Editor’s Letter, Spring 2023

From Gastronomica 23.1

An Academic Diptych

This year represents a peculiar personal anniversary. I have now been doing food studies for as long as I previously did sexuality studies, before my “culinary turn.” While I have gradually slid from the sex to the food side of the academic table, I still teach both subjects. I also remain active on the editorial board of Sexualities, a leading journal in the sociology of sexuality, even as I participate in the editorial collective for Gastronomica. Thus, as I was gazing at Jess Stephens’s mesmerizing photographic diptychs in this issue, I also was contemplating the academic diptych of my own career, on the one side “sex,” on the other “food”—what connects them? This question formed for me a way of looking at this issue. Just like the flies caught lighting upon the dates in the cover image from Stephens, questions of bodily politics buzz from food to sex studies. Drawing on these articles as food for thought, I found three terms that seemed ripe for comparative reflection: authenticities, temporalties, and borders.

Sex and food find a connection in the concept of authenticity. Food and sex both are visceral ways of grounding culturally prescribed “truths” about self and society in the body. As Gaozi tells Mencius, “food and sex are natural” (食色性也 shi se xing ye), but for Mencius, this commonsensical observation is only half the story. The Confucian conception of nature, like Aristotle’s, is both descriptive and normative (Bloom 1997; Hall 2020). In short, desires for sex and food are simultaneously formed in the body and informed through the cultivation of a moral instinct. Similarly, for us moderns, “authenticity” is a term that contains within it this simultaneously socialized and naturalized conception of a prescriptive path—a “way” (dao 道) of eating—that still must be cultivated through social pedagogy (e.g., food writing and nutrition studies). Sex is analogously thought to be “natural,” though the standards of “nature” we apply to it are different.

As both culture and nature, food and sex also are ways of marking social time on multiple scales, from the daily meals and hugs to feasts celebrating a lifelong marriage. Food, through the vehicle of palatal memory, is a particularly powerful way of establishing shared social temporalities, confirming private and public connections through palatal nostalgia. Sex, in contrast, is often a way of forgetting as much as remembering, and sexual memories are notoriously mutable. Both can be ways of grounding stories about our pasts, presents, and futures. But are these stories told through the body always reliable?

Finally, eating and sex can both be a way of staking out boundaries against others, while simultaneously creating especially inviting ways of violating them. While sexual border crossing is more often perilous, gastronomy both celebrates distinctive social identities and suggests new recipes for redefining them. Culinary boundaries and borderlands are concepts in many of the pieces in this issue. Therefore, in outlining themes that unite this issue of Gastronomica, I try to generate some formative questions from my perspective on sexuality studies, which I pose as one way of reading these contributions to food studies. I start first with the theme of authenticity, then memories and temporalities, and finally return to the questions of boundaries and boundary crossing.

Authenticities: An Italian Dao of Eating

The topic of authenticity is at the center of this issue of Gastronomica, with a pathbreaking special section devoted to the concept of authenticity in food studies, all based on Italian case studies. Since this special section comes with its own thorough introduction by Lauren Crossland-Marr and Elizabeth L. Krause, I will not introduce the individual articles here. However, as a bifocaled food-and-sex scholar, I can’t help but be struck by the question of whether or how sexuality scholars would talk about “authentic sex,” and what form this conversation might take. My own reply would be to point to the discourse of “naturalness” in ethnographic sex research. Good sex is often described as “natural” in interview-based studies (Fahs and Plante 2017; Farrer, Tsuchiya, and Bagrowicz 2008). This idea of “naturalness” is conceptually very close to “authenticity” in implying a corporal telos, grounded in “natural” needs that we still must discover and cultivate socially. Another explicit take on authenticity comes up in studies of commercial sex, in which clients seek “real” emotional connections with sex workers, even while knowing such connections are contrived or even faked (Bernstein 2007). Authenticity in sex is thus opposite of contrivance and commodification—but exists in their shadow. In authenticity discourses about food, this grounding of palatal taste in nature is tied to embodiment but also more broadly to peoples and lands—in the worst instances, a crude culinary version of Blut und Boden (blood and soil), in others as flexible ties among peoples, places, and practices. As with sex, there is a similarly naïve hope that such “real” connections can survive the processes of commodification, marketing, and regulation. The articles in this section explore how tastes are bound to people and places, while not ignoring the social exclusion created in market mechanisms and regulatory standards, many of which are institutionalized by European Union authorities.

Not surprisingly, as we also see in the articles in this issue, norms of culinary authenticity are viewed with suspicion by many ordinary eaters. Is it because they seem to be imposed by bureaucrats and elitist foodie authorities? Some examples in this special section seem to point in this direction. How would people react if standards for “authentic sex” were regulated by the European Union or the columnists of The New Yorker? Indeed, research in sexuality shows that in addition to “naturalness,” another standard for good sex is the ability to choose our own sexual scripts (Fahs and Plante 2017). Probably, the same is true for food. “Good eating”—like good sex—most likely entails our choosing our own scripts for authenticity. In this issue, we learn about several scripts for authenticity, mostly from Italy. This is a pluralistic and ethnographic approach to authenticity that brings much pleasure in reading, even for those who remain skeptical of the promise of “true” food.

Temporalities: Culinary Ghosts of Past, Present, and Future

Linked perhaps to the peculiar physiology of smell and taste, gustatory experiences are recalled so vividly (or at least imagined so) that they enable us to re-encounter a personal and collective past as though it is still present—the famous “Proust effect” (Hamilton 2011). Individual and shared food histories are constructed through this acutely felt culinary nostalgia (Swislocki 2008). Sex, however, in contrast to taste, reminds us of the untrustworthy nature of sensory memories. Men and women show wide discrepancies in their recollections of sexual experiences, even basics such as the numbers of sexual partners (Brown and Sinclair 1999). Sexual memory points to the equally human arts of forgetting and dissembling, something food scholars might consider more thoroughly. Indeed, the essays in this issue point to both slippages and creativity in imagining food pasts, presents, and futures. Memories are extremely fecund, but they may be faulty. And even imagined futures are deeply laden with selective readings of the recent past.

