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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Editor’s Letter, Winter 2021

From Gastronomica 21.4

Here’s how we cooked while writing this editorial letter for Gastronomica

We write across vast distances of space, time, and seasons. Signe is in Cape Town, South Africa. Approximately 28,000 kilometers (17,500 miles) and six time zones north and west, Dan writes from Charlevoix, Quebec, a nine-hour drive from his home in Toronto, across provincial borders that have only recently been reopened after pandemic lockdowns. Like Cape Town, Toronto spent much of the last year in some form of lockdown. Sheltering in place, Dan and his family longed to be somewhere else. They traveled to Quebec to eat local. Meanwhile, Signe and her family remained in Cape Town waiting for their turn in the vaccination queues, warmed by stews of Karoo lamb simmered with Italian tinned tomatoes and some of the finest Cape red wines— the latter finally available to enjoy again after crippling alcohol bans which still have local industries reeling from an extended absence of international travelers and sales. (South Africans do drink a lot, but not enough—or expensively enough—to keep a world-renowned wine region afloat, especially when local trade is also immobilized.)

Distance matters in food (and in collaborative writing). The experience of distance and its politics and poetics is threaded throughout the divergent pieces of this issue. Articles move from expensive restaurants to prisons, tracing the global and the local, and where they intersect. Together, they reveal liminal and in-between spaces where crucial but often overlooked operations like food banks and ghost kitchens exist. Peering into such spaces offers new perspectives on where, what, and how we eat and who brings our food to the door. From delivery to global supply chains, the articles that populate this issue are about space, difference, and the shifting meanings of borderlines.

Over the last few years of editing this journal, we’ve enjoyed reading Gastronomica cover to cover. Startling comparisons and connections appear. Curating this issue, for example, we read submissions ranging from topics such as eating in a Florida penitentiary, middle-class homes in Bangalore that came to rely on the services of delivery apps during lockdown, and the fiftieth anniversary of a restaurant that could be called a temple to locality: Alice Waters’s Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. Together, these articles explode the binaries and semantics of here versus there, immobility versus mobility. Hardly opposites, they are deeply entwined. The rarefication of local food over the last half century since the founding of Chez Panisse often demands the long-distance travel of diners excited by the opportunity to eat from Waters’s backyard, so to speak. In similar ways, the stasis of those able to stay at home during the COVID-19 pandemic depends on the mobility of many others. (One consequence of the widespread looting in several provinces in South Africa in July of 2021 was a disruption in basic services such as post offices, where many unemployed citizens collect the social aid grants they depend on to feed their families. Meanwhile, the South African Restaurant Association was lobbying for a relaxed curfew to allow restaurants to stay open for just one additional hour—till 10 p.m. rather than 9 p.m.—which would allow paying customers to order that additional bottle of wine or round of shots that ensure larger tips for servers and a less frantic commute home for all staff before the nightly enforcement of immobility.)

Finally, this issue offers something new from Gastronomica’s Editorial Collective-two invitations to new kinds of scholarship and creative writing: culinary translations and food activism. Inspired by extraordinary work already in the journal, such as John Daimoku Kingham’s powerful portrait of how food systems have changed in one of Florida’s many prisons, Josée Johnston, Koby Song-Nichols, and Michael Chrobok invite submissions addressing food justice and activism on behalf of the “Food Phenomena” cluster of the Collective, while Eric C. Rath delineates the value and urgency of new translations related to the world of cooking, dining, and eating as scholarly contributions to the journal and food studies in general. (All calls for submissions are also available at http://www.gastronomica.org.)

In “Uncontrolled Movements: An Overview of Abdicated Control in Florida’s Prison Food Spaces,” Kingham offers a rare glimpse behind walls designed to control freedom and mobility, but internally governed by strict hierarchies of privilege and access. A food system brings food inside the prison where locality is a sentence measured in years and decades. In the prison cafeteria, incarceration collides with institutional, privatized food systems to produce a locale of tension and violence. It is in the cafeteria that the carceral imperative to control bodies has, paradoxically, over time, produced “near chaos.” Forced immobility provokes confrontations among inmates, guards, and private food service contractors: forced immobility at the end of a long supply chain. That friction produces hierarchies of value—chicken, writes Kingham, is the “undisputed king” of the prison cafeteria.

