Authenticity is one of those qualities that have proved especially vexing to those of us who are concerned with food matters. It is not simply the question of what makes something authentic, but also the question of what “authentic” means. Most often, what counts as “authentic” is imagined as an absolute state that can be quantified in some way, whether through aesthetic presentation, a specific combination of ingredients, sensory experiences, or the particular origin story attached to a dish or meal. Yet as Arjun Appadurai noted many years ago, authenticity is less an absolute state of existence than it is a relative category. More significantly, it is a relative category that is inherently and explicitly moral. As Appadurai wrote in his essay “On Culinary Authenticity”: “authenticity measures the degree to which something is more or less what it ought to be. It is thus a norm of some sort.” Appadurai then queried the nature of this norm: “But is it an immanent norm, emerging somehow from the cuisine itself? Or is it an external norm, reflecting some imposed gastronomic standard? If it is an immanent norm, who is its authoritative voice…? If it is an imposed norm, who is its privileged voice?” (Appadurai 1986: 25).
FROM THE EDITOR
Editor’s Letter | Melissa L. Caldwell
The Price of Harmony: The Ideology of Japanese Cuisine | Scott Haas
PB&J: The Rise and Fall of an Iconic American Dish | Steve Estes
Free to Serve? Emergency Food and Volunteer Labor in the Urban U.S. | Maggie Dickinson
From Sensory Capacities to Sensible Skills: Experimenting with El Celler
de Can Roca | Ana María Ulloa, Josep Roca, and Hèloïse Vilaseca
Turning Passion into Profession: A History of Craft Beer in Italy |
Matteo Fastigi and Jillian R. Cavanaugh
Commensality, Politics, and Plato | Michael Jackson and Damian Grace
Lee Makes Rugelach | Misha Volf
Innovative Directions in Philosophy of/through Food | Joey Tuminello
The Rewards of (Gluten) Intolerance | Bethany F. Econopouly
and Stephen S. Jones
Falafel Nation: Cuisine and the Making of National Identity in Israel
By Yael Raviv, Reviewed by Richard Klin
Pawpaw: In Search of America’s Forgotten Fruit
By Andrew Moore, Reviewed by Khristopher Flack
Thirsty Dragon: China’s Lust for Bordeaux and the Threat to the
World’s Best Wines
By Suzanne Mustacich, Reviewed by Jean DeBernardi
First Bite: How We Learn to Eat
By Bee Wilson, Reviewed by Lexi Earl
Divided Spirits: Tequila, Mezcal, and the Politics of Production
By Sarah Bowen, Reviewed by Lindi Masur
BOOKS AND FILMS RECEIVED
Is there such a thing as a perfect food? A perfect meal? A perfect dining experience? And if so, what would it be like? Would it be a dream come true, would it exceed expectations, or would it be a disappointment because the reality could not match the desire?
For something that ultimately satisfies the most basic of biological needs, food has a curious relationship to notions of perfection, most notably beliefs about what constitutes an ideal or even perfect world. For far too many people around the world struggling with food insecurity, it is basic access to food and water that would be the ideal. For those with stable access to foods, however, often ideals of perfection are expressed through differential values associated with particular foods or the ways in which foods are produced, presented, and consumed.
Food’s place within utopian visions was the theme of the 21st Symposium of Australian Gastronomy, which was held in Melbourne in early December 2016. Food scholars, writers, practitioners, and gastronomes of all sorts gathered from around the world to discuss and experiment with different visions of what might constitute a food utopia. Inspired by Thomas More’s Utopia, published five hundred years ago, symposium participants drew connections between More’s idealistic visions with those of other utopian thinkers and activists, such as Charles Fourier’s ideas about gastrosophy, Soviet-era socialist planners who imagined possibilities for liberation through communal dining, NASA scientists who dreamed of what farms and gardens might look like in space colonies of the future, and even contemporary scientists working in the fields of synthetic biology and hospitality management to create new technologically perfect foods and food experiences. Yet despite the prevailing sentiment of progress and improvement embedded in many utopian dreams, the realities are often far from ideal, and may, in fact, introduce new problems—a reminder compellingly presented by Darra Goldstein, the founder and previous editor of Gastronomica, in her brilliant keynote lecture about the myths of abundance promised by early Soviet politicians and socialist activists.
FROM THE EDITOR
Editor’s Letter | Melissa L. Caldwell
Immigrant Labor, Food Politics: A Dialogue between the Authors of Four Recent Books about the Food System | Margaret Gray, Sarah Horton, Vanesa Ribas, and Angela Stuesse
Willing (White) Workers on Organic Farms? Reflections on Volunteer
Farm Labor and the Politics of Precarity | Julie Guthman
Modern Chinese History as Reflected in a Teahouse Mirror | Carolyn Phillips
Oakland’s Friday Farmers’ Market and Its Vegetable Vocabulary of Love | David Bacon
The Seeds beneath the Snow: A Commentary on Two Films about the Svalbard Global Seed Vault | Tracey Heatherington
Learning to Like Muktuk: An Unlikely Explorer in Territorial Alaska
By Penelope S. Easton, Reviewed by Sveta Yamin-Pasternak
Eating Words: A Norton Anthology of Food Writing
Edited by Sandra M. Gilbert and Roger J. Porter, Reviewed by Tanfer Emin Tunc
Organic Struggle: The Movement for Sustainable Agriculture in the United States
By Brian K. Obach, Reviewed by Bradley M. Jones
Knish: In Search of the Jewish Soul Food
By Laura Silver, Reviewed by Claudia Raquel Prieto Piastro
Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice
By Gyorgy Scrinis, Reviewed by Lua Wilkinson
Raise: What 4-H Teaches 7 Million Kids and How Its Lessons Could
Change Food and Farming Forever
By Kiera Butler, Reviewed by Ryan Phillips
“Maki” by Julie-Anne Cassidy and Maryse St-Amand © 2015.
As I write this letter in August, here in the United States where I live and work, we are gearing up for our national elections, which will be held in early November. By the time this issue is published, the elections will be over and we will know the outcome. As I reflect on this election season, I am struck by the fact that food themes have been curiously absent. In the U.S., presidential candidates and other political leaders have long been connected to particular foods and food issues, as if those foods conveyed a particular set of qualities or values associated with those individuals. In the 1928 presidential elections, a local chapter of the Republican Party published an advertisement in The New York Times endorsing Herbert Hoover, promising that a Hoover presidency would ensure not just “a chicken in every pot,” but “a car in every backyard, to boot.” After Hoover won the presidency, rival campaigns during the 1932 presidential campaign held him accountable for not following through on this promise. Promises of food as a path to prosperity and social justice continued to color American presidential campaigns, with John F. Kennedy promoting a food stamp program that he then initiated after he was elected. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, subsequently pushed the U.S. Congress to pass legislation that made the food stamp program permanent. Johnson has since been credited with introducing measures to expand governmental programs to provide food assistance to low-income families, especially children.
Personal food preferences have also been part of presidential campaigns, as candidates have been associated with individual foods and observers have sought to link those foods to ideas about the character and personality of the candidates. President Jimmy Carter’s Southern heritage was associated with peanuts, whereas President Ronald Reagan was often remembered for his preference for jelly beans, a candy. President George H.W. Bush was remembered more for the food he disliked—broccoli—a dislike with which many Americans identified, particularly in a moment when debates about legislating health and healthy eating represented larger concerns with personal choice versus the intrusion of the “nanny state” in citizens’ ordinary lives.