I think it is interesting and important to bring the relationships between food and feeling into an introduction to food studies. Food is thought-provoking and endlessly discussable. Especially in the United States, as a person who lives here because of the countless cultures and types of food associated with them. Individuality is such a widespread concept that it extends to the food here, and while America may have no specific cuisine of its own, there are still countless conversations to be had about the food that is prominent in our society. After reading Minz’ chapters and Ray’s analysis of his claims, I realize that food, how it is made, and the people and environment that create it are much more complicated that I had ever known. The reflection of society, politics, and just people in general in food is a huge topic to discuss, but breaking it down and looking into the parts that make the whole is very interesting.
This week’s readings were a great reminder to be a committed critical reader. It’s easy for me, especially when studying a topic I’m not familiar with, to take an assigned reading as “the thing I need to know.” The chapters by Sidney Mintz provided a good general perspective of food studies, then began to discuss the granular aspects of what is and isn’t cuisine. As he addressed the uniqueness of the US, the various ethnic and cultural backgrounds of its peoples, the commodification of food in the US, and the American diet in general, I started to scratch my head. Something didn’t seem right, but I couldn’t name what it was. Krishnendu Ray’s article named it for me: methodology must accompany such a bold claim as “America has no national cuisine.” I loved his deep dive into American food journalism as he endeavored to apply science to a thing that’s usually relegated to the arts. Cultural studies work best when people notice patterns and make associations, but those associations should ultimately stand the test of their own logic.
These three readings have a lot to unpack! Mintz introduces ways to think about and define food vs cuisine that were new to me. Linking cuisine to political and social change, as well as social class, provides a context for understanding its history. I was much taken with his observation of Americans’ “obsessive notions of individual freedom.” Increasingly in our current political climate, this has become the mantra and justification for every decision. Ray’s look at Mintz’ hypothesis was a fascinating delve into newspaper articles. I especially liked his definition of cuisine as a produce of taste and talk, that you must include both food and words. His point-by-point analysis of Mintz’ claims were eye-opening.
Restaurants, Newspapers Ad Blog Post: I found Minz’s claim that America has no cuisine and uses the entrees offered at restaurants found within the United States to be a completely reasonable point. As he discussed in chapter 7 of Tasting Food, Tasting Freedom, a Cuisine must be of a specific region or place and must be so ingrained in that communities lives that the discussion of said cuisine all the way to its ingredients, methodology of how to cook it correctly, and its taste is undeniable fact to them. His point that the entrees in American restaurants are so varied shows that we as a people have not come to a unison on what we as a place can truly offer to the world as our own cuisine. His point that the French history of cuisine as being not true cuisine but labeling it as haute cuisine is an excellent way of differentiating between the cultural, and community dominated regional cuisine that provides history and character to a town/ community and Haute cuisine which is the international glorification of a type of food that restaurants can claim as being French, Italian or even Bavarian cuisine solely based of their country of origin. Most of the foods offered in restaurants in America are the same carbon copied recipe of what the food is and not why it is, by that I mean simply taking a cuisine from a community in France and making a easily reproducible version of it using cheaper or readily available ingredients does not make the restaurant’s version cuisine in my opinion. The creation of a countries “national cuisine” solely based on the economic values and desires of the upper classes that dominate these countries political landscapes is another issue I see with trying to nail down a country’s true cuisine is. One of the examples of this was the introduction of red kidney beans to Creole culture through imports, and as a result of this mass import the Creole people found that they desired the red kidney beans to their own black turtle bean counterparts which were a staple of the country for hundreds of years. While the author makes an excellent point in how America has created its own cuisine through the development of its own restaurants I believe what we as a country has accomplished is just a mass commercialized bastardization of multiple different countries’ cuisines and have essentially made that our so called “cuisine” which seems rough to me as if that’s supposed to be our “cuisine”. These are just my opinions on what is American Cuisine, and while I myself do not see the restaurant cultural as being America’s cuisine the author makes an excellent case if were use the term “cuisine” in a very narrowed view of the definition.
I think the best part of this reading for me was at the beginning – “Food studies, then, is not the study of food itself but rather the study of the relationships between food and the human experience.” This clarified for me the most what to focus on when thinking about this course and our timeline project. It’s really interesting to me the ways that food and the experience of eating can be used as a framework for understanding different people and cultures. Food becoming a tool in this way was super interesting to me and all of the perspectives and approaches people can take to research food studies was enlightening if not a little overwhelming! Overall a super cool read!
Overall, this reading expanded my view of food studies as a whole because of the specific, in depth definitions given at the beginning. The separation between the scientific side of food and the cultural/societal side is an important distinction to make, which I appreciated. There were a few things in this reading I found to be particularly interesting as a person who is brand new to food studies. Firstly, the diversity of food and the study of food. Food is one thing that every single person has to interact with, so it is something that is universal, when many things are not. Despite eating being something that all people have to do, it is interesting to consider how different factors impact the relationship to food, the type of food, where they eat the food, etc.
I thought that this chapter was enlightening about the field of food studies. I enjoyed how clearly the author explained first what this filed wasn’t and then gave a clear definition of what it actually is. I did not realize how food studies can be interdisciplinary to that degree, because it can be integrated in to everything from social sciences to more hard sciences such as nutrition. All the sections in the chapter helped me to learn more about what food studies actually is versus what we think it is. In reality it can be incorporated into everything we learn because it is as diverse a field as food itself is. I think it could be really helpful to apply what we learn here in other classes take as well, because it’s all intertwined.
I found this reading very helpful in explaining what food studies is. Before this class and reading, I had only the faintest idea of what food studies or a foodway was but I think I am starting to understand it a little better. In the past, I have taken anthropology classes where food was studied as a part of a larger culture but it was never looked at by itself. As the article says, food is an extremely important part of human life and a lot can be learned about a person or a group of people by studying the way that they interact with food. For this reason, I am surprised that food studies is not something that has been given more academic attention. The article mentioned that food studies is a relatively new field for most universities and is still struggling to gain recognition in some academic circles. Another thing that I found very interesting, is just how broad and diverse research into food studies is. The author gave several examples of different types of research that went into food studies and some of the different disciplines it interacts with. Given how central food is to so much of human life, this level of diversity in our study of it seems necessary.
This excerpt really reminded me of the impact that food has, and the many different ways that we experience food. From talking to my dad, I had an idea of the reach that food has across industries. However, this article truly expanded my view of the different disciplines of food studies beyond food preparation and agriculture. Because food is so important to our wellbeing, it is necessary to study food from many different angles- such as historical, psychological, and economical perspectives. I really liked the idea of charlas culinarias, or culinary chats. These discussions are food-focused and used to elicit conversations about food that can tell stories about migration and adaptation over time, among other topics. I think the concept of these chats is neat because they are very personal interviews, and the information elicited reflects that. Connecting over food to share stories really takes food studies back to its roots, and I think that’s cool.
I never realized what food studies actually are and how complex it is. I have definitely thought a lot about how I relate to food on a deep level like this. I never saw this as a thing that people research and create a career out of. The methodologies are similar to those of history and American Studies, which I never created that connection or comparison. It is interesting that the subject includes cultural significance and individuals’ food habits. It is also interesting to see how interdisciplinary it is, with various aspects and topics that appeal to many different people. I was very struck by how the article described that food can tell stories. Stories that changed by culture, background, and even family and individuals. I really enjoyed this article and felt that it gave a great introduction to Food Studies and the methodologies that one can implement and use to research.