With food, it’s not just that the personal is political. How we eat, what we buy, and where we get it are deeply influenced by the circulation of food, money, and knowledge on a very large scale–city-wide, nation-wide, world-wide–but the reverse is also true. The votes-by-wallet we make when we embrace certain food practices and reject others may be drops in a bucket, but national-level food economy and discourse has undeniably shifted in the last few years. This week’s links are all about scale: small choices, big effects.
At Vox, 40 maps that explain food in America. “Explain” isn’t quite the right word for what a good infographic does–and not all of these maps are equally good–but there are quite a few that offer fascinating illustrations. Together, 2-9 show a troubling picture of U.S. agriculture; 25-32 explore regional fast food chains (with a shout-out to the now-famous Waffle House/hurricane connection); 12 (“Watch corn eat sunlight”) is weirdly beautiful.
Everyone I know has already linked to this Guernica interview with two food journalists, but it’s so good. Jane Black and Brent Cunningham were doing their own research on food and class issues, but their work led them to the West Virginia town where Jamie Oliver had his monstrous show. (Which, to be fair, I never watched, by why would I? I don’t want to see a grown man don a fat suit in order to shame and bully people to change their food habits.) The writers spoke to the town’s residents–still a bit shell-shocked from their brush with “reality” TV–and learned about how the school managed cafeteria economics both before and after the show (e.g. adapting Oliver’s recipes so that they actually met state nutritional requirements, and were palatable to kids.) There’s some good discussion of different class associations of food, particularly the way foodies tend to perceive cornbread and beans as “good” food (classic, rustic, real) and McDonalds as “trashy” food, while the population of Huntington had the opposite perception. There’s a frank discussion of farming which provides the explanation to the illustration of Vox’s agricultural maps. And there’s this truth from Black:
It’s a privilege to want less. It’s a luxury to worry about how the animal was raised. And that, I think, is what is lost in this whole national discussion about food. Because it’s led by people who don’t have to worry. It’s not that people aren’t aware of that, but it’s totally different to really understand it—and to craft messages and strategies that account for it.
Even if you feel that you could go the rest of your life without reading another article about hipsters, you’re still going to like this post about hipster cafes at Tangerine & Cinnamon. Sarah Emily Duff writes:
I have eaten or drunk coffee in a series of small, independent, and fairly earnest eateries in Melbourne, Perth (yes, even Perth), London, New York, Montreal, Toronto, Cape Town, and Johannesburg which are, really, virtually interchangeable: they share the same incandescent light bulbs, wood panelling, metal stools, amazing coffee, homemade soft drinks in jam jars, and interesting food.
It’s interesting to read a global taxonomy of a neighborhood cafe, but her larger point is that youth movements, even theoretically apolitical ones like hipsterdom, can cause far-reaching ripples in food culture.
A friend recently turned me on to feminist food magazine Render, and I’ve been seriously enjoying their blog as I await the next print issue. This post by Soleil Ho about leaving academia to work in a restaurant really struck a chord with me, and should resonate with some of the discussion at my bookish blog about trying to combine labor and love. Soleil contrasts the abstract intellectual work of teaching with that of practical hands-on kitchen labor, but she’s clear that it’s not just an matter of personal satisfaction: looming over her individual decision is the dark judgmental cloud of academic elitism in regard to its support staff and students.
Finally: for fun, how about a tiny city painted on the inside of an almond, and other minature beauties? By Hasan Kale, via Colossal.