Several of the essays in this issue of Gastronomica deal with temporalities expressed through food memories, food nostalgia, and routinized food practices. First, we learn how personal food memories help us construct the present while simultaneously reimagining a collective past. Victor Valle, in his article in this issue, takes his own kernel of childhood palatal memories and enlarges it into an ambitious exploration of the culinary meanings of chiles that draws on poetics as well as neuroscience. Far more than an exercise in childhood nostalgia, Valle’s essay presents the hope of a postcolonial politics of food memories based on both personal and collective memories associated with the pungent chiles native to the Southwest United States.

One of the most intriguing explorations of culinary storytelling in this issue involves a case of failed or disappointed food memory. The author and photographer (and our reviews editor) Janita Van Dyk returns to Italy aiming to photograph the foods and places she had associated with the slow food movement only to find that her memories have failed her. On her return, the foods she previously photographed are now ugly and the places disappointing. There is no Proustian madeleine moment of recognition for her. For Van Dyk, food memory proves faulty and evasive. She can only recapture the essential conviviality of slow food by refocusing her gaze on candid portraits of her fellow diners and friends. In this essay, then, the reputed reliability of gustatory memory is questioned, and the presence of slow food is shown to be less on the plate and the tongue than in the momentary expressions of co-presence on the faces of the people she shares it with.

Food pasts also become ways to talk about the future of food. We see this vividly in Alex Ketchum’s essay on the retrofuturist visions of food robots and food computers in mid-twentieth-century America. As Ketchum points out, even in a future in which culinary work is made effortless by automation, men could only imagine women staying at home in order to push all the digitized buttons. Evidently, the unquestioned routines of women conjuring meals for men makes a gastronomic future dominated by robots and computers palatable to the assumed male reader or viewer of these ads. In short, the future imagined through food may just be another jaded version of the gendered past, until someone unexpectedly stops pushing buttons for those in power.

Taken together, these articles show that food is a particularly pliable medium for imagining our pasts, presents, and futures, but it is not as reliable as we sometimes think. Ultimately food memory is, as Van Dyk writes, a political act, as is the imagination of our food futures. And, good meals, like good sex, may be as much an art of forgetting as remembering.

Borderlands: Border Crossings and Imagined Frontiers

Another shared symbolic function of sex and food is the politics of boundary-making and boundary-crossing. Sexual boundary crossings are often fraught with danger, whether concerning the boundaries of heteronormativity, homogamy, or propriety. Eating seems far more promiscuous. While religious folks may refuse the food of the “other” and urban elites grouse about culinary appropriation, gastronomic practice has long been an orgy of cross-fertilization, allowing for a bodily politics of contamination and hybridization. With sex, in contrast, people proceed cautiously across sacred social boundaries, often at mortal peril. The comparison is not meant to imply equivalence, but I do believe thinking about these similar but different uses of food and sex helps sharpen our attention on what is at stake in the corporal politics surrounding both.

Foodways can both solidify and blur social boundaries. In this issue of Gastronomica, the primary emphasis is on the ways in which foods allow us to cross borders, to inhabit and reimagine borderlands, and to use border crossings to reimagine the identity of the center. Blake Allmendinger’s paper reads the border-crossing career of Julia Child against another essay by Bernand DeVoto that defends a romanticized idea of the “frontier” in American history. For Allmendinger, the significance of Child’s writing lies in the politics of opening up the American domestic sphere to experiments with cosmopolitan foodways at a time when the Cold War politics of the country were increasingly xenophobic. According to Allmendinger, Child defined the kitchen as “a liminal space of transformation and possibility; as a contact zone in which different cultures converged.” Of course, America had long placed French cooking at the center of its metropolitan culinary tables, so Child’s work might not be quite as radical as Allmendinger applies. Still, Child clearly did impact the American kitchen in ways that went further and deeper than the fancy French banquets served to elites in large cities since the nineteenth century (Freedman 2016). Readers of Child’s cookbooks and those inspired by her learned first that there were acceptable ways for Americans to be “European” and then later to be “global.”

Culinary histories of borderlands may also help rewrite the broader social histories of places, show connections that were later erased, and even expand the “border” to include most of the territory. Taking us on a far-ranging culinary tour of the border zones of the United States and Mexico, Patrick Charbonneau and Jeffrey M. Pilcher use the sweet fudge-like panochita de leche to show us how food histories can be reimagined through a particularly popular food item. Panochita is a confection of boiled sugar and milk invented in colonial Mexico. It became a popular sweet in nineteenth-century Mexican cities and towns. The authors trace its cross-border lineage and show it sometimes merged with similar categories of sweets, especially fudge, in the United States. It was subsequently used by cookbook authors to represent both Mexicanness in Mexico and localized authenticity in the American West before gradually becoming a nostalgic and rare item sold in only a few places. Studying this sweet allows the authors to reexamine a postcolonial Mexican American history of shared culinary borderlands and cross-border influences. As a coda to this historical article, Charbonneau and Pilcher join with Kelsey Kilgore in the Culinaria kitchen at the University of Toronto to recreate panochita in a series of surprisingly arduous experiments, showing how the embodiment of a dish involves more than a sense of taste, but also muscular kitchen labor.

