A taste of the next Gastronomica/SOAS Lecture: “Let Them Eat Stuffed Peppers”

Since 2014, Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies has partnered with University of London’s SOAS Food Studies Centre to co-sponsor a Distinguished Lecture Series for leading scholars, students, journalists, practitioners and members of the public to engage in critical conversations about the nature of food.

In advance of the next event on March 16th, UC Press author and distinguished anthropologist David E. Sutton gives readers a taste of his upcoming lecture, “‘Let Them Eat Stuffed Peppers’: An Argument of Images on the role of Food in Understanding Neoliberal Austerity in Greece.” Click here to register for the Lecture.


9780520280557 “We all ate it together,” was the claim of Deputy Prime Minister Theodoros Pangalos as he tried to explain the origins of the so-called Greek Crisis to an angry crowd of protestors back in 2011. This phrasing struck me at the time because it extends eating together, or “commensality,” into the domain of national politics. Such food imagery fit with my long study on the island of Kalymnos in the Eastern Aegean, where I had been filming people’s everyday cooking practices and writing about the sensory engagement of ordinary Kalymnians with their ingredients and with their kitchen environments, some of the themes that I explore in my book Secrets from the Greek Kitchen: Cooking, Skill and Everyday Life on an Aegean Island. I use my video ethnography of everyday cooking practices to open up questions of memory and transmission of cooking knowledge, tool use and the body, and the potential changes brought about by the advent of cooking shows in Greece. But most importantly in Secrets I try and give a sense of the ways that Kalymnian food culture shapes people’s larger attitudes, and how through their everyday discussions they create a shared food-based worldview, a “gustemology.”

In my talk at SOAS, “Let Them Eat Stuffed Peppers,” I will be continuing this exploration through a look at some of the ways food discourses and practices have developed over the past six years of the Greek Crisis. From debates over the relationship of eating, debt and responsibility, to the growth of solidarity practices such as the “Social Kitchen” movement and the “Potato movement,” to attempts by ordinary Kalymnians to return to past cooking and eating practices as a way of surviving the crisis, food has shaped understandings and responses to new conditions throughout Greece. I look at how certain foods have been associated with protest because of their connection to notions of Greekness, or because of their obvious foreign derivation. I also examine how Kalymnians are dusting off old recipes, and old foraging practices, to cope with times in which sources of livelihood that had been taken for granted for a generation are suddenly under threat.

I develop these themes by making an argument that a healthy food culture such as what exists in Greece is “good to think,” and that it indeed forms something of a discursive antidote to the tendencies of Neoliberal Austerity to abstract from the lives and sufferings of ordinary people. In focusing on neoliberalism I draw on the interconnected notions of “embeddedness,” (Karl Polanyi), “virtualism” (James Carrier, Daniel Miller) and “moral economy” (E. P. Thompson, James Scott), and suggest why a living food culture (a “cuisine,” in Sidney Mintz’s terminology) provides a particularly good perspective for understanding these terms and there interrelations. Indeed, I argue that the intimacy provided by food culture and food practices in Greece provides a vivid, tangible contrast to the abstractions of money and almost incalculable debt.   Food is a reminder, for many Greeks, of things that can’t be counted, and of the dehumanizing abstractions of contemporary Europe. (I will touch here on the refugee crisis as well).

These ideas tie back to discussions in Secrets from the Greek Kitchen, where I explore Kalymnian ideas about skillful cooking in contrast to some of the abstractions of molecular gastronomy. I note that taste, for Kalymnians, is always embedded in a social and sensory context that can be skillfully worked, but cannot be randomly manipulated. This forms a contrast with the cooking laboratory of Herve This, a premier molecular gastronomist and exponent of “note-by- note” cuisine, in which foods are replaced by flavor “compounds” with the potential for endless play and exponential recombination. I find these claims to abstract taste from food to be similar to approaches that abstract knowledge from social contexts, such as efforts to promote Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as a solution to the woes of higher education. Kalymnian foodways were a constant reminder that cooking skills are always defined in relation to the particular challenges of specific cooking environments leads me to question the kind of context-free approach to taste (and knowledge) that has become all too common in contemporary culture.

Finally, I hope to use my lecture to suggest some of the reasons that food can no longer be seen as a specialist topic. Rather, if I have learned anything from my Greek research, it is that food is absolutely central to social and sensory worlds; like kinship, exchange, ritual or gender, it is one of the organizing principles of society and should be recognized as such by future scholarship.


