joshua Sbicca
reviewed by Sarah Fouts

Porkopolis: American Animality, Standardized Life, & the Factory Farm, by Alex Blanchette
reviewed by Josée Johnston

Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America, by Mayukh Sen,
reviewed by Alice McLean

Our Daily Bread: A Meditation on the Cultural and Symbolic Significance of Bread throughout History, by Predrag Matvejević, translated by Christina Pribichevich-Zorić,
reviewed by Todd C. Ream

Feral Atlas: The More-than-Human Anthropocene, curated and edited by Anna L. Tsing, Jennifer Deger, Alder Saxena Keleman, and Feifei Zhou
reviewed by Janita Van Dyk

Editor’s Letter, Spring 2022

From Gastronomica 22.1

Travelling Noodles and Migrating Pieces of Raw Fish: How Food Moves—and How It Moves Us

The global pandemic has confined many middle-class eaters to a much smaller geographic range than they are typically accustomed. Unable to easily cross borders, eaters have looked around their homes, neighborhoods, and cities for affordable meals and sources of novelty and entertainment. People also rummaged around their kitchens looking for comfort, pleasure, and stress relief. The now-cliché image is of a lethargic urbanite burrowing down in their kitchen to ferment sourdough, bake banana bread, whip up a dalgona coffee, or maybe sprout green onions in a jar on their windowsill. At many times in the pandemic lockdown, I certainly resembled this cliché, sprouting sprouts and baking so much banana bread that my kids are now totally indifferent to its charms—even with chocolate chips. The pandemic slowed many people down, particularly privileged people who see global mobility as their birthright, and food was a way of coping with feeling stuck in place.

The stories in this issue of Gastronomica teach us—or simply remind us—that even when we stay still, food is always on the move. At a biophysical level, food rambles unapologetically in and out of our bodies. More expansively, food migrates across borders, carrying with it the material legacy of its production process, but also smuggling in a diverse kit of cultural messages and ideologies. Many eaters like to think of themselves as sovereign consumers who are completely in control of their food decisions. Food scholarship reminds us how food shapes us as it moves, modulating our palates, altering our gut biomes, shifting our ideas of comfort eating, and changing what’s on the dinner table at the local and national levels. The stories in this issue tell us of the power of food to move—and to move us in the process.

Food’s mobility is certainly not a new lesson for food scholars. When we teach food studies to undergraduate students, many of us include some mention of the storied geographic pathways of beloved foods like chocolate and tomatoes. These foods migrated alongside pathways of European empire and colonization, moving from Mesoamerica to colonial European palaces, eventually finding their way into many “comfort food” repertories (think here of pizza, chocolate cake, and butter chicken). The wheat plant first domesticated in Southwest Asia crossed the ocean to become a monocultural mainstay on the Canadian prairies (grown by people like my grandfather and uncles) and is now responsible for a remarkable one out of five calories consumed on the planet (see Andr e Magnan’s review of Catherine Zabinski’s Amber Waves in this issue). Food moves us emotionally but also shifts entire political ecologies and economies, transforming grassland polycultures to wheat-based monocultures, altering national ideals of a “good” diet to increasingly include bread and noodles, and giving rise to new fortunes and new hungers.

Yes, we know that food moves. What we don’t always know, or may severely underestimate, is how this mobility generates surprises and contradictions in the foodscape. The materiality and cultural meanings of food’s mobility continue to evolve, mutate, and even astonish. Food’s globetrotting ways are not entirely predictable, nor are they preordained. As foods flow, powerful economic actors must actively work to manage material flows, mitigate risk, and create a class of stable consumers. In this issue, Joe Clifford’s article “The Nation and the Noodle” reveals the transnational contradictions embedded in Indomie, Indonesia’s largest instant noodle brand. One contradiction immediately jumps out: Indonesia is a country with close cultural connections to rice as a national staple, but we learn how Indonesia is now the second largest consumer of instant noodles in the world. Clifford identifies a surprising feature of the transnational noodle in a country with “strong nationalist food security laws that are tied to a wider economic nationalism”: Indomie noodles have emerged as a national cultural icon at the same time their production is heavily reliant on imports of Australian wheat. Indonesian wheat growers feel relatively unprotected from imports, yet Indomie marketing is deeply rooted in nationalist imaginaries and its noodle flavors are linked to popular Indonesian dishes (e.g., mie goreng). While we might associate gastronationalism with artisanal, place-specific foods like Italian prosciutto di Parma or French foie-gras (DeSoucey 2016), Clifford shows how a mass-manufactured food (using imported wheat) fuels a “soft gastronationalism” that effectively creates a sense of collective solidarity around Indonesian identity.

