From the Editor: The Many Potential Futures of Food Studies

Food Studies Futures and Landscapes Photo Credit: Katherine Hysmith

I sit down to write these words in the days following the Graduate Association for Food Studies’ second annual Future of Food Studies Conference. The event’s many presentations have me still pondering futures, potentials, and possibilities—for food studies and for all of us, as thinkers, eaters, writers, and citizens. In our last issue, I endeavored to define food studies by looking to its past, identifying some of its early leaders and seminal works. I also considered our food studies present, taking in foremost scholars, key debates, and political implications. But what of food studies’ future? What does, and should, it entail? How will it engage the field’s past and present? Furthermore, what futures does food studies enable us to imagine?

The three articles in this issue provide provocative answers to these questions.

Dr. Jessica Loyer’s “The Cranberry as Food, Health Food, and Superfood: Challenging or Maintaining Hegemonic Nutrition?” applies the method of biography in a novel way to this red, tart berry. She demonstrates how the history of the cranberry—as food, medicine, and commercial product—guided its transformation into a “superfood,” setting the precedent for other foods to claim such status. Loyer’s study of the cranberry demonstrates how hegemonic nutrition exerts its power throughout the foodscape, and manipulates how food and nutrition culture are now understood.

Changes in media, both new and old, will also shape the future of food. In “#EatingfortheInsta: A Semiotic Analysis of Digital Representations of Food on Instagram,” Jenny L. Herman examines how digital platforms like Instagram construct their own communities in ways both visual and material. She proposes the “Greimas Square in Relation to Hunger”—with its four points of necessity, luxury, adequate nutrition, and moderation—as a visual and theoretical tool for interpreting dynamics of social inclusion and exclusion throughout the mediated foodscape. Combining a semiotic lens with a food studies approach, Herman examines how these visual technologies engage both nostalgic and futuristic desires.

Similarly examining food’s visual aspects, L. Sasha Gora closely reads a more traditional medium, cookbooks, though turns her attention from domestic manuals to aspirational tomes authored by celebrity chefs. In her article, “Eating the North: An Analysis of the Cookbook NOMA: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine,” she examines the production and visual representation of René Redzepi’s cookbook, pondering the ways that it transforms notions of consumption. Gora argues that the text and its accompanying photographs construct their own definitions of time and place, for Noma, the north, and Nordic cuisine.

Furthermore, the Journal’s Food-Stuff section endeavors to craft new possibilities for food studies scholarship. Launched in our last issue with three innovative pieces, this issue’s section presents six additional examples of what rigorous food studies inquiry can look, feel, sound, smell, and taste like when imagined beyond the bounds of the peer-reviewed article alone.

In “A Relay of Ferments,” Emily Farr and Maya Hey engage in an experimental writing conversation on the topic of fermentations, tossing topics back and forth in an innovative, textual “relay,” punctuated by sensory food photography throughout. In another jointly authored piece, “The Future Publics of Food Studies: A Conversation,” Katherine Hysmith (the Journal’s newest Associate Editor) and I discuss her experiences operating between two food worlds: of academic food studies, on the one hand, and food writing, photography, food styling, and recipe development, on the other. Complemented by Katherine’s food photography, our conversation ponders the productive potentials that lie in these in-between food spaces. Offering additional visual food for thought, Sarah Cramer’s stunning, original painting, “CSA Box Turtle, 2016,” is accompanied by an essay, co-authored with Leslie Touzeau, on living, loving, and farming in Missouri.

In “Dry Campus, My Ass: An Autoethnography of U.S. Academic Drinking Culture,” Gretchen Sneegas employs an experimental writing style to document, critique, and re-imagine the structures of power ingrained within academia’s cultural norms surrounding alcohol consumption. (Make sure to read the footnotes!) In her pedagogical essay, “Teaching Food Insecurity: The Social Assistance Food Budget Challenge,” Alexandra Rodney contemplates the learning successes, challenges, and contradictions of teaching food insecurity through a structured, empathetic experience with a limited food budget. Those interested to try such an assignment will learn much from Alexandra’s thoughtful reflections and appreciate her generously sharing the assignment instructions.

Even more timely given the recent (and warranted) explosion of writing on gender and sexual harassment in the food world, Hannah Koper’s essay, “Head Chefs Versus CEOs: An Analysis of the Women in Charge,” takes a comparative approach to understanding the gender gap in professional kitchens and the seemingly problematic ways that female chefs employ gender-blind language to describe their successes.

Under the leadership of Reviews Editor, Edwige Crucifix, the Journal is also expanding its capacity to publish an increasing number of book reviews, using our online, open access format to nimbly and quickly provide reviews of the newest texts in food studies. Hannah C. Gunderman reviews Brigette Sebastia’s edited volume Eating Traditional Food: Politics, Identity, and Practices, while Peter Mabli considers Camille Bégin’s Taste of the Nation: The New Deal Search for America’s Food, James Edward Malin evaluates Samantha L. Martin-McAuliffe’s Food and Architecture: At the Table, and Cassandra Malis reviews Adrian Miller’s The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, From the Washingtons to the Obamas. In addition, Claudia Prieto-Piastro considers Sarah Bowen’s Divided Spirits: Tequila, Mezcal, and the Politics of Production, Josiah Taylor addresses Jessica Hayes-Conroy’s Savoring Alternative Food: School Gardens, Healthy Eating, and Visceral Difference, and Virginia Webb evaluates Richard Ocejo’s Masters of Craft: Old Jobs in the New Urban Economy.

No issue of the Graduate Journal of Food Studies would be possible without the efforts of the entire editorial team. Managing Editor, Catie Peters, worked on this issue while reading, studying, and passing her exams (with flying colors) this fall. Associate Editor, Emma McDonell, completed much of her labor for this issue while conducting fieldwork in Peru. New Associate Editor, Katherine Hysmith rounds out our editorial capacity to work closely and collaboratively with each of our contributors, in addition to lending her social media and design skills. Thanks are also due to our copy editors, Sally Baho and Hailey Grohman, and our discerning peer reviewers for their insights and contributions.

Together, we present this sixth issue of the Graduate Journal of Food Studies, published this fall of 2017. We hope it charts the beginnings of various pathways toward the future of food studies.