Resistance Is Fertile! | Anne Meneley

from Gastronomica 14:4

The practices of everyday commensality—producing, provisioning, and consuming food and drink in the West Bank of Palestine—are radically affected by the Israeli occupation. I discuss two very different Palestinian initiatives that envision production and consumption of food and drink as a nonviolent means of resisting the occupation: a craft beer called Taybeh brewed in the predominantly Christian Taybeh village close to Ramallah, and a local agriculture movement based in the Ramallah district known as Sharaka (“partnership” in Arabic). Theories of resistance in anthropology, from James Scott’s (1985) conception of resistance tactics as “weapons of the weak” to Lila Abu-Lughod’s (1990) idea of resistance as a “diagnostic of power,” still resonate in Palestine as the Palestinians are so clearly in a position of gross inequality in relation to their Israeli occupiers, whose power is hardly disguised enough to need a diagnostic. I have found Julia Elyachar’s discussion of how agency is embedded in infrastructure and infrastructure is implicated in resistance activities insightful. This is particularly salient given the peculiar status of infrastructure in the West Bank where, instead of facilitating connectivity, infrastructure is designed to impede and exclude flows—in this case, commodities of sustenance (Elyachar 2014: 460). I am primarily concerned with both Christian and Muslim Palestinians in the West Bank; while I did not have the opportunity to travel to Gaza, conditions in Gaza, including the shocking 2014 Israeli military offensive, affect political sentiments and actions in the West Bank, including resistance practices involving food, a topic I will return to briefly in the postscript of this article.

Local food and drink production and consumption have become sites of “agro-resistance.” Vivien Sansour, a journalist and activist, describes 78-year-old Abu Adnan as one of Palestine’s farmer revolutionaries, who “understand on an experiential level that healing for us as a community suffering from oppression and occupation requires the restoration of our sense of self—a self that is defiant but not defined by its oppressor” (Sansour 2010: 2). Dinaa Hadid cites a Palestinian farmer who, like Abu Adnan, envisions agricultural practice itself as a fertile resistance: “‘I don’t throw rocks,’ says farmer Khader, referring to young men who frequently hurl stones during demonstrations. He pointed to his rock-built terraces. ‘I use them to build our future’” (Hadid 2012: 3). I borrow my title from that of a recent article published in Al-Jazeera, “Resistance Is Fertile: Palestine’s Eco-War” (Brownsell 2011), itself a spinoff from the classic line by the Borg in Star Trek: The Next Generation, “Resistance is futile.” Describing Palestinian “guerilla gardeners of the occupied West Bank,” the author quotes Baha Hilo, then of the Joint Advocacy Initiative, responsible for planting olive trees on land that is in danger of being confiscated: “We’re not a militia, our weapons are our pickaxes and shovels, our hands and our olive trees” (ibid.: 3). Baha Hilo was my guide during my five years as an intermittent “guerilla gardener” myself, as we picked olives on Palestinian land threatened by Israeli military or settlers. Here, I examine how guerrilla gardeners are part of contemporary Palestine agricultural movements and, moreover, are deployed as a new form of nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation.

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Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: An interview with Seth Holmes | Julie Guthman

from Gastronomica 14:1

Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States describes the physical pain and emotional suffering that Triqui migrant workers routinely face during their work in the West Coast berry fields – suffering that is made endemic by racialized work hierarchies and often dismissed by medical professionals. Holmes’s deep ethnographic account is vivid and lucid in its telling, and leaves the reader with a strong emotional impression.

***

First, let me congratulate you for writing a very engaging and informative book. How did you first come to this project, and what compelled you to write this book in the way you did?

Fresh FruitSeveral of my long-standing interests came together in this project. First, I have been interested in the relationship between the United States and Latin America in terms of economics, culture, poverty, development, and immigration. Second, I have been interested in understanding the place of indigenous or native people in our world. Third, I have been interested in our food system and our relationship to the land, what goes into the production and harvesting of our food, especially the fresh fruit and vegetables celebrated by the contemporary food movement and our health system. Fourth, I wanted to better explore the ways in which physicians and nurses understand health, illness, and social difference.

I wrote the book in such a way as to invite the reader into the narrative and the experiences. I wanted the reader to be able to imagine being alongside me during the border crossing so that they might be more interested in thinking through the inputs into that dangerous experience and the implications of it for so many people. I wanted to counteract the way in which most media coverage and policy debates around immigration focus on blanket statements about “immigrants do this” or “immigrants deserve or don’t deserve that.” I hoped I could convey enough about individual human beings who are migrating that the reader might become invested in understanding their realities and no longer take for granted the general stereotypes we often hear.

People have referred to you as the “new” Paul Farmer. Has he been an inspiration for you and why? Who else has inspired your work?

During my sophomore and junior years of college in the mid-1990s, I did a handful of “informational interviews” of people with interesting careers as I decided what to pursue next. Paul spoke with me over the phone one night after he took care of patients at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. That night and over the years of interacting at conferences and even team teaching a course together, I have been impressed with the ways he seeks to bring together a strong appetite for reading, an interest in thinking critically about health and economics, a commitment to a structural vision of social justice, and a desire and ability to work toward improved medical care on individual and systems levels. In the end, I decided to pursue an MD and a PhD in anthropology and, later, a relatively public engagement with social and health inequalities.