In his essay “Adirondack Mountain Oysters,” Luke McNally brings a “Bourdain ethos” from the mountains of Wyoming, where taking pleasure in eating parts of an animal most urban dwellers may reject is not only encouraged but expected. Locality, here, is the privilege of eating in place. For Amy B. Trubek, in “Why I Am Mad about the Ducks,” it is the vicissitudes of a supply chain that can turn once-precious commodities into discards, if there are simply too many of them (ducks, in this case), which makes her angry. Is eating local a fetishization of immobility? (Plenty of ducks are raised, cooked, butchered, and eaten in Charlevoix; the commodity and the knowledge are part of the food system, but in a sparsely populated part of an already sparsely populated province, delivery apps don’t work. We don’t need them. There’s duck and blood sausage from a family farm with roots in the generations of Basque migrants to this region who came to process whales from the Gulf of St. Lawrence into oil for European lamps. There’s a farm that raises local saffron, sold by the ounce to the fancy restaurants in Montreal and Quebec City promising local food to customers well aware of global food practices and trends. There are local strawberries on the roadside. The local sturgeon fishery begins in a day or two.)

Immobility, enabled by a global food supply chain to prisons, can be punishment. In the context of a pandemic, it is a privilege. Tulasi Srivanis’s “Swiggy It!”; Food Delivery and the Shifting Meaning of Local in Pandemic India” details the success of a Bangalore- based “gastro app” that mobilized (mostly) migrant delivery workers to the homes of middle-upper-class Indian families who could afford to order in during the lockdowns of 2020. One person’s immobility—shelter from the pandemic—is enabled by a hypermobility. Thus, the consumer’s choices are splayed out online, alongside the body temperature of those preparing food for delivery. A safe meal at home in Bangalore is enabled by someone else’s mobility. In a striking comparison, the prison and home food delivery reveal the food technologies that enable, in varying degrees, the control of bodies. For Cheryl Cheung, the fact of products on the move increased their value and enhanced their taste. In “Playing with Our Food,” Cheung explores yet another set of boundaries with her risograph-inspired depictions of the iconic American foods she enjoyed as a child in Hong Kong, fascinated by Kellogg’s boxes with pictures rather than “boring” fruits and vegetables with no manufactured aesthetic or imagined proximity to Hollywood and comic books. Childhood memories are more painfully recalled in Joel Rodrigues’s “Classical Dishes, Taste and Violence.” An instruction to MasterChef contestants to stay “classic” reminds the author of how high the price was for violating expectations in his own household, typically paid for by his mother at the hand of an abusive husband. Rodrigues’s eventual move to Northeast India, far from his childhood home, and the freedom to improvise with his mother’s (enforced) “classical” versions is therefore an expression of both liberty and longing.

Rodrigues’s mother crossed lines in search of the familiar spices that marked local food. Quite literally, she crossed the railroad lines, but in so doing, Rodrigues suggests, she also crossed lines of language, class, and gender—and, as well, paid the price for crossing her husband. Politically conscious cooking both reinforces and challenges the lines on the plate of language, region, class, even the senses. As the first English translation of Goshu no nikki, Eric C. Rath’s Sake Journal crosses language boundaries to bring the earliest guide to sake brewing in medieval Japan (1192–1600) to Gastronomica readers, and with it, the role of fermentation, scientific progress, and the slow passages of dissemination and popularization that so many of us now take for granted thanks to the digital mobilities of a “globalized” world that (reasonably or not) expects to find this ancient wine on any cosmopolitan menu.