David E. Sutton is Professor of Anthropology at Southern Illinois University.

Can’t attend the Lecture in person? Sign up for the newsletter on gastronomica.org to receive a published transcript and other exclusive content from Gastronomica.

Disruptive Foods and Unsettled Stomachs

By Melissa L. Caldwell, Editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies.

This guest post is published on the occasion of the American Anthropological Association conference in Denver. Check back every day for new posts through the end of the conference on Sunday, November 22nd.

A trainee moves pig excrement to the back of the stall. From “Waste, Incorporated,” Gastronomica 15:4, Winter 2015. Photograph by Chika Watanabe © 2010

When it comes to food, “making the familiar strange” is not necessarily an idea that sits well with many people. More commonly it is food’s familiarity that is privileged. Comfort food, heritage food, food safety, food justice—these are all ways of thinking about the comforting and stabilizing qualities of food. Food is meant to sustain communities, neighborhoods, families, and traditions. But yet part of food’s power is precisely its capacity to be disruptive—to upend our expectations, whether that is through novel combinations of ingredients, changes in forms of production and presentation, or even the reworking of sensory perceptions.

I have been thinking a lot about the disruptive potential of food recently. Certainly in Silicon Valley where I live, new technologies are changing how food is produced, distributed, and consumed. Digital technologies are radically transforming the social experience of shopping and dining, so that consumers can use apps to shop for food and meals that get delivered to their homes or tables without a single moment of human contact. Alternatively social networking platforms allow solo diners to eat communally in real-time with family and friends around the world. I regularly see my students find a quiet place in the cafeteria where they can Skype their loved ones while eating their lunches. These new technologies are even changing the nature of food itself, with experimental techniques breaking down the conventional structures of foods and creating new synthetic and natural food products: we have moved beyond food in a pill and Tofurkey to in vitro meat and many other alternative forms of protein.

But more intriguing are other types of disruption made possible by food. One question that I have found especially provocative is how to rethink terroir, or the taste of place. A recent project at the Center for Genomic Gastronomy created egg foams that captured the unique smog configurations in particular locations. In so doing, they challenged tasters to think about whether one could taste place beyond the soil and things that grow in the soil—in this case, a taste of place in the air.

From a different angle, anthropologist Chika Watanabe has raised the provocative question about what happens with a truly sustainable form of agriculture in which farmers recycle their own waste and use it as the fertilizer in which their food is grown. In this case, terroir becomes a taste of the person in a particular place, as well as a taste of place as rendered through a particular person.

Thus even as food can be familiar and comforting, it can also unsettle our expectations and prompt us to rethink fundamental questions and experiences, which in turn push us in new directions and explorations.


Melissa L. Caldwell is Professor or Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz, Editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies and Ethical Eating in the Postsocialist and Socialist World, and author of Dacha Idylls: Living Organically in Russia’s Countryside and Not by Bread Alone: Social Support in the New Russia.


Women’s Migration through the Lens of Food Insecurity

by Megan A. Carney

This guest post is part of a series published in conjunction with the meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Washington DC. UC Press authors share insight into their research and stories that reflect this year’s conference theme “Producing Anthropology.” We hope these personal glimpses into their scholarship will inspire a broad community of readers. Come back for new posts every day between now and December 5th.

“There is never enough money to buy food…I’m constantly stressed. If it’s not one thing, then it’s another.” As the mother of three children who struggled to find even part-time employment, Linda experienced the daily struggle (la lucha diaria) of getting enough food to feed her household. This daily struggle was all too familiar to the one she had been accustomed to in rural Mexico: “Our parents could barely afford our diet of rice and beans, much less other items like meat and cheese.” Her undocumented status in the United States only complicated matters further by placing constraints on where she could go to ask for help in times of need.

The structural causes of poverty and food insecurity do not begin and end at geopolitical borders. As I describe in The Unending Hunger, women’s hopes for a better life in migrating from Mexico and Central America to the United States quickly dissipate in the context of resettlement for the reason that they find no escape from the hardships that had impelled them to migrate in the first place.

Neoliberal economic policies—piggybacking on a history of structural adjustment programs—have displaced millions of people from rural livelihoods throughout Latin America. Processes mandated by these policies—trade liberalization, deregulation, and privatization—have rendered an uneven distribution of life chances as national governments increasingly defund welfare programs and surrender entire populations to the violence of abject poverty and hunger. Women account for more than half of those fleeing to the United States in search of better opportunities, but there is a neoliberal logic that awaits them here as well: food insecurity and hunger are conceptualized as individual failures rather than as collective or social problems.