These connections and surprises of a transnational noodle brand came to the fore in a recent food studies class I taught. An Indonesian student made a presentation where she suggested that Indomie was an integral part of her national identity. Several West African students were surprised at this assertion; Indomie noodles had always seemed as though they belonged to them, and they thought of it as a quintessential food connected to their own home and food memories. Several Middle Eastern students joined the discussion, remarking that they too had thought of Indomie noodles as part of their own regional foodscape and personal food memories. The Indonesian student ended her presentation with a call for noodle-based unity, declaring “despite our geographic differences, we can all agree that Indomie is good.” This geographically diverse group of students shared a collective sense of Indomie noodles being linked emotionally to their positive food memories, even though these memories were rooted in extremely diverse upbringings. This feeling of collective solidarity around Indomie felt affirming to the students, and was lovely to observe, especially in an online class when connections are hard to foster. What the students also shared was a material connection through their participation in a dried noodle economy linked to a transnational conglomerate, Indofood. As Clifford’s article notes, Indomie is owned by the Salim Group, Indonesia’s largest conglomerate. This firm has connections to controversial palm oil plantation expansion and deforestation, as well as historic ties to former Indonesian dictator Suharto. The global movement of noodles—and wheat—involves positive emotional memories as well as historically rooted power inequities with ties to ongoing environmental crises.

Part of the intellectual leverage (and joy!) of teaching and studying food lies in its ability to generate surprises and paradoxes (Guptill, Copelton, and Lucal 2017), like the ones that emerge around Indomie. These exist alongside through lines—threads of continuity that can be used to pull together our observations and make connections across diverse foods and faraway places. As I reflect on the articles in this issue, as well as recent iterations of food scholarship, three issues surface as particularly significant when it comes to identifying through lines and moments of surprise, contestation, and dynamism: (1) power: struggles over food as a mobile and vital capitalist commodity; (2) authenticity: who confers culinary legitimacy?; and (3) emotion: food’s ability to move us as it moves across borders.

Power: Struggles over Food as a “Vital” Commodity

The dominant global marketplace frames food as a commodity, not a human right. This framing has powerful implications for who eats, what is eaten, and who faces hunger and food insecurity. (This point is powerfully made in two book reviews in this issue: Johanna Wilkes’s review of Mark Bittman’s Animal, Vegetable, Junk and Benjamin Siegel’s review of Tom Scott-Smith’s On an Empty Stomach.) This may seem painfully obvious, but it remains essential to recognize that food operates as a globalized capitalist commodity, deeply enmeshed in powerful webs of corporate concentration (Howard 2021). At the same time, it seems important to avoid a heavyhanded, top-down, deterministic perspective that sees food only through a predictable, ordered flow of capitalist commodification. That interpretation not only feels deadening and stale but leaves us vulnerable to the critical question, “if you already knew what you were going to find, why did you bother doing the research?”