We recognize the implicit contradictions in our own work, too, as efforts to transgress boundaries can simply amplify them. We are an English-language journal that consciously writes about world foods; in this issue, alone, we are on the move, with submissions about (and, for some, from): Hong Kong, India, Italy, Japan, and (inevitably) various parts of the United States. And, those submissions are, digitally mobilized to, from, and between South Africa and Canada.

For Monica Rico, measuring ingredients for bread dough takes on new significance. Measuring the pinch or the fraction of the teaspoon that feeds a dough introduces a tension between a grandmother’s advice on bread making and the exactness of a cooking school recipe. Can the elasticity of a healthy, fermenting dough reconcile memories of home cooking and the experiences of professional cookery? Evoking the splotches and stains on the sleeves of her chef whites, Rico’s poems are brilliantly tactile, giving new significance to elasticity as a means to stretch across the lines between home and professional cooking. In his photo essay, complemented as well by poetry, David Szanto recognizes the discomfiting lines measured by sensory perception. We may not fully “see” food in its global mobilities, but is there, perhaps, just a narrow band in which we can recognize the commodity as edible and comforting? Szanto reminds that scale, like language, matters, as it disrupts our sensory understandings. Focusing in closely, our edible recognition of food blurs into patterns and landscapes. Szanto’s remarkable images sensorially disaggregate food not only from systems of edibility but also from their local contexts.What does the local really look like, taste like, smell like up close?

Locality entwines itself around global food systems. (In Charlevoix, the gin is distilled from heritage grain raised on an island in the middle of the St. Lawrence estuary where the big grain ships carry wheat from prairies around the world. We mix local gin with French vermouth and lemons from somewhere subtropical. When relatives come from Toronto to visit, they bring their own spices to flavor a biryani made with local duck. It produces its own boundaries and borderlines. An escape to the country for weeks of hyperlocal cooking doesn’t mean an escape from either a global pandemic or the global food system. We wear masks to the supermarket. Alice Waters would like Charlevoix.) As much as a generation of cooks, inspired by Alice Waters, imagined a good food revolution and, ultimately, inspired one of our authors to slice and fry mountain oysters, locality comes with its privileges. In “An Education of the Senses at the University of California Berkeley,” Waters reveals the range of influences to Cari Borja on the fiftieth anniversary of Chez Panisse, citing everyone from anti-war activist Mario Savio to pedagogue Maria Montessori, that shaped the restaurant and her Edible Schoolyard initiative. Members of the Editorial Collective then shared their own reflections on Waters and Chez Panisse. Our responses might agree on the significance of Waters in articulating a slow-food politics, but varied as they brought attention to questions of the classism of local foods and its role in the current food system.

In “Food Activism and Language in a Slow-Food Italy Restaurant Menu,” Carole Counihan reads the menu given to delegates to the Slow Food National Chapter Assembly in 2009. Her method, recognizing food for its linguistic and material qualities, offers novel understandings of how language, in its original and in translation, shapes the politics of a global movement focused on the local. She asks whether “alimentary language” can, in fact, produce a politics that transforms a food system?

Finally, Collective member Jaclyn Rohel’s interview with Kim Walker and Mark Nesbitt about their book on the history of tonic water (broadcast as the launch episode of a new “What to Read Now” feature on our podcast on Heritage Radio Network earlier this year) offers a fascinating history of botany, empire, and alcohol. With its focus on quinine (extracted from the cinchona bark, and historically used as an antimalarial remedy during colonial exploits), this conversation also brings together the themes of borders, boundaries, locality, and difference collectively explored by the articles in this issue.

We write this as the megaship Ever Given has just completed its first passage through the Suez Canal after blocking that channel for six disastrous days in March 2021. For many people around the world (these editors included), watching those six days of immobility was both a virtual escape from the constrictions of our own lockdowns as well as an education in just how much the world depends on the free flow of goods, from bananas to sheep to the devices on which we type these words. Still, we continue to depend most crucially on the mobilities that we have not created—even if not as spectacular as a 400-meter-long container ship holding up the world’s traffic. The cover of this issue features artichoke plants “gone to seed” from Alice Waters’s Edible Schoolyard in 2015. It is an image of a season, rather than an end. Each seed is attached to ingenious sails, carrying them to new locales. They re-grow—a metaphor for organic mobility for a food movement. So, too, we hope for a food movement that is active, just, and mobile in all the right directions.