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Spring 2014, Volume 14, Number 1

Spring 2014, Volume 14, Number 1

From the Editor
Editor’s Letter | Melissa L. Caldwell

Meet the Author
Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: An Interview with Seth Holmes | Julie Guthman

Research Articles
Don’t Mono-crop the Movement: Toward a Cultural Ecology of Local Food | B. R Cohen

A Lighthouse for Urban Agriculture: University, Community, and Redefining Expertise in the Food System | Maywa Montenegro de Wit

An Edible Moral Economy in the Motor City: Food Politics and Urban Governance in Detroit | Yuson Jung and Andrew Newman

The Restaurants of Paris: A Translation from Paris à table | J Weintraub

Aromas Emanating from the Driest of Places | Gary Paul Nabhan

Critical Reflections
Foodie Mysteries | Marilyn Stasio

La Cucina Povera | Robert Iulo

Stolen Fruit Tastes Better | Julia Hebaiter

The Story of Tomatoes: How Picking Tomatoes Taught Me the Art and Attitude of Social Change | Laura M Titzer

Creative Works
A Lingering Flavor | Margaret Sessa-Hawkins

Cold War Forest: Mushrooming Along the Wall | Ali Fitzgerald

Reviews
Get Jiro! By Anthony Bourdain and Joel Rose, reviewed by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft

Aesthetic Pleasure in Twentieth-Century Women’s Food Writing By Alice L. McLean, reviewed by Susan Derwin

Chanterelle Dreams, Amanita Nightmares: The Love, Lore, and Mystique of Mushrooms By Greg A. Marley, reviewed by Jim Trappe

Alcohol, Violence, and Disorder in Traditional Europe By A. Lynn Martin, reviewed by Christine Caldwell Ames

Let the Meatballs Rest: And Other Stories About Food and Culture By Massimo Montanari, reviewed by Zachary Nowak

Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics By Marion Nestle and Malden Nesheim, reviewed by Heather Hammel

Secrets of the Sommeliers By Rajat Parr and Jordan Mackay, reviewed by Dan Berger

The Art of Cooking with Vegetables By Alain Passard, reviewed by Katrina Dodson

Julia Child’s The French Chef By Dana Polan, reviewed by Malena Watrous  83

Du fait de cuisine / On Cookery of Master Chiquart (1420) Edited and translated by Terence Scully, reviewed by Brooke Heidenreich Findley

The Kitchen as Laboratory: Reflections on the Science of Food and Cooking Edited by César Vega, Job Ubbink, and Erik van der Linden, reviewed by Jonathan L. Clark

Just Desserts
The Majority of Rabbits Lead Lives of Quiet Desperation | Shelly Errington

We Are What We Eat | Paul D. Swanson

The Origins and Current Legal Status of “Natural” and “Organic” Food Labels

The cook plays an important part in the nourishability of food. Meals which are lovingly prepared with a profound desire for the welfare of the eater always benefit the body and mind more than do meals which are commercially prepared, or which have been prepared by someone who is indifferent to or dislikes the proposed eater. No one should cook when in a state of indifference, agitation, sorrow or anger.

From The Hidden Secret of Ayurveda, by Dr. Robert E. Svoboda

The most famous gastronome of them all, Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, wrote in Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante (1826): “Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.”: “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.” For some, such as Adelle Davis — Time magazine characterized her as “the high priestess of a new nutrition religion” in December 1972 — the consequences of our food choices are stark: “As I see it, every day you do one of two things: build health or produce disease.”

How do we know if we are supposedly building health, rather than unwittingly producing disease by what we consume? We resolve what economists call “informational asymmetry” by relying on food labels, brands and trademarks to confirm the authenticity and quality of our foodstuffs. But making “correct” food choices can be daunting and baffling. In her groundbreaking book, What to Eat, Dr. Marion Nestle estimates that there are around 320,000 food and beverage products available in the United States; and that the average supermarket stocks about 30,000 to 40,000 of them.[1] While we may not understand the true origins or makeup of what we put on our tables, most baby-boomers can tell you in a heartbeat that Rice Krispies go “snap, crackle and pop,” Lucky Charms are “magically delicious,” and Wonder Bread helps “build strong bodies in 8 ways.”

Two of the most symbolic words in food promotion nowadays are “organic” and “natural.” Generally defined, “natural” means “present in or produced by nature” and is not something “altered, treated or disguised,” but rather “faithfully represents nature or life.”[2] “Organic,” in its most abstract sense, means “simple, healthful, and close to nature.”[3] Both words hearken back to a pre-industrial age and share Edenic, utopian connotations. They imply a general distrust of chemical engineering and manufacturing processes. If we are what we eat, are we not closer to “nature” if we incorporate natural and organic foods into our diet? That is the compelling allure and implicit bargain of consuming organic and natural foods.

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Crop Futures: How Surplus Breeds Demand | James Barnett

Here’s a thought experiment: Let’s pretend that human consumption of all soy products and bulk field corn dropped to zero in the coming marketing year, and that everyone knew this was going to occur. What would happen? Well, the prices of these commodities would probably drop back towards where they were circa 2000, an era when demand couldn’t keep up with rapidly improving yields and the entire concept of a grain shortage seemed like a quaint anachronism. The lower prices would presumably in turn reduce corn and soy planting to circa 2000 levels, which is about 10% less than where they are today. But even with virtually no human consumption of corn or soy, at least 90% of this land would still be used for a corn/soy rotation. The best farmland in the Corn Belt would barely see any change at all.

What this reveals is that the relationship between our eating habits and what gets planted on most of America’s farms is a lot less direct than we might imagine. Even with the local food movement taking root widely, industrial agriculture in this country holds its ground, because consumer choices influence only a marginal piece of this highly efficient operation. The ruthlessness with which businesses look to exploit an unused resource can be truly breathtaking. Name a by-product of virtually any agricultural operation, and someone will find a use for it. Heck, there is an active business in feeding chicken litter to cattle. Got something you don’t want to truck down to the landfill? What’s the caloric value of that stuff? Is it a decent source of protein? Maybe someone will take it off your hands.


(iStockPhoto)

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