With the simultaneous militarization of borders, and of the immigrant experience more generally through practices of detention, deportation, and heightened surveillance, there are multiple, layered forms of scrutiny and social exclusion shaping the lived experiences of women who migrate from impoverished settings in Latin America to the United States. While conducting fieldwork on food insecurity with Mexican and Central American women in the United States, I have witnessed countless occasions in which they allude to such oppressive social forces, and often when conversing in community circles with other women who face similar circumstances. They make statements such as “I’m interested in the rights of women. I know many women who are marginalized, who do not have a voice or a vote,” “One does not speak because it gives one shame. One has to be brave enough to say something, but for shame she does not,” “We Mexican women, or Latinas, we don’t give ourselves the opportunity to express ourselves. Many people do not give us the opportunity to explain ourselves because they are lecturing us.”

The everyday struggle for food is thus not only about food: it provides a lens for interrogating violations of human rights on a global scale and serves as a platform for mobilizing goals of social inclusion and justice. The implications of this struggle hold obvious importance beyond the field of anthropology. Engaged anthropologists and social scientists probe into the underlying forces of people’s suffering not simply for the sake of producing knowledge, but for connecting with broader publics. In producing anthropological knowledge, we are motivated by the question of who or what should be held accountable in a world of profound and expansive inequalities. Moving forward, we cannot forget that our work is primarily in service to others; the future of our discipline depends on our willingness and capacity to conceptualize research projects that will disrupt the status quo and yield to social change.

Megan A. Carney
is a lecturer at the University of Washington in the Department of Anthropology and in the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program. Her recent article “Border Meals: Detention Center Feeding Practices, Migrant Subjectivity, and Questions on Trauma” appeared in Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies. She is also the author of the forthcoming book The Unending Hunger: Tracing Women and Food Insecurity Across Borders.


Please use hashtag #AAA2014 when sharing on Twitter or Facebook.

SOAS Food Studies Centre Partners with Award-Winning International Food Journal Gastronomica on Distinguished Lectures Series

UC Press’ Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies and Editor Melissa L. Caldwell are pleased to announce a new collaboration with the University of London’s SOAS Food Studies Centre. Through this partnership, the Distinguished Lecture Series will serve up a recurring forum for leading scholars, students, journalists, practitioners, and members of the public to engage in critical conversations about the nature of food, the interconnectivity of contemporary food systems, the role of food in daily life, emerging trends in food studies, and contemporary food concerns.

As Gastronomica’s Melissa Caldwell notes, “the Food Studies Centre at SOAS is an international leader in the kind of cutting-edge scholarship on food that challenges and inspires scholars, practitioners, and enthusiasts alike to rethink what they know about food and its significance in the world both past and present. This partnership is an extraordinary opportunity to highlight the most innovative, rigorous, and fascinating research on food and bring it to the Gastronomica readership.”

Included among the first Lectures under this new partnership are “From Arak to Za’atar: Jerusalem and its many culinary traditions,” from famed chef and cookbook writer Yotam Ottolenghi, and “How Grains Domesticated Us,” from James C. Scott, Co-Director of Yale University’s Agrarian Studies Program.

The Lectures are free and open to the public. For more details, please see our press release (pdf) and the Distinguished Lectures homepage.


Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Seth Holmes Interviewed in Gastronomica

In the latest issue of Gastronomica, Julie Guthman, author of Agrarian Dreams and Weighing In, interviews fellow UC Press author Seth Holmes about the lives of Mexican migrant workers and the research that went into his book, Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. Holmes, a medical anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley, spent five years in the field alongside migrant workers berry-picking, traveling back and forth from Oaxaca up the West Coast, and even landing in jail after an illegal attempt to cross the border.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Holmes talks about comparisons to Paul Farmer, how he sees his role as a public intellectual, and what he hopes the public will understand about the lives of undocumented immigrants after reading Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies. Here’s an excerpt:

Your book tells a vivid story of the physical (and mental) suffering that farmworkers in the U.S. systematically face. Can you elaborate on some of the causes/explanations for this?

In the U.S., our food system is structured with a more or less visible hierarchy of ethnicity and citizenship. Within this system, indigenous or native Mexicans who are undocumented in the U.S. are often working and living within very difficult conditions. These housing and working conditions have significantly harmful effects on their bodies and well-being.

