Anthropology 204

The Anthropology of Food

Next to breathing, eating is perhaps the most essential of all human activities, and one with which much of social life is entwined.  Mintz and Du Bois 2002:102

Pestival resources (January 2020, I have not checked that all of these links are still live)

  • Marcel Dicke Why Not Eat Insects
  • Can Eating Insects Save the World?  BBC Documentary
  • Girl Eats Bug Daniella Martin (author of Edible, a book I HIGHLY recommend) blogs about the potential for insects as eco-LOGICAL protein.
  • Small Stock Foods has a great website packed with information about entomophagy, including many emerging projects focused on education and applying these concepts in a modern food reality.
  • Julie Lesnik is an anthropologist who is interested in the role of dietary insects in human evolutionary contexts.  Her website, Entomophagy Anthropology, presents her work and has a few good links as resources.
  • Third Millennium Farming web document about micro-farming (Jacub Dzamba 2009)
  • Case Study: Ento, The Art of Eating Insects
  • Entomo Farms (formerly Next Millennium Farms); congratulations to Canada’s first ento-protein company (launched January 2014).
  • Bitty Foods founder Meghan Miller talks to Elle Magazine about cricket protein
  • Exploring Entomophagy in Northern Benin.   This short resource from the FAO may also be of interest.  It outlines entomophagy and food security very nicely.  The FAO forestry website also has an interesting collection of articles about entomophagy and climate change, it is great to see this conversation blossoming!
  • June 2019: Edmonton welcomes its first cricket farm
  • This CBC radio show Spark episode is fascinating. The argument here about cricket frass as fertilizer in the cannabis industry and how this will drive the mainstreaming of insect protein is particularly interesting.
  • Bug Burger blog offers a great list of insect protein entrepeneurs operating in many different parts of the world
  • While feeding insects to livestock and farmed fish doesn’t sound like it is all that interesting or important, it actually has big implications environmentally, and highlights some weird elements of our legal landscape. Until recently it was easier to feed insects to humans than it was to feed them to chickens, which are actually designed to eat insects! This article might help think about this topic, with so much other great info available through Google Searches (and a company on the lower mainland growing black soldier fly larvae for this very purpose.)
  • Edible Insects Processing: Traditional and Innovative Technologies. this article in the Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety might be interesting. From the abstract: “This review focuses on edible insect production, processing technologies, and commercialization using strategies ranging from traditional to novel as a sustainable approach for improving food security worldwide.” You will only get access to this article through the computers on campus.

ANTH 204 print material guidelines

Food sovereignty resources (2019 term project)

Resources  that relate generally to the course (If you come across something that you think would be a good thing to add just drop me an email and the link!).  I will be adding to this frequently, so check back often!

September 5, 2012: Michael Pollan Responds to Study Finding “No Significant Health Benefit’ to Organic Food

Check out this short home video made by a little girl interested in growing potato vines from a sweet potato purchased at the grocery store.  This is an interesting visual to consider organics and our food system.

Want to learn more about industrial food processing in the wake of the XL Meat Plant mass recall and e. coli outbreak?   This is a good place to start. This website has all sorts of interesting pages that are relevant to this course, have fun exploring!

Peter Mensel’s photo essay What The World Eats (from his book Hungry Planet; What the World Eats)

Gastronomica is an incredible journal published by the University of California.  Their website has lots of interesting articles about food and culture. Gastronomica has made access to all of their articles FREE during the pandemic. Hurry, hurry, go and explore and then save them for later.

In 2013 Scientific American  published a special issue devoted to food (See?  Everyone is getting interested in this topic!) that you can flip through in the Camosun library.  One their website there are a number of articles related to this issue, such as “Fork and Knife Politics: Five Names in the Food Justice Movement You Should Know“, that introduces some really interesting people, along with links to TED talks and other resources that threaten to distract me for many hours at a time!

A summary of Michael Pollan’s Food Rules, narrated by the man himself. A common sense approach to eating?

Eating for Memory, a blog post by anthropologist Krystal D’Costa.  Her blog Anthropology in Practice has all sorts of interesting musings.  Her “Best of” section is a good place to get lost for a while, espeically if you have ever been to New York and spent time on the subway.

This really interesting CBC article compares various food guides from around the world. this, as Canada is set to revamp our nation’s food guide. Apparently we have food guides designed specifically for particular groups such as Inuit communities, I will try to learn more about this before we talk about “balanced diets” in class.