Whether we are thinking about a package of dried noodles or a bag of flour, food is not simply a passive object, or an inert, dead widget that moves through global commodity chains. An alternative approach is to think of food as having a “vital” quality, a term taken from Jane Bennett’s theory of “vital materialism” (2010). Bennett’s analysis suggests that food—as well as all the other matter of modern life—is vital, meaning it has the capacity to “impede or block the will and designs of humans but also to act as quasi agents or forces with trajectories, propensities, or tendencies of their own” (2010: viii). Appreciating vitality allows us to see food’s agentic potential to shape and mold us as it moves through our bodies and through the foodscape. We see food’s dynamism but also recognize that food, as a vital substance, is not always predictable—even in a capitalist system dominated by powerful corporate actors with the consistent goal of profit maximization. Crops are destroyed by extreme weather, popular foods like bananas are threatened by fungus and disease, new products flop, and once-popular foods and cuisines fall out of fashion. Cherished dishes shift and change along with ecosystem changes, as seen in this issue in Diana Bocarejo and Rafael Diaz’s review of the rural Colombian fish dish el viudo de pescado. Colombian rural communities see the “living water” as a key element of the dish, whichmeans that viudo now embodies “both living and sick waters” that have been impacted by oil spills, hydroelectric plants, agricultural pollution, and urban wastewater. By appreciating the vitality of viudo, we can better understand how protecting it is an issue of culinary heritage as well as environmental justice.

To be clear, thinking about foods and dishes, like viudo, as a “vital” force with a kind of agency does not negate food’s commodity status. Nor does this recognition erase the legacy of Eurocentric food imperialism, or the racialized and class logics of our foodscapes. This is not an invitation to fetishize resistance and ignore power—an analytic through line that remains essential. What I think a conceptualization of food as vital can do is sensitize us to the complexity and unpredictability of food’s movement across spatial and sociodemographic borders. Capitalist logics entrench a ruthless process of monopolization and concentration of resources, but flows of food, capital, and culture are not always unidirectional, predictable, or completely controlled by corporate actors.

Consider how food flows through a neocolonial, capitalist world system. Even though Western cultural imperialism persists, food commodities and food culture also flow from the global south to the global north; food and culture also circulate within regions. Just as Korean pop culture flows beyond national borders (Chua and Iwabuchi 2008; Menon 2019), Canadian consumers may find themselves purchasing dalgona candy or ordering fried chicken from the Filipino chain Jollibee. Japanese chefs may prioritize the purchase of a pizza oven for their “hyperlocal” restaurant, or so argues Samuel Yamashita in his article on the quest for a hyperlocal restaurant (which was crafted in response to the spring 2021 piece in Gastronomica by John Broadway on restaurant politics). As Krystyn R. Moon, Jennifer Rhode Ward, Jos e Vazquez Rodriguez, and Jorge Foyo investigated in their study, rural Cubans may consume spaghetti and pizza as junk food. Such consumption demonstrates that Western taste and culinary standards remain imbued with power, capital, and colonial legacies, but their legacies are not necessarily straightforward. Indeed, they are often resisted and even disdained—like the spaghetti and pizza eaten in rural Cuba. As explored in the previous issue of Gastronomica, a Thai street vendor may find the awarding of a Michelin star to be a burden rather than a blessing and ask to be removed from the celebrated French ranking system (Matta and Panchapakesan 2021). Pushback is not only found in isolated cases but can be organized collectively, as seen in food justice organizing in the United States or in La Via Campesina, a global peasant-rights organization demanding that food be treated as a sovereign right outside the commodity system (Sbicca 2018; Desmarais 2006). In Canada, organizations from various parts of the country are mobilizing to address food insecurity and demand a more comprehensive, socially just vision of food security, as detailed in an article in this issue by Kimberly Hill-Tout, Claudia Hirtenfelder, Kiera E. B. McMaster and Megan Herod. All these examples remind food scholars of the importance of remaining attentive to colonial legacies and capitalist exploitation, while simultaneously examining counter-hegemonic instances of cultural and culinary pushback. These examples also remind us of food’s vitality: its ability to shift and shape us as we labor to feed ourselves in just and dignified ways.

Authenticity: Is This Sushi Authentic?