—Daniel E. Bender and Signe Rousseau, for the Gastronomica Editorial Collective, Toronto and Cape Town, September 2021

Editor’s Letter, Fall 2021

From Gastronomica 21.3

Gastropolitics: Speaking in Tongues

This issue of Gastronomica brings together new and exciting empirical material and conceptual contributions from elsewhere under the rubric of gastropolitics. By “elsewhere” I mean places, cases, palates, and languages not dominated by what can best be characterized as North Atlantic theoretical orientations (NATO). The latter are perspectives that have emerged from modern universities, built over the last century-and-a-half on both sides of the Atlantic, primarily in English, French, and German and secondarily in Italian and Spanish (see Santos 2018). This is not the first transregional, language-based cosmopolis in history: those built around Sanskrit, Persian, Arabic, and Mandarin played similar roles in other regions during other eras (e.g., see Pollock 2006; Eaton 2019; Kia 2020). Today, North Atlantic languages and locations are the prime ecology of modern theorizations in the social sciences and the humanities. As a result, predictably, the field of food studies exhibits the richest repertoire of Euro-American food practices and conceptual frameworks derived from those instances. We at Gastronomica are trying to shift that attention a little bit away from NATO—such as our recent initiative to introduce a new section on translations of key culinary texts not currently available in English—and this issue is an illustration of that tendency.

This volume opens with a case about the peculiar entanglement of tomatoes and cookbooks in India. According to Sucharita Kanjilal, they were born together. Kanjilal implies that the butter chicken is the ur form of chicken tikka masala, transformed first by a refugee Kundan Lal Gujral from a nation-making process in South Asia, and transformed again in the hands of transnational Sylheti working-class lascars in London. In making sense of this story, the author brings together and presses on the limits of Pierre Bourdieu’s perspective. She illustrates the process of theoretical reconfiguration most forcefully by referencing Ashanté M. Reese’s work in Black food geographies and in narrating the pursuit of murderous distaste for meat-eating Muslims by Parvis Ghasem-Fachandi in Gujarat. Disgust and disdain stand out as primal affective responses to difference.

Concepts of cultural omnivorousness dominate North Atlantic theoretical orientations that cannot explain those worlds: the unfathomable tastes in Washington, DC, the desolate mining towns of Western Pennsylvania, the deadly disgust in Gujarat. Disgust shows up differently in Andrew Simmons’s piece on lobster framed in a matrix of privilege, desire, despair, and care-giving during the pandemic. Trapped at home, but bequeathed a 1909 edition of a cookbook, the artist Carolyn Tillie cuts and cuts and cuts to soothe her viral anxieties, reconstituting those chopped pieces intoglorious artefacts. Tomatoes return in Teresa Politano’s reflections as funeral foods, speaking about “lard and molasses and dead people,” along with Costco chickens and buckets of Shop-Rite rice puddings in the bleak American landscape of the “consumer and the consumed.” Understandably, death, despair, and disgust haunt several pieces in this issue.

A number of articles insist on connecting consumption to production and distribution; we are in fact in the middle of a boom in books on the logistical middle of the system—transportation, refrigeration, storage, packaging, wholesale, and retail (e.g., see Deener 2020; Metcalfe 2019; Hamilton 2018; Cwiertka and Machotka 2016). Over the last generation, with the turn to cultures of consumption, that link has frayed as scholars reacted to the productivism and developmentalism of the previous ones. It is time to reconnect those severed domains. You can see the power of that reconnection in Jean Lavigne’s look at artisanal foie gras in the southwest of France; Aya H. Kimura’s exploration of tsukemono and Benjamin Schrager’s jidori chicken in Japan; and Debal Deb’s commentary on rice cultures of Bengal.

