NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg has introduced numerous health initiatives during his three terms; not all of them have completely apparent benefits to the city’s health, but they certainly have brought issues of food distribution and management onto the political stage. Can you really ban soda? Can you really require composting? Now that everyone has seen NYC try, mayoral hopefuls will need to follow through or manage the fallout of those initiatives when Bloomberg’s last term comes to an end.
That’s why I was excited to see there was a Mayor Candidate Forum on the Future of Food in NYC. Nicola Twilley from Edible Geography attended and summarized the candidates’ positions, from the philosophy of personal responsibility to the lofty goals of universal healthcare to stopgap aid for the city’s low income populations. There’s only so much a city government can do without federal support–and as Twilley points out, the federal government’s track record on food politics, even in this year alone, is disheartening to say the least–but NYC has already been a pioneer in food politics experiments, so eyes will be on them.
Meanwhile, across the pond, the Anglo-American Conference of Historians held a conference about food in history. I wasn’t there, but I feel that I was–thank goodness for Twitter! Janis Thiessen, a historian I am pretty sure I “met” on Twitter (unless it was through one of our blogs?), attended and live-tweeted it, as did a handful of other attendees. Many of the tweets are Storifyed by the Institute for Historical Research and a historian named Rachel Rich, who helpfully annotates the tweets. It’s like having someone take notes for you–I hope to dig through these when I have a bit more time and jot down names and topics. Conference papers are usually works in progress, so I don’t know whether I’ll see the published form of these panels anytime soon, but I’ll be keeping an eye out. I’m not a trained historian, myself, but I depend on this kind of work when I research the broad-sweep “why do we eat ___?” articles I sometimes write for Table Matters. (Wedding cake, Valentine candy, guac. . . etc.)
Speaking of internet connections: The Hairpin posted this interview with Emily Matchar, author of Homeward Bound. The interview gives a good sense of the “both/and” of gendering domesticity and food issues: it’s important to value the skills and labor historically managed by women, and to value the work that women do, but it’s also important to avoid reifying the designation of domestic labor as women’s work. The interview makes it clear that the endgame should be parity in the public and private spheres, or at least less distinct lines between them: more women in leadership roles in the workplace; more men comfortably keeping the home; more humans generally able to balance the demands of work and home.
I’ve been enjoying Matchar’s writing on gendered food issues since The Hairpin posted her piece on Poppy Cannon (a figure in food history who also got a shout-out in the AACH’s first plenary!)–but now that I’m working on a TM piece about marketing “labor-saving” foods and appliances to women before second-wave feminism, I’m reading over past material to make sure I’m not retreading work she’s already done. Pros and cons to following food folks on Twitter, I guess–there’s so much smart work on food and cooking and eating in print or progress right now!
Finally, just for fun: the scent of chocolate can boost book sales in stores (but only in certain genres).
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On marketing and the divisions of domestic labor: I skimmed lightly through the Feminine Mystique after Michael Pollan trashed it in Cooked; I posted my first impressions, which I stand by now that I am reading it in depth.