Appetizers / Preliminary Provocations:
Texts and Images for Introductory Class Meeting
"Cooking is one of those arts which most requires to be done by
persons of a religious nature."
--Alfred North Whitehead
Food, Identity & Assimilation
Excerpt from "The Other Bread," from Lousie DeSalvo's
Crazy in the Kitchen: Food, Fueds and Forgiveness in An Italian American
Family (NY: Bloomsbury, 2004). Read
Film Excerpt, GoodFellas, 1990.
Director Martin Scorsese, Editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, D. P. Michael
Ballhaus, Screenplay Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese; Track 21
Mrs. De Vito's House
Retro Food Porn: Fifties Food
Images: Cooking with 7 Up Part One and
Part Two from The Gallery of Regrettable
Food, James Lileks. NY: Crown, 2001
Big Boy Grill Book from The Gallery
of Regrettable Food, James Lileks. NY: Crown, 2001
Why the Poor Eat So Poorly / The High Cost of Nutrition
Paradox of Hunger & Obesity in America (Boston Globe)
Film Excerpt, The Age of Innocence, 1993.
Director Martin Scorsese, Editor Thelma Schoonmaker, D.P. Michael Ballhaus;
Based on the Novel by Edith Wharton: Tracks 5 & 6: The Van der Luydens,
Duke of St. Austrey Dinner
Food Porn: Gourmet Images
In Praise of White / Food
& Wine February 2006
Cover Image/ Food &
Wine February 2006
Saturday Night Surf & Turf /
Bon Appetit February 2006
Cover Image / Gourmet
Cover Image / Martha Stewart
Living January 2006
Cake for December / Marthat
Stewart Living January 2006
Slovenia / Excerpt
2 / Gourmet February 2006
The Evil Big Mac
"Fast food," an Italian theologian proclaimed, "is not
Catholic. It completely forgets the holiness of food." Father Massimo
Salani, the author of a book on faith and food, interviewied in L'Avvenire,
said that munching a Big Mac with fries was the antithesis of receiving
Communion and should be spurned by Catholics. He added that the fast
food habit of eating quickly and alone was better suited to the "Lutheran
mentality of an individual relationship bewteen man and God" and
labelled fast food a "Protestant, even atheist" abberation.
The ensuing public controversy--the Italian newspaper Il Massagero
pronounced the "excommunication of the hamburger"- prompted
McDonalds' Italia to issue a statement defending the compatibility of
its product with the worlds faiths.(!)
Reported in U.S.Catholic, February 2001
Taste & Distinction
Food in the Grave:
Pierre Bourdieu (Slow 50)
The Slow Food Movement
Founded by Carlo Petrini in Italy in 1986, Slow Food is an international
association that promotes food and wine culture, but also defends food
and agricultural biodiversity worldwide. It opposes the standardisation
of taste, defends the need for consumer information, protects cultural
identities tied to food and gastronomic traditions, safeguards foods
and cultivation and processing techniques inherited from tradition and
defend domestic and wild animal and vegetable species.
12 Myths About World Hunger
Myth 1: Not Enough Food to Go Around
Reality: Abundance, not scarcity, best describes the world's food supply.
Enough wheat, rice and other grains are produced to provide every human
being with 3,500 calories a day. That doesn't even count many other
commonly eaten foods - vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits,
grass-fed meats, and fish. Enough food is available to provide at least
4.3 pounds of food per person a day worldwide: two and half pounds of
grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of fruits and vegetables, and nearly
another pound of meat, milk and eggs-enough to make most people fat!
The problem is that many people are too poor to buy readily available
food. Even most "hungry countries" have enough food for all
their people right now. Many are net exporters of food and other agricultural
Myth 2: Nature's to Blame for Famine
Reality: It's too easy to blame nature. Human-made forces are making
people increasingly vulnerable to nature's vagaries. Food is always
available for those who can afford it—starvation during hard times
hits only the poorest. Millions live on the brink of disaster in south
Asia, Africa and elsewhere, because they are deprived of land by a powerful
few, trapped in the unremitting grip of debt, or miserably paid. Natural
events rarely explain deaths; they are simply the final push over the
brink. Human institutions and policies determine who eats and who starves
during hard times. Likewise, in America many homeless die from the cold
every winter, yet ultimate responsibility doesn't lie with the weather.
The real culprits are an economy that fails to offer everyone opportunities,
and a society that places economic efficiency over compassion.
