All posts tagged: food politics

CHAViC 2015: An Insane Asylum, on a Dinner Plate?

Five glorious days musing over fascinating eighteenth and nineteenth-century objects and texts, multiple delectable meals (including one cooked over the hearth at Old Sturbridge Village!), stimulating conversation, and umpteen new friendships and professional food studies connections. All this was the result of my incredible experience at the American Antiquarian Society in the Center for Historic American Visual Culture (CHAViC) seminar, “Culinary Culture: The Politics of American Foodways, 1765-1900,” which was organized and orchestrated by Nan Wolverton, CHAViC Director, and led by Nancy Siegel, Professor of Art History, Towson University. The week’s lectures, material, and discussions were oriented around a case study assignment, in which each student chose one of seven artifacts/objects/ephemera (pictured below) to discuss in greater detail. With such exciting options, we all agonized over which object to choose and spent the week working through questions grounded in the lives of the objects themselves, like: Where did it come from? Who held it, used it, or owned it? Where did it live? Was it meant to be private or public? Why was it made? What is its message? What does it tell …

Hippo: It’s What’s For Dinner

While the global food news often tells of meat shortages in China and India, as middle class demand for meat increases in these extremely populated countries, the United States faced its own meat crisis in the early twentieth century—and believe it or not, hippopotamus ranching emerged as a proposed solution. This is the remarkable story told in American Hippopotamus (2013) by Jon Mooallem, a product of significant archival research, which you can purchase at Atavist or on Kindle for your own reading pleasure. Mooallem’s account orients itself around 1910, when a combination of increasing immigrant populations, growing cities, and overgrazed rangeland caused meat prices to soar, as producers struggled to keep up with domestic meat demands. Christened “the Meat Question” in the newspapers, Louisiana Congressman Robert Broussard proposed importing hippopotamuses from Africa and settling them in the bayous of Florida, Mississippi, and Louisiana to assuage America’s carnivorous ills, as well as to tackle the invasive water hyacinth plants, which clog southern waterways and impact fish populations to this day. The bulk of the American Hippopotamus narrative presents dueling biographies of the …

Presidential Obesity: Taft, Bathtubs, and the Medicalization of Corpulence

Ask your average citizen what he or she knows about President William Howard Taft and you’ll most likely hear recanted the rumor that due to his girth, Taft once became stuck in the White House bathtub. In the article, “Corpulence and Correspondence: President William H. Taft and the Medical Management of Obesity,” Providence College’s Deborah Levine analyzes fascinating primary sources from the Library of Congress—letters in which the 27th president of the United States corresponded with Dr. Nathaniel E. Yorke-Davies, an English diet expert—that chronicle Taft’s efforts to lose weight while in the harsh spotlight of American politics and popular culture. [If you haven’t read Monday’s New York Times coverage or the original article in the most recent issue of Annals of Internal Medicine, they’re marvelous. Go read them now!] As Levine demonstrates, this correspondence reveals Taft’s own views of the relationship between obesity and personal character, as he aspired to lose weight not only “to combat uncomfortable symptoms” (565), but also to “become a better civil servant” (565), revealing the assumption that one’s weight informs both objectives. This perspective is reinforced …

Got Milk? Well, You Might Find 19th Century Politics in Your Glass

Marked with a logo depicting rolling green hills and blue skies, Garelick Farms dairy products are found in grocery stores across New England. Their “Dairy Pure” milk commercial often appears on television during the day while I work and study from my home in Brookline, Massachusetts. From its very name, Dairy Pure, this brand of milk promotes itself as a safe and perfect food. The commercial’s language and imagery are particularly interesting when analyzed alongside E. Melanie DuPuis’ Nature’s Perfect Food: How Milk Became America’s Drink. DuPuis tells the nineteenth-century story of how milk was transformed in the American conscious from a poison to a universally and naturally necessary, perfect food. The present day marketing for Dairy Pure milk also works to assuage fears about milk’s safety and promote milk’s place in the lives of mothers and children. DuPuis describes the high infant mortality rates of mid-nineteenth century America, which stirred many milk reformers into action. Increasing urbanization had caused changes in societal expectations and cultural norms for middle class women, as well as increased …