Sex rarely pops up explicitly in Gastronomica, but it did here. In passing, the authors note what Spanish speakers will already know, that more than a century ago the term “panochita” turned into a slang term for female genitals, and remains so today. The longevity of this slang perhaps points to the resonance of food–sex metaphors. A cautionary tale about googling for images of “panochita” also points to the moral boundary work we reflexively engage in about sex. There are no “not safe for work” warnings on food porn. True, food also can be the locus of fierce moral boundary maintenance. Hindu extremists have killed Indian Muslims for allegedly slaughtering cows. Secular examples also can be found. Some Americans protest the eating of rabbits, dogs, or horses, regarding them as exclusively pets. But such examples are scarce in comparison to the number of people policed and even murdered for infractions of sexual boundaries. The battles over the hijab in Iran or abortion in the United States show the fierceness of these sexual border wars. Food, in contrast, seems to form an arena of body politics in which boundary crossing is not only tolerated but even celebrated. Both the connections and disjunctures in these two most common foci of corporal politics are striking, and could be a site for longer investigations.

Food Writing and Sex Writing

Turning the question around, what did food studies teach me, then, about studies of sex? If you read the pages of Gastronomica, you might be forgiven for thinking that no one ever had a bad meal. Food scholars gush over the joys of their fieldwork. If you read the pages of Sexualities, in contrast, you might suspect no one ever has good sex. Problems abound in the bedroom. Clearly, food studies can be critical, and Gastronomica is perhaps the best example of this type of writing. Sexuality studies, however, could possibly learn something from food studies about celebrating the textures, tastes, and terroir of the erotic. This is tricky, but that doesn’t obviate the point that academic sex writing is often oblique, technical, and dry. Food writing is both more direct, vivid, and embodied. Good writing mobilizes people, and above all, good writing is read. Visceral prose can more directly pierce the established conceptual and societal boundaries we all seek to question in our research. This is one great merit I see in Gastronomica as a collective enterprise devoted to both scholarly rigor and writerly style. I am now happy to be sitting more often on this side of the table.

And finally, Gastronomica is a collective of members who rotate into and out of editorial duties. This year, Helen Zoe Veit, Josée Johnston, and Simone Cinotto leave us, and we thank them for their devotion and good companionship over the years. Their seats at the editorial table are now taken by Alyshia Gálvez, Irina D. Mihalache, and Rafia Zafar. We look forward to their fresh voices in our continued conversations to make the journal even better, more inclusive, and more accessible to readers and contributors.

—James Farrer, for the Gastronomica Editorial Collective, Tokyo, November 2022

Bernstein, Elizabeth. 2007. “Sex work for the middle classes.” Sexualities 10.4: 473–488.

Bloom, Irene. 1997. “Human Nature and Biological Nature in Mencius.” Philosophy East and West 47.1: 21–32.

Brown, Norman R., and Robert C. Sinclair. 1999. “Estimating Number of Lifetime Sexual Partners: Men and Women Do It Differently.” Journal of Sex Research 36.3: 292–97.

Fahs, Breanne, and Rebecca Plante. 2017. “On ‘Good Sex’ and Other Dangerous Ideas: Women Narrate Their Joyous and Happy Sexual Encounters.” Journal of Gender Studies 26.1: 33–44.

Farrer, James, Haruka Tsuchiya, and Bart Bagrowicz. 2008. “Emotional Expression in Tsukiau Dating Relationships in Japan.” Journal of Social and Personal Relationships 25.1: 169–88.

Freedman, Paul. 2016. Ten Restaurants That Changed America. New York: Liveright Publishing.

Hall, Edith. 2020. Aristotle’s way: How ancient wisdom can change your life. New York: Penguin.

Hamilton, Paula. 2011. “The Proust Effect: Oral History and the Senses.” In The Oxford Handbook of Oral History, edited by Donald A. Ritchie, 219–33. Oxford, UK: Oxford Academic Press.

Swislocki, Mark. 2008. Culinary Nostalgia: Regional Food Culture and the Urban Experience in Shanghai. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Editor’s Letter, Winter 2022

From Gastronomica 22.4

Editor’s Letter

“Decline, decline, decline. I’m sick of that word,” was the waterman’s gruff response to my question about the downward trend in annual oyster harvests. It was the early 1980s and I was interviewing a skipjack captain1 at a commercial landing as part of my first job in public history. Fresh out of grad school, I was leading a research and documentation project on the history of local fisheries at the Calvert Marine Museum, a regional maritime museum on the Chesapeake Bay, in Maryland. The project, funded by a generous grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, was designed to document the working lives of watermen, so-called because they “follow the water,” harvesting the seasonal round of resources in the bay and its complex network of tributaries.2 Called an “immense protein factory” by Baltimore writer H. L. Mencken,3 the Chesapeake’s long history of spectacular hauls of oysters, crabs, clams, finfish, and terrapin was definitely in decline by the 1980s. A combination of pollution and environmental degradation, ruthlessly efficient harvesting technologies, and aggressive harvesting to meet consumer demands had led to the decline and depletion of species like striped bass (rockfish) and oysters, two of the bay’s culinary stars. A major tenet underlying the project itself was that we were witnessing the end of something, the end of viable commercial fisheries—known as “the water business”—on the bay. The museum, which houses collections of gear and workboats as well as aquaria showcasing various marine species, was well positioned to record the twilight of these historically and culturally significant industries. Indeed, the project revealed that rockfish and oysters weren’t the only species in decline. Watermen felt endangered too.

