From the Editor: We Need to Talk About Empire

Former cabin for enslaved people in Louisiana. Former cabin for enslaved African Americans in Louisiana.

Welcome to the seventh issue of the Graduate Journal of Food Studies!

It is a joy to write this introductory note in Central Wisconsin, where I first began to think about agriculture and politics from the vantage point of the small farm where I was raised. I would like to acknowledge that I do this work on the traditional lands of the Chippewa. I thank them for taking care of the soil underneath my feet for generations, and I recognize that their right to territorial sovereignty did not end in 1837 (see the treaty document here, which guarantees them the “privilege of hunting, fishing, and gathering wild rice”).

I am of the opinion that food studies must urgently grapple with settler colonial and imperial violence, and, consequently, I am pleased to share two peer-reviewed articles that begin to address these legacies. In “Food from Nowhere: Complicating Cultural Food Colonialism to Understand Matcha as Superfood,” Nick Dreher attentively examines the erasure of matcha’s cultural identity in the United States. Taking up Lisa Heldke’s notion of “cultural food colonialism,” articulated in Exotic Appetites (2003), he contends that, rather than seeking novelty or authenticity, matcha consumers are most concerned with its health benefits. Dreher concludes by offering Heldke’s “strategic authenticity,” a concept clearly indebted to Gayatri Spivak’s “strategic essentialism,” as one means of highlighting the voices and perspectives of the people from whom a particular cuisine originates. In “A Cup of Real Chinese Tea: Culinary Adventurism and the Contact Zone at the World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893,” Grace Krause draws upon archival materials—newspaper accounts, maps, and ephemera—to argue that the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 enacted a “contact zone,” a social space in which disparate cultures came together on unequal terms, according to the formulation of Mary Louise Pratt in Imperial Eyes (1992). In spite of legalized Chinese Exclusion, enacted the year prior, Chicago Chinese Americans deliberately crafted a cultural presence for the World’s Columbian Exposition, which enabled them to earn money and pique cosmopolitan interest in Chinese food. Krause suggests that the contact zone, which was initiated at the fair, actually widened in subsequent years to include the rest of the city, even as white middle-class residents of Chicago maintained belief in their racial superiority.

I am also delighted to introduce two Food-Stuff pieces and one multimedia collaboration. In “Whose Chicken Is it?” Priya Vadi reviews The Search for General Tso, a documentary film released in 2014, directed by Ian Cheney, and produced by Jennifer 8. Lee and Amanda Murray. Finding intersections with her own research on diasporic Iranian foodways, Vadi reiterates the instability of culinary authenticity, a mainstay of food studies research since Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger published The Invention of Tradition (1983). In “Something Within: Fish Preservation Through Time,” Jeffrey Rubel deploys imagination and recipes to explore three distinct historical moments of preservation, which he argues are bound together by the science of microbes. Offering failure as method, Rubel reflects on what it means to put one’s human faith in the non-human world of bacterial enzymes. In “Notes from the Field: Helsinki’s Secret Gardens,” Sophia Hagolani-Albov (text) and Megan Resler (illustration) capture the serendipities afforded by ethnographic research in the periphery of Helsinki. Through text and image, they draw our attention to the unobserved and underconsidered “secret gardens” in daily life that we ought not miss.

This issue has only been possible through the dedication of the editorial team. Thank you to Emma McDonell, Managing Editor, and KC Hysmith, Associate & Communications Editor. We welcome three new Associate Editors: Claire Bunschoten, Maya Hey, and Jessica Fagin. This issue is the final one for Edwige Crucifix, our stalwart Book Review Editor, whose editorial note can be read here. We have great expectations for Jessica Carbone, who will be taking up the position. Sally Baho, Managing Copy Editor, really stepped up this issue and singlehandedly onboarded two new Copy Editors: Maria Carabello and Cheyenne Schoen. Thank you also to Emily Contois for handing over the Journal in admirable working order, to our anonymous peer reviewers, and, last but certainly not least, to you, our readers. If you have thoughts, feedback, or suggestions, please write me a letter.

Happy reading!

Catherine R. Peters