Editor’s Letter, Winter 2019

From Gastronomica 19.4

Over a year has passed since I received the request to join the—then proposed—new editorial collective for Gastronomica. My response was enthusiastic; I have been an avid reader and an occasional author since the very first issue. When we met in Toronto last September, we shared our appreciation for the journal—really, it was a roundtable of fans—but it was also a convocation to imagine the future of food studies. There was consensus on the possibility for innovative interventions, and everyone imagined this journal at the center of such ferment. And as we put together our third issue, the richness of this possibility was made obvious. As a seasoned [sic] veteran to the strategic planning, skirmishes, and occasional battles necessary in order to bring scholarly gravitas and creative energy to the understanding of the human engagement with food and drink, I am not just impressed but also inspired. Something is fermenting and Gastronomica can help feed it.

Ferment has two definitions. One is “to undergo fermentation” and another is “to stir up or incite.” In this issue, both definitions are explored, tested, and made known in expected and unexpected ways. Capturing the very essence of the transformations—material and symbolic—intrinsic to the processes involved in fermentation informs Nefissa Naguib’s journey to brewers in Norway, while Theresa McCulla’s engaging history of the emergence of the craft brewing movement in the 1970s points to the importance of Fritz Maytag’s passion for the “alchemy” of making beer, a sentiment echoed by those in Norway.

Other articles do not directly address fermentation but perhaps, in the spirit of Harry West’s provocative analysis of cheesemaking in the previous Gastronomica issue (on Saving Food), we can see them looking at the consequences of ferment, in all senses. West points out that in contemporary cheesemaking, “the contemporary artisan cheese renaissance is inextricably bound up with the historical disappearance of cheesemaking traditions—that these two trends are symbiotic, and that they animate one another. [Today,] I suggest, decay is savored, and dying traditions are all the rage.” The range of topics covered in this issue converge in the spirit of such a dialectic, the death and regeneration intrinsic to all manner of food and drink, but also to our human engagements. In a certain manner, a main convergence explores “remainders”—that which remains over time, that which remains in the processes of creating food—and investigates questions regarding what should remain, who controls these choices, and how that happens given any number of social and environmental issues of our food system.

In Laurie K. Bertram’s article on the Icelandic cake, vínarterta, we learn that Icelandic migrants to North America retain a certain vision of what allows a recipe to remain “authentic” while what remains of this cake on Icelandic tables is quite different. And in Ken Albala’s story about his attempts to make katsuobushi, he receives an unexpected Japanese embrace of his forays into what remains of centuries-old practice, even if MSG is now a commonplace alternative. And then there are the documentations of remainders, the various catalogues of human omnivory across time and space. We learn of the importance of the artichoke during the Renaissance in Jesse Locker’s essay on Caravaggio, opening up our understanding of a style of painting as well as of a painter. And what about ownership? Who has the right to “own” everyday and often communal practices? The unclear differentiation between documenting or borrowing (perhaps even stealing) of recipes is the topic of co-authored essay by Carrie Helms Tippen, Heidi S. Hakimi-Hood, and Amanda Milian on cookery and copyright. In the more literal sense, Andrea Montanari’s translation of Zhang Tongzhi’s List of Jinling’s Delicacies opens a door to the gastronomic bounty of an earlier era, and multiple contributors (Sarah Turner, Mélie Monnerat, and Patrick Slack) composed a visual essay that engages with spices and their dynamic place in the contemporary spice trade.

Additionally, there are so many ways food is used to incite action, to stir up received notions of what constitutes good food or best practices. Food remains a domestic and corporeal matter, yet as the field of food studies expands and matures, there is an insistence that we acknowledge all the public matters too, such as José Lucas Pérez-Lloréns’ consideration that eating seaweed might help us manage systems that are in crisis and Azri Amram’s analysis of the complex politics in Palestinian food tours. Finally, my non-traditional review of Juliet, a restaurant in Somerville, Massachusetts, suggests that public food spaces may be the most important sites of ferment as we grapple with and seek to transform a global food system.

There is so much animating food studies scholarship today with so much to learn! We are proud to include so many people, practices, and places in this issue, and we fully intend to nurture such expansiveness in the future. Everything old is new again, and we are delighted that Gastronomica remains at the center of this generative activity.

