From the Book Review Editor: Discontent with Food

Notebook with coffee

Reflecting a confirmed trend in food studies research, many of the books reviewed for this issue address the ever-growing dysfunction of the food industry—from production and distribution to marketing and consumption—while critically discussing our means of resistance. In their reviews of Marion Nestle’s Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning) and John Lang’s What’s So Controversial about Genetically Modified Food?, Jennifer Lacy-Nichols and Catherine Price respectively address two of the most controversial issues related to giant food corporations—soft drinks and genetically-modified foods—and question what is truly at stake in the complex debates surrounding them. Taking on related issues from the point of view of the consumer, Jeffrey Rowe takes up Alison Hope Alkon and Julie Guthman’s critique of a certain form of food activism—unequivocally dubbed “slacktivism”—in their exploration of alternative modes of resistance to the neoliberal food industry through the collected volume The New Food Activism: Opposition, Cooperation, and Collective Action. Concurrently, in his review of Robert Ji-Song Ku’s Dubious Gastronomy: The Cultural Politics of Eating Asian in the USA, Will Payne argues for the enduring relevance of postcolonial theory to food studies by debunking the myth of authenticity that surrounds the marketing and consumption of Asian food in the U.S.

While less immediately political, the other books reviewed in this issue seem to offer a different and engaging answer to the general discontent with current food systems, while exploring new avenues for food studies. Indeed, Anastasia Day’s review of Amy Trubek’s Making Modern Meals: How Americans Cook Today and Erica Zurawski’s review of Emma-Jayne Abbots’s The Agency of Eating: Mediation, Food and the Body address the field’s increasing concern for the affective and interpersonal dimension of foodways. Building on personal—and even at times biographical—accounts, both publications address the often-discarded importance of pleasure in creating bonds and meaning through food. Doing so, the reviewers convincingly argue, also produces exciting interdisciplinary venues for food studies.

The remaining reviews in this issue are more directly concerned with theoretical approaches to food studies and will prove of particular interest to early career scholars. Romina Delmonte reviews the recent revised edition of Jean Pierre Poulain’s seminal The Sociology of Food: Eating and the Place of Food in Society. In this updated edition, the theoretical background provided by Poulain is made all the more relevant by the addition of a whole new chapter reflecting on the evolution, structure, and future of food studies. Finally, Jessica Carbone’s review of A History of Cookbooks: From Kitchen to Page over Seven Centuries by Henry Notaker provides a useful overview of the rich lineage of cookbook scholarship and usefully reminds us of the relevance of literary approaches to the field of food studies. As I welcome this argument very fondly, I am happy to welcome Jessica to the Graduate Journal of Food Studies editorial team.

Edwige Crucifix