Jun 16, 2017

Forkways #3: Farm to Fork 2016 - The Chef Shops

This is me and my friend Sara:

She is a farmer: 

We live in Cedar City, Utah and Sara has taught me there is a very short growing season here. But Sara loves her farm. She started her Community Supported Agriculture farm when she was 13!

For the past four years, I have had the opportunity to attend a farm to fork dinner at a local CSA. For myself and Mr. X these experiences have been transformative, especially in progressing into new chapters of food exploration. Last summer I was able to document some of the experience beyond the plate and gain insight into the mind of the chef and farmer, Sara Patterson.

Sara is passionate about local ingredients and quality products. She started farming at a young age and carries her passion like a banner. She eagerly connects with local farmers and growers to find the best and most interesting ingredients.

Watching Sara shop for the farm dinner is like watching an ehtnobotanist in action, and she doesn't even know it. She shops at the farmer’s market on both Saturday and Wednesday. Red Acre Farm sells the harvest surplus beyond what goes in their shareholder’s weekly baskets. Sara makes bread and lemonade to sell weekly. She often sells cheeses as well.

On Saturday Sara looks at fresh figs but waits to get them. She wants them to look beautiful and is worried that they will not hold up the extra days.

Sara gets all the beets. She uses these in a beet salad at the farm dinner.

From Marigold Gardens Sara gets green bell peppers and eggplant. Pam is a great local grower and very supportive of community events.

She considers kohlrabi but changes her mind.

She decides on radishes instead.

On the Wednesday market the timing is better and she picks up a lot of produce from local farmers.

Time for figs! She asks about mushrooms but conditions have been too dry.


Corn from Janet. Some of this ends up in vegan tamales.

Sara tells me none of her tomatoes are red.
"They are too boring.”
She stocks up on red tomatoes for the dinner. She gets six pounds.

Sara gets tomatillos.


Jun 13, 2017

Forkways #2: Eating Alone

“Jack Goody has likened eating alone to defecating in public (1982:306) because of the absence of the social in meeting essentially biological needs.”

For those of us that have ever been single, these words add a whole new level of shame to the practice is eating a microwave dinner standing at the kitchen counter. There is solace in those moments, at times. But equal amount of shame. Maybe the first three times it is liberating, and the next three hundred is confirmation of body shame because we as humans allow ourselves to feel hunger. In American culture, consumption of food continues to be a sinful act.

Food for humans ends up having so many functions. It is fuel, it is a way to socialized, it is a way to create an identity, and it is a tool to identify others. Eating carries with it a large amount of social and cultural significance which can be easy to overlook. Goody’s suggestion that eating alone is similar to defecating in public is connecting with the overlooked aspects of food consumption. For Goody, the consumption of food for fuel is lacking some of the essential components of eating.

For most Americans there can be a challenge transforming the sinful act of eating into a social experience. There are so many opportunities during consumption to make connections and experience something new. Even though Goody's comment is overstated, what can we learn from it?

There is a social quality to food that we become disconnect from if we eat alone. In the book Word of Mouth: What We Talk About When We Talk About Food the author states, “We talk about food to both craft identities and construct social worlds." This is the case not just for talking about food, but talking around food. Food acts as a facilitator for social exchange. Eating can become the common ground, or neutral territory for two parties to meet. Though, as Cooper expressed, that is also not always the case.

The cultural structure of manner can feel invisible, but as Eugene Copper exemplified in “Chinese Table Manners,” these can vary drastically from one culture to another. Shared meals allow for us to learn the structures and rituals of our food consumption and can also be an interesting and important window into the culture of others.

Jun 8, 2017

Forkways #1: Ethnobotany

Ethnobotany is the relationship between plants and people, primarily for food and medicine. This field of study is relatively new to me, but as soon as I stumbled upon it I felt like it could be a field that would hold my interest. Over the past two years I have been expanding into the study of food. I have been reading about it in a historical, social, and historical context. One of the fascinating things about food is the way that it can be invisible in our lives.