Despite the downward trend borne out by statistics, life went on aboard workboats, in seafood packing houses, and in watermen’s communities. In interviews, many locals preferred to take a long view, describing the current state of things as part of a pattern of abundance and scarcity that had characterized the fisheries for generations. If we were in a valley, just wait until the peaks of plenty returned. And I struggled, too, to reconcile the trajectory of decline with what I encountered every single day: spectacularly beautiful expanses of water observed from landings, bridges, beaches, and boat decks. Where were the rusty pipes dumping sewage into the water? Where were the factories and chemical dumping sites that would account for the declining water quality? Where could I see the noxious processes that were polluting the water and decimating the bay’s seafood resources? That’s when I learned about non-point-source pollution, the widespread run-off from chemically treated lawns and agricultural fields, livestock and poultry waste, highways, suburban parking lots, and similar impermeable surfaces that permitted oil and other pollutants to enter the watershed. The insidious nature of non-point-source pollution brought home the complexities of ecosystems and the arduous work of trying to change human behaviors to protect the marine environment and coastal communities when all seemed fine on the surface. While my interviews touched on these issues, the stories watermen and their families were eager to tell were about the centrality of water, and the water business, to their lives.4 The resulting archive teems with remarkable narratives of resilience and innovation as watermen pushed hard against the notion that this was the end of something, that the decline was real.

A decade later, I moved to a position at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, an hour’s drive away, but still within the massive watershed of the Chesapeake. When I joined the “Ocean Planet” exhibition team at the National Museum of Natural History as an adviser on fishing communities, the context for concern became global. This project coincided with the 1992 moratorium on cod fishing in the formerly productive waters of the North Atlantic, a shattering event in the lives of fishermen in the maritime provinces. The moratorium came fifteen years after international fleets of highly efficient factory trawlers had been banned from the fishing grounds, but still too late to undo the damage. By the 1990s, the decline was deemed irreversible and in fact six cod populations had collapsed.5 Canadian fishermen paid the price. Amid waves of angry protests, one Newfoundlander created art. Dan Murphy, forced from fishing, began carving what the death of the fishery looked like to him: a carved codfish lying in a wooden coffin.6

While fishing and coastal communities brought me into the world of water, my curatorial work shifted toward food history in the 1990s. The lens of food provided substantially more opportunities to consider the fundamental role of water to critical issues in food studies, such as food production and sustainability; nutrition, health, and the harms of unequal access; food systems and economic policies that are at odds with environmental protection; and the impacts of climate change on global water resources. Now, as we stumble further into the twenty-first century,more people around the world are experiencing firsthand the acute impacts of water—flooding, droughts, rising sea levels, dried-up rivers and lakes, decimation (way beyond decline) of wild fish populations, noxious drinking water and dire health consequences, commercial and politically driven competition for fewer water resources. Within this context, the Gastronomica collective determined that the time was right to launch a special Call for Papers to encourage submissions on water through the lens of food. We left the CFP broad and vague, hoping to inspire a wide range of topics and perspectives.We are notdisappointed. In fact, we aim to continue highlighting water submissions in future issues and encouragemore articles, essays, creative pieces, and visual contributions on the theme, broadly conceived. The well for insightful, relevant water work is nowhere near dry.

While fishing and coastal communities brought me into the world of water, my curatorial work shifted toward food history in the 1990s. The lens of food provided substantially more opportunities to consider the fundamental role of water to critical issues in food studies, such as food production and sustainability; nutrition, health, and the harms of unequal access; food systems and economic policies that are at odds with environmental protection; and the impacts of climate change on global water resources. Now, as we stumble further into the twenty-first century,more people around the world are experiencing firsthand the acute impacts of water—flooding, droughts, rising sea levels, dried-up rivers and lakes, decimation (way beyond decline) of wild fish populations, noxious drinking water and dire health consequences, commercial and politically driven competition for fewer water resources. Within this context, the Gastronomica collective determined that the time was right to launch a special Call for Papers to encourage submissions on water through the lens of food. We left the CFP broad and vague, hoping to inspire a wide range of topics and perspectives.We are notdisappointed. In fact, we aim to continue highlighting water submissions in future issues and encouragemore articles, essays, creative pieces, and visual contributions on the theme, broadly conceived. The well for insightful, relevant water work is nowhere near dry.

Under the heading “Changes in the Water,” four articles look at the impacts of environmental change on particular places, communities, resources, and foods. Chanelle Dupuis writes about communities in the Peruvian Amazon for whom local waters have always been and remain essential to their livelihoods, sense of identity, and culture. Dupuis’ research reveals how changes in the smell of surrounding waters, detected and described by Indigenous communities, has emerged as an indicator of environmental change. She discusses the association between the increase of putrid smells with pollution and contamination of the Nanay River, as industrial and consumerist practices in the Amazon continue to degrade water quality and affect the quality of life. She argues that changes in the sensory landscape are nontrivial and indicate serious disruptions of basic health and, importantly, spiritual connections with water.

Rebecca Irons writes from South America as well, from the coast of Peru, where she explores the underlying politics of ceviche and Peru’s gastronomic revolution. As an official part of the country’s national heritage, and a candidate for UNESCO designation of intangible heritage, the tension between the gastrotourism-based approach to ceviche and the history of the dish as prepared according to local practice reveals deep fissures in Peruvian society. With historical links between raw fish and cholera, the participants in Peru’s globally recognized gastronomic ascent seek to distance their ceviche from any sense of coastal communities that are associated with disease, dirt, poverty, and nonwhite handlers. This study also looks at how the rise of microplastics in the world’s oceans presents an additional health-related concern that is still playing out among advocates for a national dish that has already turned its back on history.

Dawn Starin’s article “Pirogues to Paradise?” explores the global politics of fish and fishing, and the desperation faced by traditional fishers in The Gambia, a small country on the west coast of Africa. In an all-too familiar pattern, Gambian fishermen, who have been struggling for years, have been effectively put out of business by highly efficient international trawlers working off the coast. The ocean that supported generations of Gambian fishermen and communities is now perceived as just an escape route toward a better life elsewhere. Starin foregrounds the tales of desperate Gambians who have taken to the open ocean in their pirogues—small, open, wooden boats—heading toward Europe. Many do not survive, but others believe the risks are justified. These themes of small-scale fishermen up against a global economy built on the exploitation of ocean resources and without regard to people of color who have little political power continue to hasten the decline of species and the despair of coastal communities.