—Amy B. Trubek, on behalf of the Gastronomica Editorial Collective, November 2019

Editor’s Letter, Fall 2019

From Gastronomica 19.3

Every day this winter, I climbed the stairs from Toronto’s subway, and before bundling into the Canadian cold and a landscape of hibernating plants, I passed a public service poster reminding commuters about how many tomatoes Canadians throw out daily. Part of the city’s “Love Food Hate Waste Canada” campaign, the posters encourage zero waste buying and zero waste cooking, sending commuters to a website that has everything from recipes to tips for freezing, drying, and canning and also induces a pang of guilt by shifting the inefficiencies of the industrial food system onto home cooks and family shoppers (midwinter, those tomatoes are grown far, far away). “One third of all food produced globally is wasted. Shocking, eh?” reads the campaign’s website. “The truth is that Canadians are throwing out more food than they realize—food that could, at one point, have been eaten”. Looking at that poster, my mind typically drifted to the mathematics (dividing the number of discarded tomatoes by the population of Canada, it works out to each Canadian tossing a bruschetta’s worth of tomatoes daily). I thought also of my own fridge, wondering (susceptible as I am to food politics) about what lurks in the back, at the dividing line between cold storage and slow-moving rot. And then, I thought about what I was cooking for dinner.

That daily experience—a mixed salad of food politics, government advocacy, corporate evasiveness, consumer guilt, gastronomic pleasures, cooking, and the life cycle of food itself—informs this special issue of Gastronomica. As an editorial collective, we have spent the last few months thinking a lot about the many entwined meanings of “saving food”—from preservation to curation to nostalgia to archiving to salvation. We intend to bring in many voices; as a collective of fifteen, we can draw upon our own perspectives and experiences, but also on others we know, or wish to meet, or have encountered through different media. Can the many meanings of “saving” help us understand in new ways the intersections of food pleasures, politics, and production, the overlap between activism, cooking, museum and archival practice, and the constant race to cook and prepare foods before they rot?

From wrapping leftovers in plastic wrap to fermenting ingredients to curating museum exhibits to creating seed libraries and archives, we all “save” our food. Translated into a public service slogan, “loving food, hating waste” reflects a far larger public and activist concern about the fate of our foods in the Anthropocene, this contemporary era of climate change and global inequality. At the everyday level, as diners, cooks, activists, teachers, growers, and consumers, we face the challenge that ingredients can be food or waste. In “The Race against Rot,” members of the new collective participated in a public forum at the University of Toronto; the rich conversation that flowed among the crowd has been transformed into a written conversation. Donna Gabaccia and her students Nana Frimpong and Gillian MacCulloch at the University of Toronto describe their efforts to experience the everyday act of saving food by learning how to make pickles.

What is canned in the cupboard, lies rotting at the back of the fridge, or tossed is, today, politicized. In her topical intervention into the problem of food waste, Leda Cooks argues that while efforts to “save” and redistribute food often appear to be an obvious solution, “food rescue and donation maintain inequities in the food system.”

Beyond preserving, fermenting, freezing, drying, and smoking, does food—its traditions, its materials, and its products—need saving? We often worry that food is being lost—as generations age, as strains of crops are rendered extinct, as the climate changes, and as highly-processed foods proliferate. Paul S. Kindstedt and Tsetsgee Ser-Od take readers on a fascinating journey into dairying and cheesemaking practices that continue in Mongolia today from their Neolithic origins in Southwest Asia. They trace the evolution and migration of these practices, shedding a critical light on how climate change and globalization shape and affect the endeavor to save historical food preparation. Sharon Hudgins, meanwhile, reflects on her own experiences in Siberia during the early days after the fall of Communism, learning to save food in new and unexpected ways.

We envision preserving food traditions, regional iterations of cuisines and recipes, ingredients, seeds, products, and more through an astonishing array of strategies that draw upon small-scale seed and recipe exchanges, family and community cookbooks, seed banks, and museum collecting. Efforts to “save” food have their long antecedents in the transmission and mobility of food products, recipes, and knowledge. Can those histories provide new understandings for contemporary anxiety about the loss of both bio- and culinary diversities? Collective member Helen Veit reached out to Sean Sherman and Elizabeth Woody to explore what “saving food” means to them and their Native American communities; the conversation considers preservation but also loss. Harry G. West extends our renewed fascination with food and rot, as he argues that while traditional cheesemaking is materially a process of the “managed decay” of milk, the affective appeal of preserving its heritage also fundamentally implies the “savoring of dying traditions.”

Can food, as well, save us? Food is mobilized as a strategy of national and community belonging, a form of urban or economic development, and as an example of intangible cultural heritage. Sylvie Durmelat focuses on Moroccan-born visual artist Ymane Fakhir’s video installations that feature her grandmother’s practiced gestures transforming raw materials into staples like bread and sugar loaf. The article speaks directly to a key concern of this volume on “saving food,” namely, the dialectic between tradition and modernity: how does the past inform the present and the future? Increasingly, nations have turned to global organizations like UNESCO in order to protect a local dish or ingredient. Yet do heritage politics protect (or ossify) food traditions?