Food Science

  • Scientific American has started a Food Matters blog (September 2013) that will feature a variety of short pieces that consider food from a scientific perspective.  One that caught my eye summarizes new research that connects taste to sounds; altering the way a food sounds can modify the perception of its taste!  Check it out!  A guest blogger has also presented the science of salt in bread, as fascinating break down of the chemistry at work in the food we love.

Food as art?  Food as fashion?  Is there any limit to what we can discuss in the context of food.  You may be familiar with Lady Gaga’s meat dress, but what about milk clothes?!!  These photographs by UK photographer Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz were created by taking multiple photographs of the same pose, while pouring milk over the models.  The photographs were then combined to create these pin up photographs reminiscent of the 1940s and 1950s.  Food as metaphor…. but what’s the message?!

A former UVIC student now living in Washington State has a neat website called Wild Harvests, where he blogs about foraging and wild food experiments.  He was a student of Nancy turner’s of ethnobotany fame.  Interested in eating acorns?  Take a read.

Have you heard of the book Wheat Belly?  Currently a significant number of people are asking important questions about wheat based on this book.  Here is an interesting critical evaluation of many of the book’s main points.  If you are curious about the author (as I was), here is her bio.  She seems to be a very well informed expert, although many will argue she has a bias…. like we all do.

Food and Education: I will be posting information about local educational workshops, information sessions, or internet resources that help consumers learn more about their food, from growing it to cooking it.  Stay tuned.

Seedy Saturday: the James Bay Market Society brings this annual event to the convention centre in February.  From their website, “Seedy Saturday is Victoria’s annual community seed and garden show with commerce, education and networking opportunities for any gardening enthusiast. Here is where you can purchase your seeds – flower, herb and vegetable – direct from the growers who can advise you about the best choices for your specific growing conditions”.  Cost is $7 cash at the door, under 16 are free!

Telmo and Tula Little Cooks Cartoon– for those of you with kids, here is a chance to use TV for good instead of evil!  There are a number of short (7 min) cartoons where the characters cook different foods that families can cook together.  This is an interesting way to reintroduce the act of cooking into our households, where increasingly we consider ourselves too busy to cook with real ingredients and reach for packaged and processed items instead.  The program has a website where all the recipes are available too!

The following resources are loosely organized relative to the topic headings covered in class.  They may be materials referred to in class, or something that adds to class content.  They are not required readings, but may be of interest to you!

Interesting articles about single items that are likely part of your diet but that you don’t know too much about!

Food and Human Evolution: This movie details the cooking hypothesis: Did Cooking Make Us Human.  I am not sure why Wrangham is not cited here.  If you would like to learn more from Dr. Wrangham himself, you might like to watch his lecture called Humans: the Cooking Ape

  • Jeff Leach Anthropology of Microbes blogpost Please Pass the Microbes.  His other posts are also very interesting, but not required reading for this class.

Food and Power:

  • With respect to food aid and the politics of hunger, here is some information recently produced by Oxfam to raise awareness and action in the US towards changing the system.  You might find it interesting!
  • Big Sugar: CBC summary of an article that has exposed the PR and marketing tactics of the sugar industry that are eerily similar to big tobacco.  Wondering how much sugar Canadians consume on average?  Here you go, care of Stats Canada.
  • Big Sugar’s Secret Playbook
  • http://www.foodpolitics.com/
  • For more information about the Fairtrade Certification brand, visit Fairtrade International’s website.  The various standards are explained baed on the particular crop.  Fairtrade Canada has additional information for Canadian consumers.  An example of a Fairtrade Certified cooperative in Ghana is profiled on the Fairtrade website, and is an interesting follow up to our in class discussions.
  • Askinosie Chocolate, the bean to bar company behind several of the edible teaching aids in class, has an interesting website (and even more interesting Facebook page that is accessed via the “journal” section of the website).  Their Chocolate University, briefly mentioned in class as an example of empowerment and economic development, has a fascinating blog that documents the student experience.  I think I might apply….
  • as of late in 2013 Victoria has not one, but two bean to bar chocolatiers that are trying to make names for themselves with their products.  Keep your eyes out for Organic Fair’s single origin bars and Sirene.  Incidentally, Sirene’s website has some great information about the chocolate production process in case you want to follow up on this from class.
  • Check out this amazing website about cacao and chocolate production in Ecuador, but don’t expect to try any To’ak chocolate in our class: the bars cost $260 each!!
  • other resources about chocolate:

Anthropology of Beer

  • For more information about beer in ancient Egypt, you might be interested in this link. I think it adds a lot to the general conversation about ancient brews.