Holly Brause, whose essay rounds out the “Changes in the Water” section, is looking at water scarcity and heritage crops in New Mexico, where she is researching the future of the state’s chile industry. This iconic crop, in all its varieties and hyperlocal nuances, is essential to New Mexican cuisine, identity, and culture. While factors such as international competition, labor issues, disease, and pests have negatively affected the industry over several decades, the lack of water for irrigation is the major, and infinitely more complex, problem to solve.

Like other states in the American West, New Mexico is suffering from an extensive and devastating drought, an ongoing crisis that deepened in the summer of 2022. Without adequate winter snowpacks or natural rainfalls, water allocations from shared sources like the Colorado and Rio Grande rivers are being renegotiated and reduced, putting crops, livestock, and livelihoods at risk. Brause describes how chile farmers in New Mexico are adopting measures such as water rationing, letting land lie fallow, and investing in more efficient irrigation technologies to survive. Yet she warns that such measures can have unintended consequences; the all-important taste of different varieties of chiles can be affected by changes to the land, their terroir. The impacts of the drought on New Mexico’s chiles, cuisines, and communities are multiplying and the uncertainty of a future without water weighs heavily. While Brause writes there is no easy answer, she is certain that protecting heritage crops like chiles—including how they taste—will need “imagination, dedication, vision, and collaboration.”

The issue’s second section, “Drinking Water,” includes three articles on that most basic compound essential to maintaining life and health. The authors discuss aspects of water for drinking in New York, Tokyo, and Phoenix, and explore the extraordinary innovations, engineering, and planning behind the quest for safe, reliable, and tasty water for human consumption. James Edward Malin’s “Give Us Seltzer That We May Drink” provides a sobering look at the history of drinking water in New York City in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with particular focus on the horrendous conditions endured by Jewish immigrants living in the city’s tenements. Disease was rampant, and deaths from waterborne bacteria were common. Discrimination was also rampant and Jewish neighborhoods were denied the infrastructure and safeguards provided to the city’s wealthy and elite populace. The arrival of seltzer—bottled, carbonated water—stanched the flow of sickness and helped improve overall health. This story of innovation and resilience underlies the fierce loyalty Jewish New Yorkers accord seltzer and its status as a cultural icon.

The second article in this section comes to us from Tokyo and Gastronomica collective member James Farrer, who takes us on a voyage of discovery on the Kanda River, revealing how centuries of engineering have made the river a viable source of municipal drinking water. While working with a film crew, Farrer encounters the canal structures and deep tunnel built to control the river’s flow. Farrer’s former sense of the river as an unimportant eyesore to his understanding of its extraordinary history and utility reinforces the notion that the surface of water never tells the whole story of what lies below.

From Tokyo we return to the American West, specifically Phoenix, Arizona, where Christy Spackman and her co-authors Marisa Manheim and Shomit Barua present their research findings from a project they developed to engage citizens in shaping the future of municipal water in the city. As cities like Phoenix grapple with water scarcities now, and look into the future, questions such as how municipal water should taste may be left on the margins. The researchers developed a series of activities to engage diverse visitors at an exhibition about water resources and the future and share both the research design and results in their fascinating contribution.

The “First Person” section flows away from the water theme and into personal narratives that connect deeply to themes of family, labor, ethics and choices, and artistic expression. In “Don’t wait for me for lunch,” Camille Bégin traverses across generations and continents, family recipes and wartime deprivations, the end and beginning of life, all as she wades with intention and care through her family’s extensive archive. The stimulus for this archival journey is best told by Bégin herself, but it’s not giving anything away to say that she and her mother shared the goal of making “something of all the stuff” in the family archive as COVID-19 and other circumstances limited their mobility. Bégin shares what the archive holds in terms of personal recipe books kept by three generations of women living in Paris, Algeria, and, for a short time, Lebanon. The collective cuisines and memories contained in the books provide a view into her family’s lived experiences in food. The main focus of Bégin’s article, however, is her great grandfather’s letters, written while he traveled for his work as an inspector of the French lycées (secondary schools funded by the government) abroad after World War II. The letters, which serve as his travel journals, included memorable trips to Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, as well as French West Africa in 1948 and 1949. He wrote of his encounters with people and places, but his comments on food raised questions that Bégin explores. This food-centric family history is a labor of love and survival; if there are more such treasures in this remarkable archive, we can only hope she will continue making “something of all the stuff.”

We often hear about the challenges of farming and labor in the United States, but seldom in the words of the farmer herself. In “How the Work Gets Done,” Margaret Ann Snow describes the small, organic vegetable farm in Alabama that she and her husband own and, how, over many years, they have contended with finding reliable and capable workers to help plant, cultivate, harvest, wash, and store various crops. Almost a decade ago, they decided to participate in the H2A visa program, which allows guest workers from other countries to live and work on American farms on a temporary basis.7

Snow’s essay describes how, over nearly a decade, she and her family have employed the same three farm workers and their close friends and relatives from Mexico. The genuine relationships that Snow and her family have built and nurtured with these individuals who are supporting their families in Mexico through their labor, contrast with reports about exploitation and abuses of temporary workers elsewhere. She reflects on how laws that have shaped farm labor lead to questions about equity, as well as what it means to be a responsible employer in American agriculture.

Rounding out this section, Amy Finley writes about living her values. In this case, considering the environmental costs of meat production and making a different choice—rabbit. Finley takes us along as she encounters vociferous opponents in the United States to the idea, practiced broadly elsewhere, that rabbits are a viable source of protein and should be more widely available and consumed. She compares the environmental cost of raising rabbits to raising beef and makes a case for Americans to become more comfortable with the environmental impacts and realities of eating meat of any kind. Finley shares the complexity of her thoughts as her convictions are put to the test.