With tsukemono (preserved vegetables), we find two mutually affirming elements— fermented sour tastes and tepid temperatures—that have come roaring back over the waves of cold, industrial, sweetness of what was the American century. Kimura puts another nail in the coffin of the old divide perpetuated in NATO between humans, other species, nature, and culture. The stunning visual material presents different ratios of necessity and excess; beauty and ritual; sacred and mundane, making it difficult to distinguish between the taste of luxury and the taste of necessity. L. Stephen Velasquez’s powerful collection from the Calendario de Comida underlines this connection between social justice and aesthetic labor from below. Modeling itself on illustrated calendar giveaways in local Mexican stores and restaurants, a group of artists in the 1960s and 1970s produced the Calendario as a tool of alignment with a far-ranging network of organizations such as the United Farm Workers and Breakfast for Niños. Despite the gendered limitation of their project, their ambition—to decolonize the Chicano imagination—was compelling.

An argument for linking consumption back to production and processing is also made by Debal Deb as he pursues vanishing landraces of rice, under threat from international and national developmental models on the Bengal Delta. He links these varieties to the sustenance of local rituals and tastes in a small corner of the Odisha- Bengal-Bangladesh region that he currently occupies; species rarely respect our investment in national borders. Deb links the quality of rice-powder paintings, the durability of thatching on peasant huts, the crunch of artisanal breakfast moori, and the aroma of steamed rice to the varieties of rice that are grown. The problem is highlighted by the fact that his defense of the commons depends on publication in journals like Gastronomica and Scientific American because American courts are attuned only to anglophone evidence of “common use” employed against American companies trying to pirate varietals. Thus, the mere publication of this piece becomes a stake in the ground to defend the commons against private corporate intellectual property claims.

In Jean Lavigne’s work on the French-American difference on foie gras, we find her literally laboring in geese farms across the Atlantic to explain the divergence in gastro-nationalist perspective that I will return to below (see DeSoucey 2016). That hard work makes all the difference to a story that has been told before. “During the 11 to 14 days of gavage, the liver, which starts out at approximately the size of a woman’s fist, grows to six times its normal size.” There is no way to avert our mind’s eye fromthat intimate interspecies analogy. She posits that if we cannot comprehend a Thanksgiving without turkey, we may begin to understand the celebratory investment in a canard `a foie gras du Sud-Ouest at Christmas. Benjamin Schrager suggests an opposite operation, on raw chicken from the Saga and Miyazaki Prefectures, where the mundane moves in the direction of exotic risk, anxiety, and intimacy. The latter provides a view of Western foods through Japanese eyes in the seventeenth century and highlights both the invention of jidori chicken and its transformation into an industrial brand, which, the author argues, underestimates the threat to public health, undermining the erroneously easy association of safety with tradition. Frank Dax’s still life in Korea collates a triptych of practices from elsewhere, catching glints of the quotidian as exemplars of the marvelous. In his dream catcher of an essay, Dax ruminates on the vanishing stingray eater, the rice cake hawker, the scallion pancake maker on a sunny day, and the garlic seller from the countryside. From the celebratory foie gras to the ordinary scallion pancake, these articles stitch a tapestry of the temporal range of modern life.

Much of the literature on gastro-nationalism asserts its ambit externally against other nations, with less attention to the differences it seeks to erase internally. Such instances of gastropolitics are less attuned to the threat the nation-state poses to internal cultural differences. That is where the real destructive power of gastronationalism lies, especially in its majoritarian turn to white nationalism in many European and American nations or Hindu nationalism in India. We need a more pointed concept such as gastro-nativism to underline the undemocratic and illiberal politics of gastro-nationalism. I see two major threats to variety and multiplicity in the world: cultural imperialism of the Euro-American variety and cultural nationalism of states expunging their diverse populations. Those two systems of consecrating culture are in fatal combat with real variety and multiplicity in the world today, be it in the domain of language use, literature, music, dance, architecture, attire, or culinary culture.