Why do you call this “structural violence”? What is the significance of thinking about health inequalities in this way?

This ethnicity and citizenship hierarchy, then, is produced by larger structural forces, such as transnational immigration and economic policies, including the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). As I explain in the book, policies such as NAFTA have played into the widespread phenomenon of dispossession of indigenous Mexicans from their own family farms and ancestral lands in exchange for a dangerous border crossing and physically and mentally harmful wage labor on U.S. farms.

Read the full interview at Gastronomica.

From our Journals Division: The NEW Gastronomica.org!

University of California Press and Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture are pleased to announce the all-new Gastronomica Website! With free articles, Web-exclusive content, and an expanded Chef’s Page—featuring interviews with notable chefs from around the world—never before have you seen so much great writing on food, all in one place.

So visit today, and come back often as we continue to add new content to the all-new Gastronomica.org!

UC Press Interviews: Kate Marshall talks to Darra Goldstein

On Friday, May 4, Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture received the Best Publication Award at the James Beard Foundation Awards in New York, NY. The award was accepted by Darra Goldstein, Gastronomica’s founding editor and the Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Russian at Williams College.

The Beard Awards is widely recognized within the food industry as the highest possible honor for culinary professionals and publishers in the United States. Dorothy Kalins, founding editor of Saveur, presented Gastronomica with the honor, stating:

“Since 2001, Gastronomica has proven that food can be the catalyst for meaningful and serious discussions about culture, history, literature, art, and politics.

Founding Editor Darra Goldstein has turned her enthusiasm for food into a substantive and intelligent publication that influences us all. In addition to editing Gastronomica, Darra is a Professor of Russian at Williams College.  She is a quintessential example of the diverse and unexpected personalities you’ll find talking about food Gastronomica, where poets, artists, professors, opinion makers, and pundits bring a stimulating breadth of perspectives to the table.
In our digital age of fleet tweets, trendy headlines, and the battle to grab readers’ attention, Gastronomica reminds us that curiosity, hard thought, and great writing are award-worthy values.”

The honor was shared with Food52.com, a web-based publication and food community started by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs.

While this is the first such honor for Gastronomica, UC Press has had a long history of recognition at the Beard Awards, with past Beard winners including Food Politics by Marion Nestle, The Wines of Bordeaux by Clive Coates, My Bombay Kitchen by Niloufer Ichaporia King, and Encyclopedia of Pasta by Oretta De Vita Zanini, among other finalists.

Kate Marshall, Acquisitions Editor for Food and Agriculture, spoke with Darra Goldstein following the event.

KM: So, Darra, what’s it like to be honored by the Oscars of the food world?

DG: It’s wonderful that a niche publication like Gastronomica was recognized among all the big players in the field, and sharing the stage with so many talented food writers and chefs was thrilling. So I enjoyed the glamour of the evening, not to mention the champagne!

KM: Did you meet any food celebrities or influential folks at the JBFA gala?

DG: I drive my students crazy when I tell them we don’t have cable TV at home, so I never watch any of the food shows and don’t really follow celebrity. But I did talk to Andrew Zimmern — we’re both Vassar grads — and I was thrilled to see Daniel Humm from Eleven Madison (Gastronomica’s featuring him in the May issue). On the food writing side, it was great to spend time with personal icons like Claudia Roden and Betty Fussell.

KM: Gastronomica is one of our highest profile publications. Why do you think readers respond so strongly to the journal?

DG: For one thing, it’s gorgeous. Readers adore the covers, as well as the edgy artwork and photography inside. People also like Gastronomica’s wide-ranging content. As one friend said to me, each issue is idiosyncratic, unexpected, and intellectual — the material never gets stale. People really do want to think deeply about food these days, and Gastronomica offers some serious stuff without ever forgetting the pleasures of food.

KM: What other food publications do you admire and enjoy reading?

DG: All my favorite publications seem to have gone by the wayside. First Cuisine, then the original Eating Well, more recently Gourmet. There is some excellent food writing on Gilt Taste these days.

KM: Apart from the James Beard Award, what do you think are your biggest Gastronomica achievements over the past 12 years? Who are you most proud to have published?

