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Overthinking a Plate of Beans
January 7, 2013 12:14 PM   Subscribe

The five scholars explored the question, “What is the meaning of food?” and debated its role in ethnic and religious tensions. They also examined the possibility that “food, which is something that all of us share, albeit in different ways, can be used to bring people together instead of differentiating between us.” According to Goldstein, one of the most important ideas to come out of the group was that food is a social process rather than a commodity and thus is central to multicultural understanding: “[Food] has to do with how we live and it’s not just an object that we ingest.” Food: History & Culture in the West [PDF], was a 2010 UC Berkley Symposium exploring multiple links between food and culture:

A few topics of note:

What role does food play in people’s lives beyond nutrition? What kind of cultural conflicts or misunderstandings have arisen over national or regional food traditions? Alternately, how can food be used to bring different groups together across cultural differences?

When we talk about “authentic” cuisines, as in “authentic Italian food” or “authentic Mexican food,” what determines the authenticity of these dishes? How important is it to preserve the food traditions of certain regions, such as a particular way of making noodles (spaghetti, pho, ramen), French onion soup, or burritos? Should we worry about food traditions that change over time as people forget recipes or experiment with new ingredients or populations migrate to new places?

What are the effects of fast food restaurants on neighborhoods and on the culture at large? Can there be positive effects of fast food restaurants? What is the attitude toward McDonald’s in foreign countries like France, Italy, China, and Russia?

What assumptions do people often make about vegetarians beyond their food practices? (Political beliefs? Class? Education? Religious beliefs?) How was vegetarianism connected to 19th-century social reforms and romanticism throughout Europe? How did vegetarianism become a tool for nationalism under the Nazis? What is the relationship between food production and national security?


Related: How Food Replaced Art as High Culture
posted by byanyothername (14 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
No, this is overthinking a plate of beans!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:32 PM on January 7, 2013


This explains why I never read Mark Bittman. I bought his cookbook once and the ratio of food pontificating versus recipes was 10 to 1.
posted by Xurando at 12:34 PM on January 7, 2013


I read the conference volume.

It was shit.
posted by R. Schlock at 12:58 PM on January 7, 2013


I make it a personal rule not to listen to people who like talking about food more than they like eating it.
posted by Aquaman at 12:58 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, this is overthinking a plate of beans!

Actually, the procedure for beans in Modernist Cuisine is a substantial simplification over most traditional methods.
posted by cmoj at 12:59 PM on January 7, 2013


"it’s not just an object that we ingest.”

Uh, yes it is. Unless you're a 20 year-old with an Instagram account then it's VERY IMPORTANT NEWS.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:10 PM on January 7, 2013


Thanks, this looks ace. I'll go through it later, despite the handful of charmers who've turned up to tell us just how much they don't care.
posted by ominous_paws at 1:16 PM on January 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


From Related: How Food Replaced Art as High Culture:
if they were to the manner born
I'm not sure if that's a pun or ignorance.
posted by boo_radley at 1:33 PM on January 7, 2013


The American Museum of Natural History currently has an exhibit about food, called Our Global Kitchen.
posted by monospace at 1:36 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I make it a personal rule not to listen to people who like talking about food more than they like eating it.

These are not mutually exclusive activities - one can engage in both to great enjoyment, sometimes simultaneously. :)
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:03 PM on January 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


As cool as it is to hate it when people enjoy things, food is fucking awesome.

First, food is delicious. It's a bonding ritual. It's history and culture. It's science. It's performance art. It's sculptural art. It's problem solving. Sometimes it's a magic trick. It fucking keeps you alive.

Of all of the aspects of being human that might attract analysis and attention, it's a wonder we have creative cultures other than food.
posted by cmoj at 3:02 PM on January 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


Chapter 3, paragraph 2, topic 1A: “Against Corpse Tea”: Overview of Nazi Vegetarianism. I never realized that Godwin also came as a granola.
posted by ouke at 3:56 PM on January 7, 2013


We like to overlook this, but sometimes, food is what you are. Ask a bedbug.
posted by SPrintF at 4:00 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


boo_radley: "From Related: How Food Replaced Art as High Culture:
if they were to the manner born
I'm not sure if that's a pun or ignorance.
"

It's the original, as coined by Shakespeare.
posted by Lexica at 9:36 PM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


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