Myth 3: Too Many People
Reality: Birth rates are falling rapidly worldwide as remaining regions
of the Third World begin the demographic transition—when birth
rates drop in response to an earlier decline in death rates. Although
rapid population growth remains a serious concern in many countries,
nowhere does population density explain hunger. For every Bangladesh,
a densely populated and hungry country, we find a Nigeria, Brazil or
Bolivia, where abundant food resources coexist with hunger. Costa Rica,
with only half of Honduras' cropped acres per person, boasts a life
expectancy—one indicator of nutrition —11 years longer than
that of Honduras and close to that of developed countries. Rapid population
growth is not the root cause of hunger. Like hunger itself, it results
from underlying inequities that deprive people, especially poor women,
of economic opportunity and security. Rapid population growth and hunger
are endemic to societies where land ownership, jobs, education, health
care, and old age security are beyond the reach of most people. Those
Third World societies with dramatically successful early and rapid reductions
of population growth rates-China, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Cuba and the
Indian state of Kerala-prove that the lives of the poor, especially
poor women, must improve before they can choose to have fewer children.
Myth 4: The Environment vs. More Food?
Reality: We should be alarmed that an environmental crisis is undercutting
our food-production resources, but a tradeoff between our environment
and the world's need for food is not inevitable. Efforts to feed the
hungry are not causing the environmental crisis. Large corporations
are mainly responsible for deforestation-creating and profiting from
developed-country consumer demand for tropical hardwoods and exotic
or out-of-season food items. Most pesticides used in the Third World
are applied to export crops, playing little role in feeding the hungry,
while in the U.S. they are used to give a blemish-free cosmetic appearance
to produce, with no improvement in nutritional value.
Alternatives exist now and many more are possible. The success of organic
farmers in the U.S. gives a glimpse of the possibilities. Cuba's recent
success in overcoming a food crisis through self-reliance and sustainable,
virtually pesticide-free agriculture is another good example. Indeed,
environmentally sound agricultural alternatives can be more productive
than environmentally destructive ones.
Myth 5: The Green Revolution is the Answer
Reality: The production advances of the Green Revolution are no myth.
Thanks to the new seeds, million of tons more grain a year are being
harvested. But focusing narrowly on increasing production cannot alleviate
hunger because it fails to alter the tightly concentrated distribution
of economic power that determines who can buy the additional food. That's
why in several of the biggest Green Revolution successes—India,
Mexico, and the Philippines—grain production and in some cases,
exports, have climbed, while hunger has persisted and the long-term
productive capacity of the soil is degraded. Now we must fight the prospect
of a 'New Green Revolution' based on biotechnology, which threatens
to further accentuate inequality.
Myth 6: We Need Large Farms
Reality: Large landowners who control most of the best land often leave
much of it idle. Unjust farming systems leave farmland in the hands
of the most inefficient producers. By contrast, small farmers typically
achieve at least four to five times greater output per acre, in part
because they work their land more intensively and use integrated, and
often more sustainable, production systems. Without secure tenure, the
many millions of tenant farmers in the Third World have little incentive
to invest in land improvements, to rotate crops, or to leave land fallow
for the sake of long-term soil fertility. Future food production is
undermined. On the other hand, redistribution of land can favor production.
Comprehensive land reform has markedly increased production in countries
as diverse as Japan, Zimbabwe, and Taiwan. A World Bank study of northeast
Brazil estimates that redistributing farmland into smaller holdings
would raise output an astonishing 80 percent.
Myth 7: The Free Market Can End Hunger Reality: Unfortunately, such
a "market-is-good, government-is-bad" formula can never help
address the causes of hunger. Such a dogmatic stance misleads us that
a society can opt for one or the other, when in fact every economy on
earth combines the market and government in allocating resources and
distributing goods. The market's marvelous efficiencies can only work
to eliminate hunger, however, when purchasing power is widely dispersed.
So all those who believe in the usefulness of the market and the necessity
of ending hunger must concentrate on promoting not the market, but the
consumers! In this task, government has a vital role to play in countering
the tendency toward economic concentration, through genuine tax, credit,
and land reforms to disperse buying power toward the poor. Recent trends
toward privatization and de-regulation are most definitely not the answer.
Myth 8: Free Trade is the Answer
Reality: The trade promotion formula has proven an abject failure at
alleviating hunger. In most Third World countries exports have boomed
while hunger has continued unabated or actually worsened. While soybean
exports boomed in Brazil-to feed Japanese and European livestock-hunger
spread from one-third to two-thirds of the population. Where the majority
of people have been made too poor to buy the food grown on their own
country's soil, those who control productive resources will, not surprisingly,
orient their production to more lucrative markets abroad. Export crop
production squeezes out basic food production. Pro-trade policies like
NAFTA and GATT pit working people in different countries against each
other in a 'race to the bottom,' where the basis of competition is who
will work for less, without adequate health coverage or minimum environmental
standards. Mexico and the U.S. are a case in point: since NAFTA we have
had a net loss of 250,000 jobs here, while Mexico has lost 2 million,
and hunger is on the rise in both countries.