While food stories can be found in many pages of Gastronomica, the act of storytelling frames the two contributions in the “Food and Storytelling” section of this issue. In “Mieux” by Oliver Pagani, we are taken into an imaginative tale based on one of Aesop’s fables and related folklore involving the practice of beating walnut trees to encourage growth and increased production. Within the setting of a nunnery in the Iraty beech forest of southwest France (Basque Country), an ancient walnut tree is brutalized by a group of men while Mieux, a nun who cannot bear to witness the violence, retreats to a cave where she regularly makes a highly prized type of cheese. At day’s end, she emerges to find the wounded tree as well as a visiting priest with whom she begins a conversation. Pagani engages the reader in this richly sensory narrative and then rewards us with a recipe for a dish that evokes spring in the countryside of Mieux’s tale.

Migration stories that also involve food are highly valued among food studies scholars and wider audiences alike, and “Fried Goose Eggs” by Sandra Trujillo rounds out this issue in a memorable way. Trujillo weaves together bits of tales told by the author’s T´ıas about Grandpa Manuel, nicknamed El Tacaño, The Stingy One, because of his actions as the family migrated years ago, on foot, from California to Colorado. She links that story to a more recent visit to El Tacaño, proving that the nickname still applies. Yet the visit yields two giant goose eggs that are exclaimed over and consumed with delight as more stories about food and family are exchanged. Recipe included.

In many ways this is an extraordinary issue of Gastronomica, and I congratulate the authors for their excellent and marvelously varied contributions. The reviewers— Noah Allison, Natasha Bunzl, Noha Fikry, Julia Fine, Kashyapi Ghosh, and Peter A. Kopp—deserve tremendous thanks and recognition for providing such insightful reviews of new scholarship. Finally, I wish to thank members of the collective, and especially Managing Editor Jessica Carbone, who keeps this ship of food scholars on course. And, speaking of which, please consider sharing your research and writing on food, water, environmental change, and related topics for future issues. There is no decline (decline, decline) in our interest to support work on water.

—Paula J. Johnson, for the Gastronomica Editorial Collective, Port Republic,
Maryland, August 2022

1. Skipjacks are traditional wooden workboats used for dredging oysters under sail in the Chesapeake Bay. They are the last commercial fleet to work under sail power in the United States.

2. The term “waterman” refers to those who harvest seafood and make a living on the water in the Chesapeake Bay. The term is rarely used in other maritime regions of the United States. English exploration and settlement along the bay in what are now the states of Maryland and Virginia dates from the sixteenth century, including Sir Walter Raleigh’s expedition in 1585. “Watermen” in England referred to those who handled cargo and passenger boats on rivers, canals, and other waterways. The Company of Watermen & Lightermen of the River Thames, for example, was founded in 1514. https://watermenscompany.com. The gendered term as used in the Chesapeake reflects the fact that the vast majority of the seafood harvesters and boat owner/operators in the bay are male.

3. H. L. Mencken, Happy Days (New York: Knopf, 1940), chap. 4, “The Baltimore of the
Eighties.” Kindle.

4. The research and interviews were used for the volume Working the Water: The Commercial Fisheries of Maryland’s Patuxent River, edited by Paula J. Johnson (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1988).

5. Ransom A. Myers, Jeffrey A. Hutchings, and Nicholas J. Barrowman, “Why Do Fish Stocks
Collapse: The Example of Cod in Atlantic Canada,” Ecological Applications, 7.1: (1997):
91–106. Also see Jenn Thornhill Verma, “30 Years after the Moratorium, What Have We Really
Learned about Cod and Science?” CBC News, July 10, 2022. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/

6. One of Murphy’s cod coffin carvings was featured in the exhibition and catalog, Ocean Planet: Writing and Images of the Sea, edited by Peter Benchley and Judith Gradwohl (New York: Harry N. Abrams and Times Mirror Magazines, Inc., in association with the Smithsonian Institution, 1995), 166. The object was added to the permanent collections of the National Museum of American History and has been on display since 2009 in the exhibition On the Water: Stories of Maritime America. https://americanhistory.si.edu/on-the-water/fishingliving/ commercial-fishers/atlantic-cod/what-happened

7. The scope of the program is significant. In 2021, over 317,000 visas were certified for seasonal farm jobs in the United States, per the Wilson Center. http://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/look-h-2agrowth- and-reform-2021-and-2022

Editor’s Letter, Fall 2022

From Gastronomica 22.3

Digesting Tensions and Change

It has been way too long since we entered the so-called “new normal” life under a global pandemic. At Gastronomica, our editorial letters have documented the inevitable influence of these transitions, with each new issue chronicling how our worlds continue to be transformed. This editorial letter, alas, maintains what seems to be now a tradition. COVID-19 continues to be an ongoing presence in our lives, even as we seek to return to our “old” normal. Yet, it is not at the top of the news cycle. The War in Ukraine, which began back in February 2022, has been sharing the news spotlight for some time. Yet, more keeps on coming. Writing from the United States, our attention has diverged to concerns over the impending erosion of women’s reproductive rights, painfully in contrast with the inertia in the face of increasingly common mass shootings. We are also being reminded of the fragile state of democracy. Violence, war, and assaults on reproductive rights form part of a growing list of ongoing issues, seemingly expanding the more time I take to finish this letter. Organizing this issue amid this ongoing ambiance of social distress had the potential to serve as a welcome distraction. While some of the pieces contained within did provide a needed pause, conflict was indeed top of mind as I attempted to put together this puzzle.