When food travels across boundaries, it tends to raise questions about its authenticity. Is this authentic sushi? Can authentic pizza come from an imported pizza oven in Japan? Is this real-deal dalgona candy imported from Korea? In Satomi Fukutomi’s article in this issue on sushi culture in Perth, Australia, she observes that only non- Japanese people are overly concerned with the authenticity of the Japanese dishes they are eating. In contrast, a Japanese food vendor she interviews at the local farmers market likes to experiment, to “think outside the box” and come up with new dishes. The (non-Japanese) Australian consumers understand Japanese food as “authentic” when it is “simple,” connected to Japanese chefs (not Korean or Chinese or white chefs), or part of a dish or food tradition that they think is “real” in Japan. Not only are consumers’ understandings of “real,” authentic Japanese food often partial (e.g., how do they know if the chef is really Japanese?), but paradoxically, Perth eaters also commonly accept and enthusiastically enjoy obviously non-authentic versions of Japanese food, such as teriyaki sauce on chicken gyoza, supermarket sushi rolls, salad bowls with kale and edamame, or udon noodles swimming in miso soup (these are all foods that Fukutomi tells us are not commonly consumed in Japan). Fukutomi concludes that Australian consumers conjure their own ideas of what “authentic” Japanese food is through their food practices—eating out, reviewing restaurants online, snacking on sushi rolls, and remembering (or fantasizing about) life in Japan.

As foods like sushi move around the world, conceptualizations of authenticity evolve alongside them, and Fukutomi’s article reminds us that authenticity proves to be as mobile and shapeshifting as food itself. Cultural sociologists would not be surprised by this development, as they understand authenticity as part of the longstanding human tendency to “invent” tradition (Hobsbawm and Ranger 1983). Peterson and Anand refer to authenticity as a “renewable resource” (2004: 326), which is a useful conceptualization for food scholars to help us understand and appreciate authenticity’s fluid character. As a renewable resource, the capacity for inventing culinary authenticity seems almost limitless. However, I would propose that some through lines can be observed. Authenticity, like nationalism, is a tradition that can be invented and re-invented endlessly, but certain patterns are persistent.

Most significantly, the process of determining the authenticity of a dish or a cuisine continues to be strongly linked to the decision making and consecration of powerful actors. This is not to deny that the legitimacy of powerful culinary voices has been decentered by the emergence of new culinary voices adjudicating on social media. The rise of foodie culture, social media, and online food reviews creates a certain potential for openness beyond traditional culinary hierarchies. Discussing the hyperlocal cuisine found at Yoshihiro Imai’s restaurant monk, Samuel Yamashita concludes that the Japanese restaurant, which is strongly rooted in local foodscapes, “satisfies the last feature of my ideal restaurant—its democracy.” This is an exciting conclusion to read, and certainly whets the appetite for imagining all the good foods produced in Imai’s wood-fired pizza oven. Seeing the word “democracy” in a restaurant review might seem odd, but it is not a total surprise. I have argued elsewhere that democratization is one key pole that characterizes gourmet foodscapes and can be seen in the impulse to valorize “authentic” foods that are outside the French culinary canon, and push back against the hierarchical, snobbish, and classist assumptions of classic gastronomy (Johnston and Baumann 2015). At the same time, the democratic impulse exists in dialectic tension with a persistent contrasting pole: distinction. Established food hierarchies may open their doors to chefs, foods, and cuisines outside a French (or Eurocentric) canon, but status signaling and distinction processes persist. These hierarchies are linked to cultural,material, and racial privilege in local, national, and transnational food scenes.

Traditional gatekeepers retain an immense amount of power to determine what “good” food is and what “authentic” food is. Yes, times have changed, and determining what foods are valued and authentic is not simply tied to a single actor, like the pronouncements of a New York Times food review. Many eaters learned much more about “good” food from Anthony Bourdain’s charismatic television presence than they did from reading the Michelin guide. (See Signe Rousseau’s review of Roadrunner: A Film about Anthony Bourdain). Culinary hierarchies are more complicated now than in the past, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