Myth 9: Too Hungry to Fight for Their Rights
Reality: Bombarded with images of poor people as weak and hungry, we
lose sight of the obvious: for those with few resources, mere survival
requires tremendous effort. If the poor were truly passive, few of them
could even survive. Around the world, from the Zapatistas in Chiapas,
Mexico, to the farmers' movement in India, wherever people are suffering
needlessly, movements for change are underway. People will feed themselves,
if allowed to do so. It's not our job to 'set things right' for thers.
Our responsibility is to remove the obstacles in their paths, obstacles
often created by large corporations and U.S. government, World Bank
and IMF policies.
Myth 10: More U.S. Aid Will Help the Hungry
Reality: Most U.S. aid works directly against the hungry. Foreign aid
can only reinforce, not change, the status quo. Where governments answer
only to elites, our aid not only fails to reach hungry people, it shores
up the very forces working against them. Our aid is used to impose free
trade and free market policies, to promote exports at the expense of
food production, and to provide the armaments that repressive governments
use to stay in power. Even emergency, or humanitarian aid, which makes
up only five percent of the total, often ends up enriching American
grain companies hile failing to reach the hungry, and it can dangerously
undercut local food production in the recipient country. It would be
better to use our foreign aid budget for unconditional debt relief,
as it is the foreign debt burden that forces most Third World countries
to cut back on basic health, education and anti-poverty programs.
Myth 11: We Benefit From Their Poverty
Reality: The biggest threat to the well-being of the vast majority
of Americans is not the advancement but the continued deprivation of
the hungry. Low wages-both abroad and in inner cities at home-may mean
cheaper bananas, shirts, computers and fast food for most Americans,
but in other ways we pay heavily for hunger and poverty. Enforced poverty
in the Third World jeopardizes U.S. jobs, wagesand working conditions
as corporations seek cheaper labor abroad. In a global economy, what
American workers have achieved in employment, wage levels, and working
conditions can be protected only when working people in every country
are freed from economic desperation.
Here at home, policies like welfare reform throw more people into the
job market than can be absorbed-at below minimum wage levels in the
case of 'workfare'-which puts downward pressure on the wages of those
on higher rungs of the employment ladder. The growing numbers of 'working
poor' are those who have part- or full-time low wage jobs yet cannot
afford adequate nutrition or housing for their families. Educating ourselves
about the common interests most Americans share with the poor in the
Third World and at home allows us to be compassionate without sliding
into pity. In working to clear the way for the poor to free themselves
from economic oppression, we free ourselves as well.
Myth 12: Curtail Freedom to End Hunger?
Reality: There is no theoretical or practical reason why freedom, taken
to mean civil liberties, should be incompatible with ending hunger.
Surveying the globe, we see no correlation between hunger and civil
liberties. However, one narrow definition of freedom-the right to unlimited
accumulation of wealth-producing property and the right to use that
property however one sees fit-is in fundamental conflict with ending
hunger. By contrast, a definition of freedom more consistent with our
nation's dominant founding vision holds that economic security for all
is the guarantor of our liberty. Such an understanding of freedom is
essential to ending hunger.
12 Myths About Hunger based on World Hunger: 12 Myths,
2nd Edition, by Frances Moore Lappé, Joseph Collins and Peter
Rosset, with Luis Esparza (fully revised and updated, Grove/Atlantic
and Food First Books, Oct. 1998) / Institute for Food and Development
Policy Backgrounder Summer 1998, Vol.5, No. 3
On Hunger & Food Waste
While we often hear about hunger statistics, we rarely see them in
the context of the food we put into landfills every year. When compared
side by side, the figures are startling.
* Twenty-seven percent of the food produced for human consumption
annually in the US is thrown out as waste.
* This equals 48 million tons of edible food lost in 1995 alone.
* Fifty-three percent of what is disposed is fresh fruits and vegetables,
grains, and milk.
* When we count only the uneaten portions of meals and waste from
food preparation (such as trimming produce), Americans throw away
163 pounds of food per person per year.
* Thirty million Americans go hungry annually.
* Recovering only 5 percent of the food lost would represent one day's
worth of food to four million people.
* Putting good edible food into landfills costs Americans $50 million