Expermients with ancient beers, both in terms of recipes and technology, abound on the Internet.  Here are a few websites if you are interested:

Food Taboos: The internet is full of very non-anthropological presentations of the “weird and wonderful”.  While I would be the first to advocate a healthy dose of cultural relativism (even if I dont choose to eat warhog anus) you might find some of these interesting, in keeping with our class discussion about food preferences.

Anthony Bourdain is no stranger to food or swearing, but in his forward to his book Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook It he provides a fascinating and humourous account of eating a very taboo, endangered bird- the ortolan- which is a secret delicacy in France.  This bird is fed a diet of figs and other tasty things before being drowned in Armenac and served whole to diners who consume this item in one bite under the shroud of their linen serviettes.  Curious?  Read on….

We considered the Pork Taboo and Kosher food rules in class.  Here is a fascinating article from Modern Farmer (March 2015) that comments on a rising Jewish food trend in North America: pork love.  It reminds me of the eco-Kosher movement, this idea about updating food rules to reflect a modern reality.  As chef David Levi offers, “Industrial Food is never Kosher”.   Curious about how eating pork can heighten ones sense of Jewishness?

Fast Food and Slow Food:

Cross cultural definitions of Balanced Diets

  • After talking about reductive western diets and the food pyramid, are you wondering how your diet stacks up when it comes to the food groups, calorie intake, saturated fat, sodium, etc….?  The USDA Food tracker is free, and while a bit limited in what it has in its presets, it is an intersting quantification of what you are eating.  Go ahead, track your food for a few days and see if you are surprised by the results!
  • Colin Campbell has written a few books that you might be interested in, given the introduction to his work in the short Planeat segments shown in class.  He has written a book called The China Study, that also has a cookbook version, but more recently (spring 2013) has written a book called Whole, which is a New York Times Best Seller.  A blogger interviewed him about this book and provides a bit of background.

Galatogenic foods (part of Asian post partum confinement diets)

  • this blog has recipes and interest personal presentation of a typical confinement diet
  • confinement diets in Taiwan and yin yang principles in this context are presented here

Environmentally sustainability and food

  • Jonathan Foley The Other Inconvenient Truth (Agriculture’s contribution to climate change)
  • We are starting to hear a lot about engineered meat.  Mark Post’s TED Talk The First Lab Grown Hamburger explains the protein engineering behind this future food, and why we should be interested in pursuing this.
  • Adding to the discussion about engineered meat is the futurist prospect of 3D printed meat.  Sounds like science fiction?  It is much more of a reality than you might think.  TED Blogs asks some vegans and vegetarians for their critical reflections about this, in response to a TED talk by Andras Forgacs (called Leather and Meat Without Killing Animals).   Their comments relate very nicely to content in this class, both in terms of identity, worldview, and sustainability.
  • We need to be aware of the amount of food that we waste, in terms of food security and sustainability.  Here is a helpful brochure offered by the David Suzuki foundation to help curb food waste in your own home.

Sustainability and food security: How much land would it take for a family of four to live independently?  This cool infographic is thought provoking.

  • BC Ministry of Health Food Security Portal
  • rising food prices infographic
  • Oxfam infographic about the West African food crisis
  • Food Aid for the Hungry, by Katarina Wahlberg  (2008) The Global Policy Forum is a good synthesis of many of the issues of power, dependency, and sustainability with respect to aid.  It is a good compliment to the food article reading from earlier in the semester.
  • Windowfarms website.  We did not have time to watch this short TED Talk by Britta Riley, who designs and builds urban window farms.  For more information you might like to check out her company’s website.
  • The Farming Technique that Could Revolutionize the Way We Eat.  this short article describes the development of Swiss based UrbanFarmers, a company that has designed fairly large aquaponics systems for urban applications.
  • Aquaponics in Oakland California, Youtube video (quite extraordinary).  Check out the other videos on the right side of the page.
  • Achieving Food Secruity in the Face of Climate Change, report by the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change, 2012.  Commissioned by Cgiar — a research alliance financed by the United Nations and the World Bank — this report recommends big changes in the way we think about farming, food and equitable access to it, and the way our food systems affect climate change.  Rather than looking to technology as the silver bullet, we need to make sweeping changes to the way we grow and consume food, particularly in terms of food waste, the environmental cost of agriculture (in particular protein) and the unsustainably high levels of high calorie diets enjoyed disproportionately by wealthy nations.  A bit bleak….
  • The municipality of Saanich is proposing a few new allotment gardens to promote agriculture.  Here is a synopsis of the proposal and the review process.
  • Anthropological Perspectives on the Global Food Crisis.
  •  this article about Jose Andres and his organization World Central Kitchen from the New York Times details his brand of food aid in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the 2017 hurricanes. The following videos from World Central Kitchen are also very interesting:
  • smart solutions (overview of the organization)
  • WCK in Puerto Rico (if you don’t find this inspiring, please check your pulse)