There is ample evidence that powerful new culinary intermediaries have emerged to call out food trends, designate culinary genius, and determine authenticity. Global food culture is dominated by relatively powerful actors (e.g., Netflix’s role in making food documentaries), and the pathways to becoming an influential cultural or culinary mediator are stratified by class, race, ethnicity, gender, and Eurocentricity (Erigha 2021; Gvion 2018; Johnston, Rodney, and Chong 2014; Ocejo 2017; Smith Maguire 2018). Not all authentic foods are equally fashionable or saleable. Drawing lines around authenticity is a project that intersects with cultural mediators, state regulators, as well as local and global market forces that paradoxically offer opportunities for preservation and cultural regeneration (MacDonald 2013). In this issue, Sara El-Sayed and Christy Spackman’s provocatively titled article “Follow the Ferments” examines how transnationally diverse cultures of fermented foods are regulated in Arizona. The authors follow two specific foods—the Nepali fermented greens dish called gundruk and Middle Eastern fermented dairy products. They find that the food system regulatory apparatus is designed for big players, and that opportunities are limited for smaller-scale food producers to commoditize authenticity, which has “contributed to the loss of traditional foods and production practices.” Paradoxically, the limited potential of commoditization has threatened the viability of fermented foods such as gundruk. Not only is this a loss for our collective microbiome, but El-Sayed and Spackman also argue that this limits progress toward a more inclusive, just, and flavorful food culture.

The stratification of opportunities to marketize and benefit from authenticity can persist even alongside a cultural ideology valuing culinary opening or democratization. One powerful instance of this tendency was provided by Sharon Zukin and colleagues (2017), who carried out a framing analysis of Yelp reviews in two Brooklyn neighborhoods that featured predominantly white (Polish ancestry) and Black populations. Their study identified a process of “discursive redlining,” whereby consumers were more likely to deem the white neighborhood as “authentic” or “cozy,” invoking a nostalgic view of a neighborhood worth preserving; at the same time, the Black neighborhood tended to be depicted in racialized terms that reaffirmed Black foods as less valuable and Black neighborhoods as dirty, sketchy, dangerous, and in need of a culinary transformation via gentrification (Zukin, Lindeman, and Hurson 2017). This study teaches us how a relatively open field of culinary gatekeepers on Yelp can reproduce institutionalized racism. It also helps us understand how seemingly innocent, democratic preferences for authentic foods and restaurants can culturally reinforce an urban gentrification process that may feature exciting new tastes for privileged diners alongside urban processes of cultural marginalization, high rents, and geographic displacement for long-time residents (Alkon, Kato, and Sbicca 2021). (See Tiana Bakic  Hayden’s review of Andrew Deener’s book The Problem with Feeding Cities, as well as the roundtable, facilitated by Michael Chrobok and myself, with Alison Hope Alkon, Yuki Kato, and Joshua Sbicca to discuss their book, A Recipe for Gentrification.)

Emotion: Food Motivates Us and Moves Us

Connecting food with the body and emotion is a significant third through line. While certainly not a new observation (Lupton 1998), it remains a promising line of food inquiry. The influential emotions researcher Arlie Hochschild argues that bringing emotion into scholarship involves appreciating “all that becomes apparent when we make the simple assumption that what we feel is fully as important to the outcome of social affairs as what we think or do” (1990: 117, emphasis mine). Put in food terms, we must understand what we eat, what we think about food, and how we feel about what we eat (and don’t eat). The feeling eater must be an integral part of our studies. Eating is a fundamentally emotional act that works not only to shape our sense of self but also to shape collective emotions relating to group belonging and solidarity. At the same time, emotion is also a key part of how we experience the disquiet and distress relating to food problems ranging from food insecurity and climate change to eating disorders.

Unfortunately, linking food with embodied sensations and emotions has been a significant part of why food studies has been historically relegated to a silo of “not serious,” not rational, and not important. Think home economics versus “real” economics. As Warren Belasco writes in his eminently useful teaching text, Food: The Key Concepts, food scholars are “heir to a classic dualism that prizes mind over body” (2008: 2). This dualism continues to persist in the long-standing, pervasive tendency to bifurcate studies of food production and consumption. While emotional content is less commonly found within food production scholarship, studies of food consumption are well aware of the emotional dimensions of food, and new scholarship not only includes emotion but showcases the important ways that food and emotions intermingle (MacKendrick and Pristavec 2019).