Curating the History of Freshness

In Fresh: A Perishable History, Susanne Freidberg chronicles the fascinating history of how refrigeration expanded the reach of the industrial food system, forever altering not only the world’s food supply, but also how consumers view freshness and conceptualize its meaning. She tells this story through a series of mini-histories focusing on specific foods: beef, eggs, fruit, vegetables, milk, and fish. In doing so, she reveals the many meanings of “fresh,” five of which are discussed in the following five images. 1. The Refrigerator Consumers once got along without refrigeration, shopping frequently and preserving food by canning, drying, and pickling. In fact, consumers were at first wary of refrigeration, though World War I marked a turning point. While meat and wheat were shipped to the warfront, American civilians were encouraged to consume fresh foods, unsuitable for shipment to soldiers. Consuming fresh produce, eggs, and dairy products were considered acts of both patriotism (as seen in this WWI food poster) and scientifically based health promotion, confirming the new place of these foods in the American diet and the role …

The Dust Bowl Isn’t Over -OR- How the iPhone Could Save American Agriculture

Many Americans view the Dust Bowl of the 1930s as merely a historical event, a long ago environmental and agricultural trauma that, along with the Great Depression, stains our collective history, but will never occur again. Such a point of view, however, is not only revisionist, but highly inaccurate. The determinants of the Dust Bowl are not isolated to the 1930s, nor are its effects secluded to the American plains. In Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s (1979), Donald Worster posits that a combination of factors not only caused the Dust Bowl, but continue to derail agriculture worldwide: American values run amuck, capitalism ruling without restraint, farming taken over by business, and unstable agricultural policy hastily enacted. Worster argues that the Dust Bowl, as well as subsequent agricultural issues, are rooted in American values and unrestrained capitalism. Fueled by the sprit of Manifest Destiny, the desire for endless opportunity, and the promise of plenty, farmers during the Dust Bowl era exploited the land to the fullest extent possible, employing every available technology to ensure …

Blogging for Food Day 2012 – “No Room for Debate: The World of Food is Full of Women”

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure to guest blog for Food Day 2012, a nationwide celebration and movement toward more healthy, affordable, and sustainable food, created by Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The post appears here on Food Day 2012’s blog and is republished below…  As the final Presidential debate concluded last week week, many issues occupied the minds of American voters, from the economy to foreign policy, education to job growth. Notably, women’s issues have been at the forefront throughout the campaign more than ever before. Most any reader of this post, however, likely works in a field in which women have long been a driving force—food. In fact, the situation is quite the opposite. In food-related professions from dietetics (a career field made up of 97 percent women) to public health nutrition, food activism to food studies, women are powerfully represented. While representation may not directly translate into equitable power and pay, women consistently fight on the frontlines in the battle for healthy, affordable, and sustainable food for all. As food producers, …

A Food News Round Up You Can ‘Smell’

I enjoy studying food, catching up on food-related news, and witticisms, which is likely a combination that some readers will enjoy and will leave others scratching their heads. Fair warning, such may be the case for this edition of Food News Round Up, which covers: Stanford’s recent study on organic food McDonald’s menu labeling press coverage Election 2012 and the role of food in politics Latest food trends of the moment Leftover food news By the end, you’ll have engaged in a tasty selection of the last couple of week’s worth of food-related news — and what better way to engage all of the senses as you read the news than to spell out “smell” in the process? Stanford’s Organic Food Study I’d be remiss to not say something about the recent Stanford meta-analysis of 237 studies that concluded that eating organic offers few health benefits, so I’ll just go ahead and get that out of the way first: Mark Bittman’s “Links” feature starts off with a handful of responses to the study. Consumer Reports urges …

Can Culinary Diplomacy Achieve World Peace? Maybe…

While I can’t agree with all governmental policy, I’m a huge fan of the U.S. Department of State’s new Diplomatic Culinary Partnership Initiative. Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, explains: Showcasing favorite cuisines, ceremonies and values is an often overlooked and powerful tool of diplomacy. The meals that I share with my counterparts at home and abroad cultivate a stronger cultural understanding between countries and offer a unique setting to enhance the formal diplomacy we conduct every day. As a food studies student, I couldn’t agree more that meals are rituals full of cultural meaning and unspoken dialogue, providing endless opportunities for developing understanding and connection. Every element speaks, such as: what foods are served; how the meals are prepared, plated, served, and introduced; who prepares the meals; and where the ingredients come from. From the Kennedy’s Continental flair with French White House chef, René Verdon, to LBJ’s barbecue diplomacy — not to mention George W. Bush’s own version of barbecue diplomacy — culinary diplomacy has been informally utilized for decades. On September 7, 2012, however, the U.S. Department of State and the …