Indigenous Food sovereignty

Here is a great collection of bannock recipes, along with a brief history of its introduction.

Food Waste

In 2014 Canadians wasted $31 billion worth of food.  With looming food security issues nationally and worldwide, wasting an average of $600 per household annually is unacceptable.  Here are some interesting resources to learn more.

  • CBC’s radio show The Current aired a documentary in October 2013 about food waste and best before dates.  You might be interested in taking a listen!
  • Food Waste: The Next Food Revolution, an article from Modern Farmer with interesting infographics and evaluations of waste from farm to landfill.
  • Best before dates and bruised produce  contribute to what is called “pre consumer waste”.  A new store opened by the ex-present of Trader Joe’s aims to divert some of this food from the landfill to low income grocery carts.  Welcoming “The Daily Table” a salvage grocery store.
  • Here is a comprehensive article from Modern Farmer about food waste that you will enjoy, and be appalled by!

The Future of Food

Space food seems to be of increasing interest to me.  Check out how veggies will be grown in space as we develop the capacity to colonize Mars…!

Rob Rhinehart has developed Soylent, an all-encompassing food substitute, so that he can stop cooking.  Apparently cooking and eating food is a big time suck in his fast paced, Silicone Valley reality.  He has written a few interesting blog posts about the development and philosophy behind Soylent, including How I Stopped Eating Food, and In Defense of New Food. Want to know what’s in it?!  He’s even clarified the nutritional profile. This future of food appears to be counter to almost everything we cover in ANTH 204 in terms of the cultural significance of food; Soylent highlights the body as machine metaphor, reductionist sentiments of our fast paced industrial reality.

Salmon Confidential: This movie discusses the controversial salmon fish farming economy in BC.  I have not had a chance to watch it yet, but wanted to post it here for students to access.

Genetically Modified Food

This is an important topic, and a very polarized one.  You will discover this for yourselves in the final short assignment of the semester, but since this debate is very much in play in a variety of contemporary contexts, I post here current media pieces and articles that may help you critically evaluate GM technology and food.

  • Glenn Stone is an anthropologist who is researching the introduction of GM foods in SE Asia and makes many of his interests accessible in his blog Field Questions; Food , Farming, and Biotechnology.  His department webpage (he teaches at Washington University in St. Lewis) has links to many of his articles.
  • Crop biotechnology backgrounder, published by Current Anthropology in 2002 to briefly explain some key techniques in biotechnology with respect to GM food.
  • The Anthropology of Genetically Modified Crops, by Glenn Stone, published in Annual Reviews of Anthropology 2010
  • The First GMO Field Tests by Brooke Borel Modern Farmer May 20, 2014 offers a concise history of GMO testing and discussion about this debate.
  • Why Does Everyone Hate Monsanto? Modern Farmer contemplates this question, March 2014 and in doing so offers some interesting historic background to a polarized discussion that many argue is existential and ideologically based.
  • The webpage for the U. of Minnesota’s Anthropology of Food has a great selection of  “GM Issues in the News” that is a useful primer
  • Here is an interesting lecture by British environmental activist Mark Lynas (credited with being a father of the anti-GMO movement) who has recently changed his position on GMOs.  this lecture would be an acceptable substitute for Jimmy’s Food Fight for your final assignment.
  • Review of the 2016 book What’s So controversial about Genetically Modified Foods?