DG: Gastronomica has received some wonderful recognition, including the Prix d’Or at the Gourmet Voice World Media Festival (2004), the UTNE Independent Press Award for Social/Cultural Coverage (2007), and the AAP/PSP PROSE award for Best Design in Print (2009). Last year it was named Best Food Magazine in the World at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris. But apart from these very public awards, I think Gastronomica’s greatest achievement has been to bridge the divide between academics and the food world, on the one hand bringing serious writing to the general public and on the other bringing a sense of aesthetics to the world of academic writing. The journal has also given the burgeoning field of food studies a distinctive voice and helped it gain legitimacy.

It’s hard to say what I’m most proud of because there have been so many terrific contributions over the years. I collected some of my favorites from the journal’s first decade in The Gastronomica Reader that UC Press published in 2011. I’m proud to have published poets like Louise Glück and Eamon Grennan, photographer-artists like Pinar Yolacan and Hans Gissinger, and writers like Paul Russell and Paul Greenberg. I’m especially happy to have launched the writing careers of many young people by giving them their first publication in Gastronomica.

Gastronomica Named Co-Winner for Best Publication of the Year by the James Beard Foundation

We are very proud to announce that our journal Gastronomica is the co-winner of the James Beard Foundation’s “Publication of the Year.” In the announcement, Gastronomica was cited for its editorial excellence over the last eleven years and for the ways in which the journal has generally deepened our understanding of food.

As one Facebook commenter said so very well: “Darra Goldstein’s vision, dedication and insight in creating Gastronomica expanded awareness of the cultural significance of food and ensured the academic legitimacy of food studies. Bravo!”

We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves.


Darra Goldstein, Gastronomica's illustrious founder and Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Russian at Williams College, receiving the well-deserved honor.









Food for Thought: Podcast with Darra Goldstein

Darra GoldsteinWhile in town for the keynote panel at the Food Justice conference in Eugene, Oregon, Gastronomica founding editor Darra Goldstein was interviewed by Food for Thought, a program dedicated to educating the public about local and global food issues on KLCC, Eugene’s NPR affiliate.

Gastronomica ReaderGoldstein spoke with the show’s hosts about the journey of creating Gastronomica and building the field of Food Studies. She describes what makes the journal different from other food writing—how it goes beyond talking about the lifestyle aspects of food to investigate the darker side of food and its pressing issues in the 21st century.

Listen to the podcast to hear Goldstein’s thoughts about how the zeitgeist affects culinary trends, the distinction between “organic in name” and “organic in spirit,” and her hopes for creating deeper cultural understanding through shared meals.

IACP Cookbook Award Finalists: Ice Cream, Wine, Champagne and Macarons

Richard Mendelson's "From Demon to Darling" is an IACP Cookbook Award Finalist

Four UC Press publications were named finalists in the 2010 IACP Cookbook Awards, organized by the International Association of Culinary Professionals. The IACP Cookbook Awards, along with the James Beard Awards, is the most distinguished honor in the world of culinary publishing.

In the category of Culinary History, two UC Press titles received nominations: Of Sugar and Snow: A History of Ice Cream Making by Jeri Quinzio and From Demon to Darling: A Legal History of Wine in America by Richard Mendelson. The Finest Wines of Champagne: A Guide to the Best Cuvées, Houses, and Growers by Michael Edwards is a finalist in the Wine, Beer and Spirits category.

In addition to three book nominations, “The Macaron and Madame Blanchez,” an article by Cynthia Meyers originally published in Gastronomica, received a nomination in the Culinary Writing without Recipes category.

In 2010, more than 500 entries were submitted for consideration in IACP’s 16 different book categories. UC Press was the only university press to receive a nomination this year.

University of California Press, recognized and celebrated for our distinguished food and wine list, publisher of the California Studies in Food and Culture series and Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture edited by Darra Goldstein, has been honored by IACP in years past. In 2008, Food: The History of Taste, edited by Paul Freedman, Professor of History at Yale University, won the top honor in the Food Reference category. Other honored books have include The Winemaker’s Dance: Exploring Terroir in the Napa Valley by Jonathan Swinchatt and David G. Howell, A History of Wine in America: From Prohibition to the Present by Thomas Pinney and The Georgian Feast by Darra Goldstein.

The 2010 IACP Cookbook Award winners will be announced at the annual Gala Awards ceremony on April 22 in Portland, Oregon. More information is available on the IACP website.

Macarons Image by Keven Law via Flickr/Wikimedia Commons: http://www.flickr.com/photos/66164549@N00/ / CC BY-SA 2.0