As a sociologist working within a discipline that often ties its status to its proximity to the natural sciences, I must give credit where credit is due: humanities scholars are often more open to explore the emotionality of food through historical explorations, philosophical interventions, and creative forms of art, writing, and analysis. A significant part of the joy of being involved with an interdisciplinary endeavor like Gastronomica is its consistent desire to include a wide swath of food scholarly interventions, including rigorously empirical social science projects as well as artistic endeavors and creative nonfiction. Nancy Gagliardi’s visual contribution to this issue, “Does This Make Me Look Fat?,” plays with the idea of the idealized feminine figure and speaks to the amazingly persistent problem of gendered body discipline. Eric Himmelfarb’s review of Adrienne Su’s poetry collection Peach State reminded me—a literal thinking sociologist—of the power of figurative language to capture our complex relationships with food and place. Corrine Collins’s essay on Jamaican black cake and Sandra Trujillo’s essay “Lola’s Good Corn” both speak powerfully to the emotional pull of family foodwork, as well as the sensorial elements of food. This is writing that speaks to intimate interweaving of food and emotion, while also making us, as readers, feel hungry to taste these dishes. In “Table for One,” Michael DiMartino writes an evocative piece on working through the emotional discomfort of eating alone in a restaurant and might also encourage you to “try this at home.” I would also draw your attention to Anelyse M. Weiler’s photo essay, which features visual images from the burning forests and food-producing regions of British Columbia, an area where she has roots as an environmental sociologist, labor scholar, and activist committed to improving the lives of migrant farm workers in Canada. The emotional resonance of Weiler’s images comes not only from Weiler’s commitment to food scholarship but from her emotional connection to a forest ecosystem and foodscape threatened by climate change. Thinking about these images in the context of Weiler’s scholarship on farm workers (Weiler 2021; Weiler and McLaughlin 2019), we can begin to imagine the joys and hardships facing migrant farmworkers in Canada who endure long absences from their families and increasingly work in smoke-filled conditions that threaten their health and well-being.

Food’s emotional dimension is linked to macro events like an existential climate crisis, but it is also rooted in the banality of everyday foodwork and eating habits. Feminist scholarship on domestic foodwork has made important connections between food and emotions, as successful instantiations of foodwork are deeply connected to socially validated femininities and can generate intense feelings of pride and satisfaction, as well as shame and embarrassment (DeVault 1991; Cairns and Johnston 2015; Bowen, Brenton, and Elliot 2019). Successfully managing food and the body—especially given the paradoxical neoliberal imperative to consume more with the disciplinary imperative to manage and minimize body fat—is emotionally fraught terrain (Guthman 2011). Unpacking the pleasure and fear around food, especially given the widespread social context of systemic obesophobia, remains an important topic for scholars studying food and emotion. Kathleen LeBesco’s own writing (2003) is a formative contribution to this area, and here she provides a review of Regina Hofer’s imaginative graphic novel, FAT, which reflects on the relationships between dysfunctional family, art, and her struggles with anorexia and bulimia.

While food scholars have examined food in relation to bodies and maternal foodwork, less work has examined the emotional content of food media. New work in this direction is an important turn since food media is heavily infiltrated with emotional discourse. As anybody who has watched a cooking competition knows, these events often feature emotional displays that range from angry outbursts to tears to heartfelt moments of pride. Good food is expected to move the eater—and the viewer. Grosglik and Lerner (2020) use the television franchise “MasterChef” to develop the concept of “gastro-emotivism,” a helpful term that suggests that gastronomy involves emotional processes that inflect individual psychological struggles as well as collective identities. Just as food moves around the world, so do the emotional frameworks of food media empires. A common phrase Grosglik and Lerner hear uttered by “MasterChef” judges is, “There is something about your food that moves me,” but they also note how the franchise moves participants and viewers in varied ways. While the American and Israeli versions of “MasterChef” both feature high degrees of emotionality, the British, New Zealand, and Australian versions have fewer physical displays of emotion (e.g., hugging) and instead signal emotions through talking. Crying is commonplace in “MasterChef Israel,” but in the Korean and Russian versions crying is rare and even shameful. Looking at “MasterChef Israel,” they find that emotional discourse works on an individual level to produce an authentic reflection of the self, but it also works collectively to draw symbolic boundaries around belonging in the Israeli nation.