Washington State is voting on proposition I-522 on November 5 2013 that would make them the first state in the US to require GM ingredients to be listed on food labels.  The fight has intensified and is being watched by many at the national level.  Huge amounts of money are being spent on both sides, but the no side (backed by many opponents but most notably contribution wise is Monsanto and Dupont) is outspending the yes side 3:1 (there is $22 million in the pot for the no campaign!!).  Why is Monsanto so opposed to labelling?!  Hmmm…..  Here is some information that I have gathered, more to follow:

See the spin on both sides for yourself:

(updated Nov. 14 2013)  The proposition failed by 4%.  This is a narrow victory for the no side, at a great cost.

What’s up with “terminator technology”, or “suicide seeds”?  The battle is currently being waged in Brazil , with the world watching to see if Brazil will vote in favour of breaking the global moratorium on the use of this technology (this vote was set to take place early in 2014 but has apparently stalled).  This would be a huge precedent, likely ushering in the use of this technology more widely.  Yet the many concerns about this technology remain.  Here is an article from the Guardian that presents the issue quite well.

Cant get enough of critical food studies?  How about some documentaries to keep you asking important questions.  Keep in mind that these aren’t made by anthropologists, so evaluating bias and practicing critical thinking is important here.  Here is a list called “Feast for Thought” compiled on IMDb.  With over 100 titles, there is sure to be something that interests you!  If you watch something interesting please let me know about it.

Every semester from 2013-2019 students paid a small course fee to cover the various edible teaching aid use throughout the semester. At the end of the semester students got to decide where any extra course supply money would be donated.  Over the years students have pitched many excellent ideas and engaged in passionate discussion before voting for the charities and projects that then receive a $100-$200 endorsement from Camosun’s ANTH 204 class.  Here are some of the organizations that have received a donation:

  • Breakfast Club of Canada, Victoria chapter.  Interested in seeing what they do?  Check out this short video (2 mins)
  • Lifecycles Fruit Tree Project
  • Chapul Cricket Bars
  • Mustard Seed Food bank
  • Woodwynn Farms
  • Action Against Hunger (specifically donating money towards typhoon Haiyan relief in the Philippines Dec. 2013)
  • Songhees Tool Shed Community Food Security Project
  • In the winter of 2016 we had 2 $200 donations.  One cheque went to the Fairfield Refugee Committee and helped to stock the kitchen for a refugee family that arrived in Victoria in July.  they were very appreciative of our support.  The second cheque went to the Shelbourne Community Kitchen; specifically it bought bee keeping equipment for a new food security project that they are getting off the ground.  In 2018, the bees were thriving, and while there is no honey for human consumption yet, the kitchen is thinking of creative ways to use the honeycomb wax like reusable food wrap.
  • Island Chefs Cooperative Growing Chefs program, which helps elementary school classes connect with food from container gardening on the school premises to cooking with these ingredients.

Food Waste term project W2017

GMOs and the Future of Food (final assignment W2017)  This is an important topic, and a very polarized one.  You will discover this for yourselves in the final short assignment of the semester.  Below are some resources that will help you decide on your two key points in support of GM food technology, and 2 key counterpoints.

  • The webpage for the U. of Minnesota’s Anthropology of Food has a great selection of  “GM Issues in the News” that is a useful primer
  • Glenn Stone is an anthropologist who is researching the introduction of GM foods in SE Asia and makes many of his interests accessible in his blog Field Questions; Food , Farming, and Biotechnology.  His department webpage (he teaches at Washington University in St. Lewis) has links to many of his articles.
  • Crop biotechnology backgrounder, published by Current Anthropology in 2002 to briefly explain some key techniques in biotechnology with respect to GM food.
  • The First GMO Field Tests by Brooke Borel Modern Farmer May 20, 2014 offers a concise history of GMO testing and discussion about this debate.
  • Why Does Everyone Hate Monsanto? Modern Farmer contemplates this question, March 2014 and in doing so offers some interesting historic background to a polarized discussion that many argue is existential and ideologically based.
  • Here is an interesting lecture my British environmental activist Mark Lynas (credited with being a father of the anti-GMO movement) who has recently changed his position on GMOs.  this lecture would be an acceptable substitute for Jimmy’s Food Fight for your final assignment.
  • Review of the 2016 book What’s So controversial about Genetically Modified Foods?

There are many documentaries about this subject, some better and more balanced than others.  I list them here in case you are interested