“The origins of food …determine prevailing notions of taste.” pg 8 Thought this was super cool! That there is not only a differing of opinion on what “tastes good” but also what is “in good taste.” Made me think a lot about the reception of particularly pungent foods like blue cheese, century eggs, and natto. I love all of them, but many people’s acceptance of one is contrasted by revulsion to the others, even though they have similar funky depths and complicated (therefore in many circles sophisticated) methods of preparation.
“Our [American] foodview is not informed primarily by place, or taste, but by the ability to purchase a consistent product, or even more generally, a commodity. Commodities are not perceived as sensual objects, capable of evoking pleasurable and meaningful moments.” pg 15 Again, I’m fascinated by this. I hadn’t realized this, but I do the exact same thing when shopping despite otherwise thinking of myself (half-deprecatingly, as discussed later in the chapter) as a foodie. But then again, brand loyalty is a real thing in the US! When asked, a lot of people will spout not just that a certain food tastes better (though they may not be able to identify that “better” as being via a certain location of production) but that the brand itself is in “better taste” due to better business practices, such as being fair trade or organic. There’s a moral superiority there.
I thought the juice tasting for children was a very cool idea! (pg 46) Reminded me a lot of what I used to do with the Dr Yum project with preschoolers, though in that case the goal was primarily to introduce children to new fruits and vegetables and methods of preparation. But a lot of the work I did in preschools as a cook and educator was also to help kids overcome fears of exploring new tastes, textures, and methods of preparation that they may have been unfamiliar with. I would have loved to incorporate this sort of teaching/tasting process to that curriculum!
I was unable to get very far into the Vermont chapter due to time constraints, but I was still interested by what I read. I found it interesting that though the overall dairy industry declined, organic farms grew– the implication being that larger farms consolidated and got even larger, even as more small farms popped up in ideological opposition.
I was, however, struck by the lack of discussion (at least as far as I got in, about halfway through the Vermont chapter as I write this post; I woke up at 6 this morning to try and finish it) about the disorganization of early organic farm certifications. The ethnography largely covers the late 60s-90’s, during the emergence of the organic movement. However, organic certification was and in many respects remains deeply inconsistent. There are many labels that can mark a farm as being “in better taste” than industrial agriculture, but they do not have consistent requirements for certification. Some require no pesticide use, while others have a maximum threshold for use. Some require not just ag methods but also labor practices to be ethical, while others have no limits on how you treat your human workers, leading to human rights violations on farms that otherwise are in good social standing. I would like to see more exploration of that.