Tag Archives: food

On Risk

Last week after observing I helped myself to a plate of food from the hot bar of the co-op. At 4:36am the next morning I woke up with a terrible headache, intense abdominal cramps, nausea and the chills. I ran to the bathroom and proceeded to get sick for the next 5 hours.Later that night I did a little research to find that I was 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) who gets sick each year from foodborne illnesses. According the Center for Disease Control (CDC), each year roughly 128,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 people die of foodborne diseases.

A couple days later at the co-op I found myself steer clear of the hot bar and the surrounding vicinity. When I thought of ‘hot bar’ and ‘co-op’ two things came to mind: yuck and stay away. I began to wonder why I had such a strong visceral reaction. How were issues of food safety being played out in a larger context?  How do corporations, the government and other consumers deal with issues of food safety? It seemed that everytime I was around or thought about food for the next week, risk was somehow involved.

In ‘Food, publics, science’ Gwendolyn Blue explains that the 1990s marked a turning point in the ways in which food is talked about. Where it used to be talked about in terms of nutrition and access, public attention now focuses increasingly on issues of risk, including infectious microbes, chemical toxins, new technologies, and emergent zoonotic diseases. In fact, Blue says

food as a site in which risk is negotiated

This accurately describes how I feel about the hot bar at the co-op. A site in which risk must be negotiated. In the days that followed being sick, the more I realized that it’s not just after getting food poisoning that I have to contend with risk; it’s all the time. It’s everywhere. It’s on the health labels we see in products, the advertising campaigns adopted by corporations to capitalize on our fears of food safety, literally anything relating to food and public safety likely has someone involved aiming to reduce the perception of risk.

This is fascinating. It means that whether or not I like it or even realize it, my actions as a food consumer  make me involved in forms of political engagement (Blue, 153). I am bound up in the larger context of consumer politics of food related issues just as we all are. All in all, after doing my own research on the topic of risk, I’ve realized that there’s no avoiding it, for it’s everywhere, but we can participate by voting on foods that we find safe with our dollar.

FN 3/12


Musings on Meat

This week at City Market I got to know the Meat & Seafood Department. When I first arrived I observed the physical attributes of the meat: bloody, raw, red, muscle and flesh. Beef, pork, chicken and lamb. Approximately five to six different cuts of pork, twenty of beef, seven of chicken and two to three of lamb. The meat was well-organized on black styrofoam plates wrapped in clear packaging with labeled stickers neatly placed on the wrapping. I thought about the lifespan of this meat: the animals were born and lived someplace,were eventually slaughtered, the meat was processed, packaged and then shelved at City Market. Undoubtably, this was an energy intensive process.

But what else did this process, and more generally meat, represent? I was curious about the cultural value that our society places on meat. What associations do we have with it?

According to Deborah Lupton in Food, the body and the self, “one powerful binary opposition which is invoked in popular and medical discourses relating to food is that between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods”. Influenced by cultural expectations and values, this notion is what allows us to assign moral meanings to food. For example, good food not only implies food that nourishes the body, but also a sense of self-control and concern for ones health; whereas bad food implies a sense of weakness or lack of control (Lupton, 28). I wondered where meat fell in the spectrum of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

Turns out, meat has conflicting meanings of ‘good’ and ‘bad’  in western society. To better make sense of this binary opposition, I created a chart that outlines some of the various ‘goodness’ and ‘badness’ aspects of meat.

I’ve always firmly believed that nothing is black or white; there’s always a grey area. I feel that meat is neither good or bad, but rather has aspects of both. One thing is for sure: my philosophical musings of meat have altered my experience in the space of the Meat & Seafood Department of the co-op.

FN 4/9

How is this blog different?

As a lover of all things food, I’ve become increasingly aware of just how many food blogs there are that offer delicious, healthy recipes, but also place an emphasis on community and the importance of using sustainably produced, local, organic, and whole foods when cooking. Some of my current favorites are My New Roots, Green Kitchen Stories, and Sprouted Kitchen. That said, with so many healthy food blogs, you might be asking yourself-  how is this different?

Have you ever read a food or health related article that you can’t stop thinking about? The kind that you go home and email your friends, talk about with mom on the phone and find yourself re- reading before bed? Maybe I’m just a huge food dork, but this happened to recently with social researcher, Jennifer Brady’s article Cooking as Inquiry: A Method to Stir Up Prevailing Ways of Knowing Food, Body, and Identity. In the article, she suggests that cooking can be used as a form of inquiry, or a process to explore the embodied self as it relates to foodmaking. Brady recognizes  the body and food as sites of knowledge and  uses a reflexive, collaborative “visceral approach” as a means of “thinking through the body” to enlist “the sensations, moods and ways of being that emerge from our sensory engagement with the material and discursive environments in which we live” [1].  As I’m very interested in furthering my understanding of cooking as inquiry, I will incorporate some of the practices and frameworks for thinking about the relationship between food, the body, the self into my posts.

In my blog, I hope to raise important questions such as: how are issues of power negotiated through cooking? How does the space of city market encourage or discourage social relations in cooking and food connect us to others and allow us to learn more about our food source? How does privilege and access affect ones purchasing decisions and thus health? What kind of people are purchasing healthy foods, and who is not? How do we make sustainably produced and nourishing foods available to everyone? Is this possible?

As a student at the University of Vermont, I’m studying Environmental Studies, Food Systems and Women’s and Gender Studies. I’m also very interested in Food Justice issues and hope that my academic studies, combined with my love of cooking, eating and community will offer a unique  perspective on issues regarding local, organic, and healthy foods.

WP 2/23