Ethnocentric gastropolitics is not only the tool of the powerful at this contemporary moment. It has also emerged as a currency of the weak-but-emerging ethnoracial classes, which take the form of assertions of cultural appropriation in places such as the United States and Canada, particularly among racially self-conscious Black and Brown peoples, pushing back against the long-established Eurocentric hierarchy of taste. This is what my World-System professors, Immanuel Wallerstein and Giovanni Arrighi, used to call antisystemic movements, nothing innately lovable about them, but a legitimate response to a toxic system that returns some of the venom to the structure as critique. Ra´ ul Matta and Padma Panchapakesan show the conditions precipitating Francophilia’s decline in evaluations of global haute cuisine in their article on the deflation of Michelin. New social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, and Vblogs, as well as new systems of consecration such as Netflix’s Chef’s Table, are weakening the role of traditional gatekeepers such as restaurant critics and print journalists, mostly white men until the last decade (Rousseau 2012). This allows opportunities for the professional classes of color to talk back to dominant notions of good taste. That retort to dominant Euro-American culture is coming from a younger generation (often second generation or later in terms of immigrants) of mostly Anglophone professionals. There is in fact a slow simmering civil war going on right now. Yet, the battle lines are never clear. So the question of taste is much more contested than a narrow reading of Bourdieu’s notions of cultural domination allows, driving some scholars toward reinvigorating notions of hegemony and counterhegemony in the works of Antonio Gramsci (2011), often interpreted via Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe (2014) and Stuart Hall (2018).

These are promising directions to rethink the relationship between power and culture as illustrated in this volume. A number of book reviews presented here echo those openings in the field: Jennifer R. Shutek’s review asks why a gay man like James Beard was so central to twentieth-century American gastronomy, and to what extent his queerness informed his particular sense of gustatory pleasure. Jennifer L. Holm queries what might ensue if we read cookbooks in light of Jacques Rancière’s Proletarian Nights, which relocated nineteenth-century socialism in the utopian visions of working-class poets, rather than crediting all aesthetic labor to capital. In analyzing the film Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Joe Karisny asks: is the past sensorially another country that we can never visit? How does one represent innovations in a tradition? This leads to the filmmaker’s provocative hypothesis: that it was not the Revolution that killed courtly cuisine, but changes in fashion preceding it. Coming from another direction, Noah Allison’s book review explores a richly detailed ethnography that valorizes the great Mexicano Fruteros of Los Angeles against the gentrification of the street. In the critical review of Food Routes, Deborah Cowen shreds our sentimentalism about the New York City consumer haven Chelsea Market by merely shedding light on the much more important but bleak postindustrial Hunts Point distribution center that really feeds the city. Samantha King, in her review of Shifting Food Facts, raises two central challenges for critical nutrition studies scholars: how to distinguish their critique of experts and nutritional science from a Trump-style assault on facts, and what to recommend beyond the pleasures of critique. The issue closes with Limor Yungman’s review of a translation of The Sultan’s Feast, a fifteenth-century Egyptian cookbook, which reenlightens us to the dominance of Arabic in terms of dietetics and good taste in the Medieval world, returning us to other places and other tongues with which I began this invitation.

This issue of Gastronomica widens the geographic frame, bringing in a different set of actors, contexts, and languages, trying hard to avoid the parochialisms of Europe and North America (as much as that can be done in English). This volume also brings together a range of pieces on cultural domination, counterhegemonic thrusts, democratic openings, and other hegemonies in other times and places. I hope you enjoy some of it and quarrel with other parts to deepen our understanding of the changing world of taste, power, and agrobiocultural diversity.

—Krishnendu Ray, for the Gastronomica Editorial Collective, New York, May 2021
note

This essay has been improved in terms of grammar, language, and sentence formation with
editorial assistance from Stephanie Jolly.

References
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Deener, Andrew. The Problem with Feeding Cities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2020.

DeSoucey, Michaela. Contested Tastes: Foie Gras and the Politics of Food. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016.

Eaton, Richard. India in the Persianate Age. 1000–1765. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2019.

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