The concept of gastro-emotivism prompts us to consider the contemporary foodscape not as a pure realm of reason and rationality but as a deeply emotional space. This goes against the stereotypical assumption of advanced capitalism as a robotic, rational landscape of soulless Soylent drinkers. Indeed, Eva Illouz (2017) theorizes that late capitalism involves a process of emotional intensification related to the development of an authentic self, and she develops the concept of “emodities” to capture how emotions and commodities are co-produced. This has important implications for food scholarship. As we seek to better understand how commodification processes involve the exploitation of natural resources and labor, we can also pay closer attention to how the emotional qualities of food are an integral part of the commodification process—and a key part of struggles to resist commodification. Appreciating gastro-emotivism is a way of appreciating, for example, how the pressures of family foodwork are about managing children’s caloric and nutrient intakes and also about managing the emotions of parents and children. MacKendrick and Pristavec (2019) write of maternal foodwork in a quote that reflects maternal food pressures but also speaks to the collective emotional work surrounding food decisions in uncertain times:

Mothers worried that they would transfer their anxiety about the industrial food system onto their children, and alienate friends, fellow parents, and relatives who are part of their everyday food routines. Navigating the tension between “careful” and “crazy” required subtle but significant emotion work. (453)

Indeed, as we struggle ourselves to make and eat good food, understand battles over food’s authenticity, and feel moved by the foods moving around us, we too may feel as if we are walking an emotional tightrope between “careful” and “crazy.” The challenge facing food scholars—as well as eaters and food producers—is to find a degree of sanity based on a careful and mindful engagement with food that also allows in flickers of “crazy.” By “crazy” I mean the rage, sorrow, and anguish that comes with opening our minds and emotions to the big-picture worries, injustice, and tragedies of a food system that fails so many and yet provides spectacular meals for the few.

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Spring 2022, Volume 22 Number 1

Editorial Letter | Josée Johnston


The Nation and the Noodle: Indomie and Identity in Indonesia | Joe Clifford

Who Eats, Where, What, and How? COVID-19, Food Security, and Canadian Foodscapes | Kimberly Hill-Tout, Claudia Hirtenfelder, Kiera E. B. McMaster, and Megan Herod

Follow the Ferments: Inclusive Food Governance in Arizona | Sara El-Sayed and Christy Spackman


From “Isn’t It Raw?” to Everyday Food: Authenticating Japanese Food in Perth, Australia | Satomi Fukutomi

Farmworkers, Climate Change, and “Converging Crises” | Anelyse M. Weiler

“Nothing says gentrification like being able to order a cortado”: How does food reinforce gentrification…but also inspire resistance? A conversation with Alison Hope Alkon, Yuki Kato, and Joshua Sbicca | Josée Johnston and Michael Chrobok


The Quest for an Ideal Culinary Hyperlocalism | Samuel Yamashita

Food Access, Identity, and Taste in Two Rural Cuban Communities | Krystyn R. Moon, Jennifer Rhode Ward, José Vazquez Rodriguez, Jorge Foyo

Does This Make Me Look Fat? | Nancy Gagliardi

“El Viudo De Pescado”: Living Waters, Living Food | Diana Bocarejo and Rafael Diaz


Lola’s Good Corn | Sandra Trujillo

Table for One: The Best Seat in the House | Michael DiMartino

A Personal History of Jamaican Black Cake | Corrine Collins


The Problem with Feeding Cities: The Social Transformation of Infrastructure, Abundance, and Inequality in America, by Andrew Deeners
reviewed by Tiana Bakić Hayden

Peach State, by Adrienne Su
reviewed by Eric Himmelfarb

FAT, by Regina Hofer
reviewed by Kathleen LeBesco

Amber Waves: The Extraordinary Biography of Wheat, from Wild Grass to World Megacrop, by Catherine Zabinski
reviewed by André Magnan

Roadrunner: A Film about Anthony Bourdain, by Morgan Neville
reviewed by Signe Rousseau

On an Empty Stomach: Two Hundred Years of Hunger Relief, by Tom Scott-Smith
reviewed by Benjamin Siegel

Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal, by Mark Bittman
reviewed by Johanna Wilkes