This issue of Gastronomica brings together contributions that make us think of the tense intersection between permanence and transformation, or tradition against innovation. We are reminded of the discomforts inherent in change, and how food— much like ourselves—is always adapting and changing, despite our wishes or attempts for preservation. The issue organization recreates some of this push and pull, intertwining thematic sections that present forced or intentional changes and adaptation with those that present a place for rest from conflict, of imagined immutability and resistance to change.

We open with Conflict and Transformation, with articles that have tension at their core, discussing change through conflict, innovation, and movement. The article, “The War in Ukraine and Food Security in Eastern Europe” by Eszter Krasznai Kovács, Agata Bachórz, Natasha Bunzl, Diana Mincyte, Fabio Parasecoli, Simone Piras, and Mihai Varga is a timely discussion of the ongoing conflict. The piece resulted from a panel discussion held at New York University in March 2022, when the conflict started to unfold. The authors presented on the potential food security consequences and the refugee crisis we can now see in the region and beyond. The resulting article expands on this discussion by unpacking the regional capacities to address the crisis, the role of the European Union, and the importance of civil society “bottom-up” responses, while also tackling what the authors refer to as a “popular misconception” of Eastern Europe being “backwards” or belonging to “Russia’s sphere of influence.” In doing so, the piece brings a contemporary view of adaptations forced by conflict, while we continue to see how the situation develops in the region, as the full ramifications of the conflict are yet to be known at the time of writing this letter.

In “Designing the Future of Polish Food: How Cosmopolitan Tastemakers Prototype a National Gastronomy,” by Mateusz Halawa and Fabio Parasecoli, we continue our explorations in Eastern Europe. In a serendipitous conversation with the previous article, Halawa and Parasecoli further enrich our perception of the region through an ethnographic study of tastemakers in Poland and the pre-Ukraine conflict identity tensions in the region. The article discusses change as driven by global food culture, leading to tensions between innovation and tradition. Halawa and Parasecoli explore these tensions through innovations in wine, food, and vodka, via the work of tastemakers and the lens of design thinking. While the authors provide us with an afterword on how the situation has changed in response to COVID-19, it will be up to us, the readers, to be on the lookout for the current work of these tastemakers, and if and how this will continue to change, as the conflict in Ukraine and ensuing refugee crisis continues to unfold.

The next two contributions included in this first thematic section move us from the global to the personal. “Eating America” by Joanne Jacobson is a memoir of change, where food choices are presented as an act of rebellion. The story is rooted in conflict, opening with food traditions in Passover—the Jewish holiday that brings remembrance of slavery and liberation, a time of transition. This sense of liberation permeates the article, recounting rebellion against religious food laws and traditions. As Jacobson recounts from childhood memories of feasting in a local buffet, “for our family, the lush displays of shellfish and pork roasts and meat with cream sauces constituted a liberation from inheritance: a ritual feast of transgressiveness.” In this memoir, food is not shown as static or something to be preserved but as a vehicle for liberation and transgression, “a source of welcomed newness—honoring nerve and curiosity, a way into an America whose boundlessness my immigrant grandparents could not bring themselves to embrace.” The sense of rebellion is continued in the closing article for this first thematic section, with the visual piece “Tangled” by Jaina Cipriano. While not explicit in the author’s framing of the images, the themes of conflict and transformation are still salient in this contribution. It presents items we may recognize as food, transformed into inedible objects, either through the use of color or found objects, such as nails. The images evoke a sense of violence but also of unfinished digestion, in line with the author’s brief introductory text for the images, framing the use of food photography as a vehicle to delve into the author’s fear of vomiting.

The articles presented in the next grouping, Uprooted and Transformed, focus on changed foods, after having gone through a process of transformation. The section opens with “Across Time, Space, and Matter: A Panel Discussion on Food in the Hispanic World,” a contribution I co-authored with H. Rosi Song, Rebecca Earle, Lara Anderson, and Jordana Mendelson, coming from a roundtable organized in commemoration of the New York University King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center’s twenty-fifth anniversary in February 2022. The roundtable contextualizes change through movement and conflict, presenting how food is transformed using the Spanish-speaking world as a case study. Song moderated the discussion, where I had the pleasure of being in conversation with two outstanding food historians, Anderson and Earle, linking together my present-focused work in the Hispanic Caribbean with the past, through the movement of food, covering Spain and the New World, Latin America, and the space in between. This contribution reflects our commitment, in Gastronomica, to read across geographic boundaries and disciplines. It also serves to contextualize the theme of transformation and uprooting exemplified through three foods—yogurt, pineapple, and chicken—in the articles that follow.

In “Who Owns Bogurar Doi? An Ethnography of Placemaking and Craftsmanship in Bangladesh,” Ishita Dey presents an in-depth, qualitative examination of a yogurt (doi) named after Bogura, a city in northern Bangladesh. Continuing the theme of our roundtable opening this section, Dey traces placemaking of this food through its production cycle, proposing a “decolonial reading of placemaking” to “challenge the romantic notions of linking food to place,” as implied in the concept of terroir. Dey does this by examining the ecological and historic shifts resulting in this yogurt’s transformation as Bogurar doi, including the movement of the cows, preparation techniques, and the “triad of soil-water-air.”

We see the transformation of pineapple in Sebastian Ocklenburg’s meditation on “Toast Hawaii,” a German staple, much like the Hawaiian pizza in the United States, although, according to the author, less debated. Through this simple dish, a toast topped with ham, cheese, and pineapple, we are invited to think about food and movement and how such movements result in foods being transformed in our imaginations. That is, the pineapple, a fruit originally from the Americas, has been transformed into one associated with the lushness of the Pacific, in Hawaii. Ocklenburg recounts the origin of this dish and how it spurred a “Hawaii food trend” in 1950s Germany, along with an updated view of the dish today, incorporated into the national culinary imaginary. This theme of incorporation and transformation is continued in the next contribution. We move from Germany to the United States, where Matthew Meduri addresses the transformation of chicken in his essay “Immigrant Birds,” recounting the story of how Serbian fried chicken came to become part of a US-based experience in Ohio. The transformation is facilitated by movement and entrepreneurship, where a globally eaten staple, chicken, gets transformed into pohovana piletina, breaded chicken fried in lard—a Serbian staple—that then becomes the base of the Barberton chicken houses and part of the town’s identity.