Food News Round Up: On Obesity, Eating Rodents, & the Economy (Yes, in that order)

The past couple of weeks have provided fecund fodder for the food news enthusiast. Any fan of the CDC’s year-by-year ever-increasing obesity map will be intrigued that the 2011 data was released recently, alongside other obesity news. The news also turned up studies of disgust, which you can explore firsthand in articles on cooking up rat and squirrel. And finally, the struggling economy continues to affect life in the U.S. and abroad, especially dining trends. So, dig in to this edition of Food News Round Up… Food and Obesity Obesity remains a key issue both culturally and politically, especially with the release of the CDC’s most recent obesity statistical analysis. New 2011 obesity statistics analysis finds 12 states exceeding 30% obesity Pondering Mississippi obesity: Southern diet or culture on the skids? Study links healthier weight in children with strict laws on school snacks Food and Disgust Disgust is an always interesting element of eating. Would you consider rat or squirrel? How and why to eat rat meat ‘Chicken of the trees:’ A history of eating …

Food News Round Up: Celebrate and Assess the Half

We recently passed the approximate half-way point of summer, a fact worth celebrating in a half-glass-full kind of way — and a reason to perform a mid-point status check. Are you making it through that reading list? Have you spent enough time at the beach? Have you tried at least half of those recipes you’ve been marking, saving, and creating? If not, you have approximately another half to go; plenty of time to fit in everything you planned for your summer. Regardless, you can enjoy these “half and half” edition of Food News Round Up. Research: 1/2 Science + 1/2 News Reporting Media coverage on eating behavior research abounds, but the relationship between science and science news is often tenuous. These three studies were reported in the media this week and are presented here with the study or abstract to ensure research integrity. Due to perceived anonymity, food orders place online are more fattening, complicated Read the study Neuroscience study finds fat in foods directly impacts taste perception Read the abstract Restaurant meals a bit healthier after menu labeling law Read the abstract  Food Policy: …

Please Allow Me to Re-Introduce Myself: 5 Images That Summarize My Food Studies Interests

I’m a food studies student, who obviously loved Jay-Z’s Black Album when I was in college, which feels like a long time ago. As I continue my interdisciplinary studies of food, nutrition, and public health, this blog is a place for some of my finished work, as well as lots of projects that are in process or ideas that are just rumbling around in my mind. Please feel free to comment and engage! It’s okay to be critical, but please be kind. Most of my interests are encapsulated in the cover header I created for this blog… Image 1: MyPlate — Nutrition Education & Food Politics  Introduced in 2011, MyPlate is the USDA’s current nutrition education tool, replacing the 2005 tool, MyPyramid, a bit of a disaster, which built upon the 1992 Food Guide Pyramid, which anyone from my generation learned in elementary school. The plate image has been used previously, such as in the UK’s eatwell plate and the Plate Method used and evaluated in the US. While I feel conflicted about whether we should be telling, instructing, or cajoling people into eating a certain …

Food News Round Up: Wrangling Action

Welcome, gastronomes and cowboys alike, to this action-oriented (and alluringly alliterative) edition of Food News Round Up. Part of the news process is indeed passive — the pleasant and oft solitary experience of soaking up the news via paper or screen. But what is so key with food, is the desire to take the next step beyond the passive processes of perusing, reading, and contemplating to the impassioned action of politicking, organizing, and converging. So stick a fork in these delicious bites of news — and then wrangle some food action. Peruse – and Politick – the Politics of Provisions Strawberry lovers rejoice: methyl iodide is off the market Utah governor signs bill, makes unauthorized video or photos of ag operations illegal Can it be more ethical to eat meat? Vote, read the arguments, and vote again Connecticut takes first step toward required genetically modified food labeling Read – and Reason – Rousing Research Results Study finds using antibiotic animal feed creates super germs that can pass to humans New study finds strong link between honey bee die-offs and insecticide used on corn Study finds smelly …