For an individual, including the iconic food writer M.F.K. Fisher, food might also represent a means to physical and social salvation. Victoria Burns challenges the widespread reception of Fisher’s “memoir” as an uncensored window into the life of Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher, urging readers to treat the book “as an imaginative recreation of lived experiences.” Ines Sučić, Tihana Brkljačić, Ljiljana Kaliterna Lipovčan, Renata Glavak-Tkalić, and Lana Lučić together remind us that food, just as it occupies much of our time and consumes much of our budgets, can also be a source of happiness. Asking ordinary Croatians, “What is happiness for you?” they trace the association between food and subjective well-being.

In this, our second issue of Gastronomica with an editorial collective, we continue to offer provocations. Together, collective members and authors have initiated new conversations about what it means to save food (and to be saved by it). Look for more responses to our invitation to consider “saving food” in future issues!

Daniel E. Bender for the Gastronomica editorial collective, Toronto, July 2019

Editor’s Letter, Summer 2019

from Gastronomica 19:2

We talked a lot about eggs this month, after we decided to feature them on our first cover. Eggs feature in all of the food traditions that show up on the tables of our new Editorial Collective. Hard-boiled, then fried and smothered in a rich, tomato gravy, they become an egg curry. Kneaded into a hard flour, then rolled out and cut or filled, they are pasta. Nudged gently in a pan with good butter, they are an omelet. They are also a good metaphor to think with.

Eggs are re-birth, that is, new birth from old. This issue marks the very first produced by a new Editorial Collective. We are fifteen scholars and writers at different stages in our careers (a dozen eggs with several extras). We work around the world in a broad range of scholarly homes and disciplines: large and small universities, a museum, public and private colleges, research centers, food studies departments, and nutrition programs. Here is our goal: we expect to maintain a collective that balances academic and geographic perspectives and upholds high standards of racial, sexual orientation, gender, class, and age diversities.

Collective editing is new to Gastronomica, but the journal itself, by now, has a history which traces that of the world of food studies itself. “Since its inception as Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture in 2001,” writes outgoing editor Melissa L. Caldwell, “Gastronomica has been the go-to journal for important conversations about food.” We agree. Gastronomica, more than any other journal, magazine, or digital portal, can and should represent the space where the breadth of academic scholarship on food cultures meets a public increasingly interested in questions of food, gastronomy, and the culinary arts. With a long history of accessible scholarship, excellent production values, and varied, long-form writing, Gastronomica is uniquely positioned to enable food scholars to interact with our profession and the public to engage directly with the insights of food studies. We believe that a collectively edited Gastronomica can represent the outward face of our field and that an editorial collective can best unite a diverse range of academic voices from different disciplinary perspectives on a global scale, while also offering a venue for public voices to engage with scholars.

In the Summer 2019 issue (a special issue we are calling “Saving Food”), we will introduce more of the features, organization, and vision of a collective Gastronomica. This issue, however, is our opportunity to listen to new voices, past editors, and former editorial board members. For this issue, we highlight “New Voices” (including students, junior faculty, innovative activists, emerging artists, and starting food practitioners) to identify exciting new areas of inquiry, methods, forms of presentation, and approaches. In the “Research Articles” section, Sarah Elton reimagines food studies by taking a posthumanist, transcendental approach; Leigh Chavez-Bush suggests foretelling the future of food in the way the work of chefs is expressed in contemporary media ecology; Miranda Brown recovers a forgotten tradition of cheesemaking in southern China, thus challenging popular assumptions about dairy-free traditional Chinese cuisine; Mary Beth Mills revisits the notions of authenticity and commodification by looking at how identities are staged at culinary schools for tourists in Thailand. In the “Reflection Pieces” section, food stylist Don Macey self-investigates the ethics of killing animals just for the sake of photographing them; Jessica Gigot urges going beyond food as science and art to include the emotional and moral realms food invokes, something she calls a “poetics of food”; Henna Garrison calls for new food studies to combine scholarly methodology with the making and the multisensual experience of food. Rick Halpern’s photo essay takes us inside the Muslim Quarter, or Huimin Jie, in Xi’an. In black-and-white clarity, his photos capture the gastronomic vibrancy of street life. All of these diverse contributions, we believe, introduce novel perspectives and sensibilities.

At the same time, we recognize that we are new eggs in a basket—that new life hatches from old. As we consider the future of the study of food, we look also to the past, reflecting on how the journal has provided a place for so many people, within and beyond the academy, to think critically about food history and cultures. We turned to our editors emeriti: Darra Goldstein and Melissa L. Caldwell. In an oral history conversation, collective member Simone Cinotto asks them to elucidate their editorial visions and, based on their experience, to think about what new voices may be asking and answering. We also asked past members of editorial boards to write a letter, email, text, or tweet to new food studies practitioners. What are the emerging new questions? What older avenues of inquiry still need following? And, to introduce ourselves individually, we plunged into the back issues to identify some of our favorite past submissions. If you would like to read these past issues, you can find them available online at Gastronomica’s website, http://gcfs.ucpress.edu/, where they will be freely accessible through July 2019.