Category Archives: Food

Food and Satisfaction

Catherine and I have a lot to celebrate. Her recent offer from Austin, her less recent doctoral defense, ten years of living together… We had promised ourselves one truly good restaurant meal. In fact, this promise was made several times over the past year or so but we had never been able to fulfill it. Continue reading Food and Satisfaction

(Catholic) Sensual Ethic

Just listened to this podcast episode about a sensual approach to life and a philanthropic approach to food and elders.
Food Philosophy: Food Philosophy #24: Sensuality, Gael Greene and Citymeals-on-Wheels

Maybe it comes from having been brought up in an open-minded French-Canadian Catholic environment (heavily-secularized, passionate post-Jesuits with strong mother figures) but I can really relate to a food philosophy that is both sensual and ethical. Max Weber’s Protestant Work Ethic notwithstanding, there’s something deep about connecting to life as both a pleasurable experience and a matter of helping each other out. Islam is actually very similar in this sense. And maybe the religious dimension of culture is just too much on my mind, these days, but this felt really good.

It actually made me feel exactly the opposite feeling as the feelings I felt after listening to a somewhat disappointing recent podcast episode of Radio Open Source on food and the free will.

It also connects with my growing academic interests in food and culture (especially on beer and coffee). In fact, it makes me think about ethical issues in (food and music) consumption as well as about alternative views of Globalisation.

Thought for food!

Culinary Exploration

Just saw most of a documentary about Mark Brownstein, a former landscaper from the United States now living in Hong Kong. Brownstein started a business based on culinary exploration throughout East and Southeast Asia.

foodhunter by alongmekong productions

It would be rather easy to criticize both documentary and subject. The film itself pays lip-service to issues such as the possible exploitative nature of Brownstein’s business without delving very deeply into it. Is Brownstein the Ry Cooder of Southeast Asian cuisine?

Yet there are interesting issues which go beyond the movie, especially for those interested in food and culture.

As another blogger has it, the film itself is visually pleasing. And it does help us understand the amazing complexity of a few of Asia’s diverse foodways. And it does address issues related to food and globalization.

Will have to see this film again and explore Brownstein’s work a bit more carefully.

Food and Music

Posted on  SEM-L:

Hello all,
Two cooking shows on NPR affiliates this Saturday the 2nd and September 23
will feature our Ethnomusicologists’ Cookbook. The first is on WHYY in
Philadelphia: the show is called “A Chef’s Table,” hosted by Jim Coleman,
and is broadcast at noon, EST. You will be able to hear the archived version
of it after 1 pm by going to the WHYY site:
http://www.whyy.org/91FM/chef/index.html.

The second interview/discussion is on KCRW in Los Angeles: the show is
called “Good Food” and is hosted by Evan Kleiman. It will be aired on the
23rd between 11 and 12 PST. You can hear the archived version, once it’s up
and running, by going to their website: http://www.kcrw.com/show/gf.

There’s also the possibility of the cookbook being featured on Jeff
Nemcher’s “Cooking on the Radio,” and a number of positive reviews have come
out already (The Chronicles of Higher Education, for example).

Besides the fact that 40% of the royalties for the book are going to the
Society for Ethnomusicology, we now have the added benefit that several
radio people and many, many listeners are going to be hearing the word
“ethnomusicology” for the first time, and understanding something of what it
means. I hope that this is good news for all of us. [And perhaps my parents
will stop having to explain what it is that I actually do!]

Cheers, Sean Williams

Baptism By Warm Fudge

Last Thursday, June 8, was my first direct encounter with the academic study of food and culture, thanks to the joint conference of the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) and the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society (AFHVS). Was presenting a paper on craft beer and cultural identity that day, before getting a real feel of the conference. Came back psyched, hyped, pleased, happy, energized.
These two academic societies form a very interesting crowd. Been trying to find descriptive terms for that crowd, none is ideal. Welcoming, charitable, nurturing, friendly, warm, thoughtful, insightful, thought-provoking, interested, passionate…

Not only was my positive feeling of the conference strong but it was apparently shared by many attendees. A few hypotheses about this.

  • It's a very interdisciplinary context. As such, people can't assume that you have read so-and-so's work and will in fact help you to find relevant sources for your work.
  • Surprisingly enough, it's a relatively new field, this study of food and society. In fact, many attendees hadn't attended that many conferences. Less bagage than older fields.
  • People come to it from the sidelines. In fact, it's my case, coming as I do as a linguistic anthropologist and ethnomusicologist.
  • Food is associated with passions and it's quite ok to be passionate about food when you work on food and society.
  • Food has an intimate quality that goes well with a nurturing attitude.
  • Perhaps because of prevailing (though semi-hidden) gender roles, a good proportion of conference participants were women, some of them coming with kids in tow or in womb (there were four fregnant women out of 350 participants).
  • The selection of papers for presentation is quite democratic and students are certainly encouraged to present.
  • The conference is happening at a time of year when faculty members and students aren't too caught up in their work.
  • The location, Boston University, was relatively quiet during the conference.
  • Food and society scholars are likely to eat together, which generates a lot of fascinating discussion.
  • Food is a good ice-breaker.
  • Food is universal and particular, like so many other things we study in anthropology.
  • Work on food isn't necessarily part of the primary academic identity of those involved.
  • Though small and growing, food and society has a rather cohesive body of literature.

These may all just be factors in making this food and society conference such a pleasant and powerful experience.