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Food and American Utopias
This theoretically informed, interdisciplinary collection of thirteen essays broadens familiar definitions of utopianism and community to explore the ways Americans have produced, consumed, avoided, and marketed food and food-related products and meanings to further their visionary ideals.
Gastronomic Ethnography of Authenticity
Can food be both national and global at the same time? What happens when a food with a national identity travels beyond the boundaries of a nation? What makes a food authentically national and yet American or broader global?
With these questions in mind, Sonia Ryang explores the world of Korean food in four American locations, Iowa City, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Hawai‘i (Kona and Honolulu). Ryang visits restaurants and grocery stores in each location and observes Korean food as it is prepared and served to customers. She analyzes the history and evolution of each dish, how it arrived and what it became, but above all, she tastes and experiences her food—four items to be specific—naengmyeon cold noodle soup; jeon pancakes; galbi barbecued beef; and bibimbap, rice with mixed vegetable.
In her ethnographic journey, Ryang discovers how the chewy noodles from Pyongyang continue to retain their texture and yet are served differently in different locales. Jeon pancakes become completely decontextualized in the United States and metamorphosed into a portable and packable carry-out food. American consumers are unaware of the pancake’s sacred origin. In Hawai‘i, Ryang finds that it is the Vietnamese restaurant that serves unexpectedly delicious galbi barbecued meat. Intertwined in the complex colonial and postcolonial contexts, Korean galbi and Japanese yakiniku can be found side by side on the streets of Honolulu frequented by both the locals and tourists.
Eating right has been an obsession for longer than we think. Renaissance Europe had its own flourishing tradition of dietary advice. Then, as now, an industry of experts churned out diet books for an eager and concerned public. Providing a cornucopia of information on food and an intriguing account of the differences between the nutritional logic of the past and our own time, this inviting book examines the wide-ranging dietary literature of the Renaissance. Ken Albala ultimately reveals the working of the Renaissance mind from a unique perspective: we come to understand a people through their ideas on food.
Eating Right in the Renaissance takes us through an array of historical sources in a narrative that is witty and spiced with fascinating details. Why did early Renaissance writers recommend the herbs parsley, arugula, anise, and mint to fortify sexual prowess? Why was there such a strong outcry against melons and cucumbers, even though people continued to eat them in large quantities? Why was wine considered a necessary nutrient? As he explores these and other questions, Albala explains the history behind Renaissance dietary theories; the connections among food, exercise, and sex; the changing relationship between medicine and cuisine; and much more.
Whereas modern nutritionists may promise a slimmer waistline, more stamina, or freedom from disease, Renaissance food writers had entirely different ideas about the value of eating right. As he uncovers these ideas from the past, Ken Albala puts our own dietary obsessions in an entirely new light in this elegantly written and often surprising new chapter on the history of food.
American Indian Stories of Food, Identity, and Resilience
"Eating is not only a political act, it is also a cultural act that reaffirms one’s identity and worldview," Enrique Salmón writes in Eating the Landscape. Traversing a range of cultures, including the Tohono O’odham of the Sonoran Desert and the Rarámuri of the Sierra Tarahumara, the book is an illuminating journey through the southwest United States and northern Mexico. Salmón weaves his historical and cultural knowledge as a renowned indigenous ethnobotanist with stories American Indian farmers have shared with him to illustrate how traditional indigenous foodways—from the cultivation of crops to the preparation of meals—are rooted in a time-honored understanding of environmental stewardship.
In this fascinating personal narrative, Salmón focuses on an array of indigenous farmers who uphold traditional agricultural practices in the face of modern changes to food systems such as extensive industrialization and the genetic modification of food crops. Despite the vast cultural and geographic diversity of the region he explores, Salmón reveals common themes: the importance of participation in a reciprocal relationship with the land, the connection between each group’s cultural identity and their ecosystems, and the indispensible correlation of land consciousness and food consciousness. Salmón shows that these collective philosophies provide the foundation for indigenous resilience as the farmers contend with global climate change and other disruptions to long-established foodways. This resilience, along with the rich stores of traditional ecological knowledge maintained by indigenous agriculturalists, Salmón explains, may be the key to sustaining food sources for humans in years to come.
As many of us begin to question the origins and collateral costs of the food we consume, Salmón’s call for a return to more traditional food practices in this wide-ranging and insightful book is especially timely. Eating the Landscape is an essential resource for ethnobotanists, food sovereignty proponents, and advocates of the local food and slow food movements.
Food, Friendship, and Inequality
An insightful map of the landscape of social meals, Eating Together: Food, Friendship, and Inequality argues that the ways in which Americans eat together play a central role in social life in the United States. Delving into a wide range of research, Alice P. Julier analyzes etiquette and entertaining books from the past century and conducts interviews and observations of dozens of hosts and guests at dinner parties, potlucks, and buffets. She finds that when people invite friends, neighbors, or family members to share meals within their households, social inequalities involving race, economics, and gender reveal themselves in interesting ways: relationships are defined, boundaries of intimacy or distance are set, and people find themselves either excluded or included.
The Power of Food and the Making of an American Region
In The Edible South, Marcie Cohen Ferris presents food as a new way to chronicle the American South's larger history. Ferris tells a richly illustrated story of southern food and the struggles of whites, blacks, Native Americans, and other people of the region to control the nourishment of their bodies and minds, livelihoods, lands, and citizenship. The experience of food serves as an evocative lens onto colonial settlements and antebellum plantations, New South cities and Civil Rights-era lunch counters, chronic hunger and agricultural reform, counterculture communes and iconic restaurants as Ferris reveals how food--as cuisine and as commodity--has expressed and shaped southern identity to the present day.
The region in which European settlers were greeted with unimaginable natural abundance was simultaneously the place where enslaved Africans vigilantly preserved cultural memory in cuisine and Native Americans held tight to kinship and food traditions despite mass expulsions. Southern food, Ferris argues, is intimately connected to the politics of power. The contradiction between the realities of fulsomeness and deprivation, privilege and poverty, in southern history resonates in the region's food traditions, both beloved and maligned.
Food, Drink, and Connoisseur Culture
Wisdom of the Land, Knowledge of the Water
For generations the Río Embudo watershed in northern New Mexico has been the home of Juan Estevan Arellano and his ancestors. From this unique perspective Arellano explores the ways people use water in dry places around the world. Touching on the Middle East, Europe, Mexico, and South America before circling back to New Mexico, Arellano makes a case for preserving the acequia irrigation system and calls for a future that respects the ecological limitations of the land.
Current discussions of the ethics around alternative food movements--concepts such as "local," "organic," and "fair trade"--tend to focus on their growth and significance in advanced capitalist societies. In this groundbreaking contribution to critical food studies, editors Yuson Jung, Jakob A. Klein, and Melissa L. Caldwell explore what constitutes "ethical food" and "ethical eating" in socialist and formerly socialist societies. With essays by anthropologists, sociologists, and geographers, this politically nuanced volume offers insight into the origins of alternative food movements and their place in today's global economy. Collectively, the essays cover discourses on food and morality; the material and social practices surrounding production, trade, and consumption; and the political and economic power of social movements in Bulgaria, China, Cuba, Lithuania, Russia, and Vietnam. Scholars and students will gain important historical and anthropological perspective on how the dynamics of state-market-citizen relations continue to shape the ethical and moral frameworks guiding food practices around the world.