Harvesting and Feasting
This quarter’s Gleanings takes an indulgent turn. With the autumn months in full swing and winter chill fast approaching, watermelon rind pickles being put up and the last of the late-summer tomatoes coming in (green), harvesting and feasting are on the mind, on our tables, and, of course, under our anthropological scrutiny.
Harvesting and feasting conjure imaginaries galore: anticipations of family holidays traditions, shared labor and shared foods, late-romantic oil paintings of the harvest. This Gleaning’s theme of harvesting and feasting calls for the delightful during all that is 2020—but that remains glued to the political.
This issue features a reflection on beloved chef and food activist Edna Lewis (1916-2006), highlights contemporary food activism and museum goings-on, and showcases Professor Elizabeth Hoover’s From Garden Warriors to Good Seeds project and forthcoming book (Minnesota University Press).
Edna Lewis and Me: Imagined Memories. A Reflection on Shared History in Central Virginia.
“I grew up in Freetown, Virginia, a community of farming people. It wasn’t really a town. The name was adopted because the first residents had all been freed from chattel slavery and they wanted to be known as a town of Free People…The spirit of pride in community and of cooperation in the work of farming is what made Freetown a very wonderful place to grow up in. Ours was a large family: my parents, my grandfather, three sisters, two brothers, and cousins who stayed with us from time to time, all living under the same roof. The farm was demanding but everyone shared in the work—tending the animals, gardening, harvesting, preserving the harvest, and, every day, preparing delicious foods that seemed to celebrate the good things of each season…Whenever there were major tasks on the farm, work that had to be accomplished quickly (and timing is so important in farming), then everyone pitched in, not just family but neighbors a well. And afterward we would all take part in the celebrations, sharing the rewards that follow hard labor.”
This is how Edna Lewis’ first cookbook The Taste of Country Cooking begins, by situating herself and her family in the central Virginia landscape at a particular, triumphant, moment in Virginia history, as descendants of freed slaves. It was in this setting that she learned, primarily from her mother, how to cook central Virginian cuisine…. Read More
|Associate Professor Elizabeth Hoover (Brown University, American Studies) comes to food studies by way of medical anthropology and both scholarly and activist work in environmental justice for Indigenous communities. Her forthcoming book From ‘Garden Warriors’ to ‘Good Seeds;’ Indigenizing the Local Food Movement (University of Minnesota Press) examines food sovereignty of Native American communities around the U.S., particularly by attending to how these interlocutors define and make moves to achieve sovereignty alongside attending to traditional foodways and seed-saving. This work, spanning across multiple Indigenous communities around the Western hemisphere, is additionally available online at a blog by the same name (https://gardenwarriorsgoodseeds.com/), which Professor Hoover manages.
|The Museum of Food and Drink in New York, established 2013, is a Smithsonian-sized operation focused on bringing food and drink to curious minds in experience-based exhibits, inspired by an anthropological worldview and the core values that food is personal, fun, culture, and participatory. Throughout the pandemic, MOFAD has hosted online events featuring chefs, food innovators, historians, and social scientists in online, participatory forums. For a view into their upcoming event series, check out their website at mofad.org. And, keep an eye out for their forthcoming exhibit African/American: Making the Nation’s Table, which examines African American cuisine as essential to American cuisine.
|The Native American Food Sovereignty Alliance, which Professor Hoover (above) is a member, was established in 2013 in association with the Navajo Nation. NAFSA is dedicated to food sovereignty and security for Indigenous communities. Like MOFAD, it conducts participatory events and runs educational programs for Indigenous communities, with a focus on advocacy, community-building, and education for Indigenous foodways and culinary traditions. In a recent series called “Indigenous Chopped Challenge—Harvest Edition!”, NAFSA challenged Indigenous chefs to use native ingredients to create innovative dishes. You can learn more about NAFSA at their website https://nativefoodalliance.org.
In the news
- A joint statement by the ILO, FAO, IFAD and WHO: Impact of COVID-19 on people’s livelihoods, their health and our food systems
- From Civil Eats, As COVID-19 Disrupts the Industrial Meat System, Independent Processors Have a Moment to Shine
- From Wisconsin Public Radio, More Than 40 Percent Of 2020 Farm Income Projected To Come From Federal Payments
Our next theme will be “being and dwelling”. Would you like to share your work or a colleague’s? Do you want to celebrate or highlight new scholarship or activism related to this theme area? Please reach out to Rebecca Dudley at email@example.com to get involved.
A note on what’s new: this year, we’re trying something new with Gleanings. Each quarter, we’ll choose a theme, and explore that theme through one large feature and several short spotlights. Through these spotlights, we’ll highlight new scholarship in the Culture and Agriculture community and help make our community more visible to ourselves. This feature has, admittedly, a particularly U.S.-bent—but Gleanings is not an Americanist forum. We hope to highlight scholars in the Culture, Agriculture, Food, and Environment community around the world doing work around the world.