The plate of the ethnobotanist should be filled with local foods. I, like Gary Nabhan, live in a desert. I believe, perhaps mistakenly, that locally sourced ingredients would not provide me with the abundance of food I am used to. Though I am well acquainted with the local farms in the area, I am just beginning to understand some of the foraging opportunities in the area.

But my role as an emerging ethnobotanist is to understand more than the delicious and possibly abundant local ingredients available to me. I also need to understand the way that food tastes. All food. Good food. Bad food. Processed. Organic. To understand the tastes and textures I enjoy and I do not. And to understand how and why others might enjoy food I do not.

Every bite is an experience. And with the challenge of finding new and different foods, I must also remind myself of cultural relativism. Usually anthropologists use this concept to explore other cultures, but I also want to use it to explore my own culture and society. I want to abandon my understanding of healthy foods, and good foods, and bad foods. I want to experience all foods, for what they are, what they can be, how they taste, and how they make me feel.

To explore these food experience I, with the help of my friend Robert, came up with a concept of forkways. Forkways is the historical and culture experiences I have when I eat food. We all eat food every day, but many days I go out of my way to try something new. It might be something big, a type of animal protein, an ethnic dish, or something small like a new candy bar or type of soda. But each of these tastes and textures adds to my lexicon of understanding food.

May 4, 2017

Reading Log - April Recap

My fourth semester back at university has ended. It has been the most successful school term of my life! My classes were mostly food focused and that did help me stay motivated. April was a successful reading month for me, even though I continue to be well behind my reading goal for the year. It may have been a pipe dream in the first place.

I did finish SIX books this month and I do consider that an enormous achievement.

14. Liar and Spy
15. 15. The Omnivore's Dilemma
16. 365 Journal Writing Prompts
17. Stars So Sweet
18. Edible
19. The Circle

The last two I finished since my most recent update and one was AMAZING and the other was really super pretty bad. One was about eating bugs and the other was about the evils of social media and the control of the internet. Considering my interest in dystopia, they both strike different parts of interest for me. The Circle was one of the worst books I have ever read, yet I found it still to be intriguing. It played very much into my own personal interests regarding social media, dystopia, and control. But it was so poorly plotted and characterized. I thought that many elements of the social media system that was developed were interesting, but the clunky execution was a huge disappointment. I would not recommend this book to anyone, and I am curious if anyone is actually got to see the movie.

Edible, on the other hand, was amazing. It went beyond the need to eat bugs as a way to keep a sustainable food source; it also really explored the gourmet side of eating insects. I have always been a very picky eater, but that has changed a lot in the past few years. To say I wasn't adventurous would be inaccurate. I am willing to try new kinds of food. But I would always count out food that had disliked items included in the dish. In the past year or two, I have started exploring more. I will occasionally eat a tomato or mushroom, but eggs I still firmly avoid. But this book really got me in the mood to track down and consume some bugs. Recently I wrote a paper about the dangers of seeking out authentic food for status, but I am not beyond admitting that much of my interest in eating bugs is to be able to say I have done it. It may not come with a high status, since most will be grossed out, but it will be a kind of unlocking achievement.

School is over for a few months and I am not sure how that will shape my reading desires or the speed at which I complete books. I am hoping to read through several recipe books rather quickly, but I keep putting these off for titles with more cohesive narrative structures. I am still in the middle of a lot of titles. I pick up and put things down with my whims. I rarely intentionally put a book down permanently.

Here is what I am currently reading:
The Fireman
Silent Spring
Culinary Tourism

Hope to read soon:
Make Room! Make Room!
No One is Coming To Save Us

Next week I will be attending and presenting at the Ethnobiology Society Annual Meeting in Montreal. I am very nervous and excited for this opportunity. I am eager to hear about all the ideas that people have been working on. Ethnobiology is a very new interest of mine and stems from my interests in food. I get very inspired hearing what projects people are working on. As a class we recently completed a survey of local parents about childhood nutrition. I love all the ways that food can connect with different subjects in new and interesting ways. I am also hoping the travel time will help me get some extra reading time in.

What books will you be reading soon?

Bibliophile Exploring Dystopia | Food & Community | Utopian Projects