From food in community and global spaces, the next section, Adapting for Others, moves us to the inter-relational and domestic. In this third thematic section, we return to the feeling of tension, through articles that address this sensation, as one driven by the need to adjust for the sake of others. Some of this is done reluctantly and some adaptations are out of love. This section opens with “The Language of Spoons” by Kristin King Gilbert, a whimsical contribution that invites us to meditate on the theme of adapting through serving others, via a server’s rationales behind gelato spoon color selections. The tension in adaptation becomes evident as Gilbert shares her reactions to the occasional “philistine” request for a bigger, “American” spoon— perhaps not unlike the one displayed in the patent drawing gracing this issue’s cover. In the end, she begrudgingly obliges, despite this choice being described as “all wrong for eating gelato.”

From spoons, we move to food adaptations, with “The ‘Worst Dinner Guest Ever’: On ‘Gut Issues’ and Epistemic Injustice at the Dinner Table” by Megan A. Dean. The piece was inspired by a Venn diagram from a 2012 post in the popular recipe blog, The Kitchn, where multiple dietary restrictions, allergies, and intolerances overlap to showcase what was called the “worst dinner guest ever.” Dean examines adaptations as part of the host–guest relationship when it comes to food allergies, intolerances, or what Dean calls “gut issues,” inviting us to think about how we view the request for accommodations, as hosts, and what influences whether we are believed, as guests with “gut issues.” Most of us have been on one or both sides of this equation. This shared experience led to extended conversations within our Editorial Collective, inspiring us to extend this article into a fuller forum within this issue. We invited a triad of responses, traversing across disciplines. First, Robert T. Valgenti extends Dean’s philosophical take with a response titled, “When Knowledge Is Not Enough.” Valgenti examines our duties as hosts “to believe in the implicit veracity of a guest’s claims about food allergies and intolerances despite the various obstacles to empirical proof.” This is followed by a response from Matthew Smith, who in “Doubtful Guests, Harassed Hosts, and the Golden Rule” adds a perspective from the realm of health history. Smith underscores hosts’ adaptations as a response to being empathetic, “thinking a little bit about what it is like navigating the world where food is not only a form of sustenance but also a threat” resulting in adapting ingredients or overall menus. And lastly, Jacques Rousseau chimes in with “Epistemic Exuberance at the Dinner Table: A Response to Megan A. Dean.” Coming from studies of ethics and logical reasoning, Rousseau provides a counterargument, asking whether Dean brings up a “non-problem,” in light of data that shows that dietary concerns are overstated and reminding us of our agency in choosing dinner companions and whether to accept invitations from hosts that would not accommodate “gut issues.” While I tend to fall into Rousseau’s camp, I appreciate how Dean’s contribution, and its responses, got me to think at a deeper level about this “non-problem,” including my own food avoidances and whether they fall within the domain of “gut issues.”

The last contribution in this section comes from Noha Fikry with “Short Breaks Are for Hot Chocolate, Long Breaks Are for Salads, Weekends Are for Baking: On Being a Graduate Student during COVID-19.” The article continues our ongoing documentation of food in the times of COVID-19. Fikry recounts her food routines, planned around a challenging, back-to-back course schedule, after the pandemic led her to starting her Canada-based doctoral degree from Egypt, in the times when teaching moved fully online. Her story reminded me of my own students at that time, some joining class and research team meetings from across the globe, at ridiculous hours of the day. I also identified, sharing the experience of having too many meetings in one day, and forgetting to schedule breakfast and/or lunch in any given day. But the piece is more than that. In Fikry’s story, while not the focus, we see a mother adapting her routine to ensure the well-being of her adult daughter, facilitating meals to be eaten within short and long breaks. Fikry eventually leaves for Canada, reminding us of the growing pain of leaving our childhood home—a pain amplified by the long distance from a move that spans across the globe. But I see something more, as an article that recounts adapting for others out of love, in the changing of an unnamed mother’s daily routine to ensure the well-being of her adult child. The feeling of nostalgia and longing carries into the last thematic section in this issue, Remembering and Preserving. Jay DiBiasio’s “Embodied Knowledge” gifts us with a beautiful moment of generational culinary knowledge transmission, ensuring the enjoyment of a famous thick pizza crust for generations to come. The moment is preserved in a photo, where a family elder is shown transmitting culinary knowledge not through written recipes, but through practice. The second contribution in this section, “Eva’s Bowl,” by Barb Webb speaks to the theme of remembering and preserving through a thrifted Pyrex bowl. The piece is a letter to Eva, the presumed previous owner of the bowl, and explores imagined memories forged with the bowl, alongside Webb’s own memories of her mother’s bowls, lost upon her death. These last two articles allow me to end this letter and issue with a feeling of nostalgia. In contrast with the violence, tension, and uncertainty conveyed in my opening, I want to end with stillness—the quietness afforded by memories preserved in a photograph and those dreamed through a bowl. In closing, I now invite you to take this journey from beginning to end. As you do, my hope is for you to appreciate the wide range of emotions evoked by the contributions making up this issue, prompting a greater appreciation of the power of food in conveying and assuaging tensions, and the role of tension, change, and adaptation in helping us explore the contexts in which foods are grown, distributed, served, and consumed.

—Melissa Fuster, for the Gastronomica Editorial Collective, New Orleans, June 2022

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

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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