How does an ‘organic child’ ideal hold mothers to an impossible standard? An article in Aeon written with Kate Cairns and Norah Mackendrick reflects on our collective research on foodwork, mothering, and challenging feminine standards.
“In a survey of “foodies” in Toronto, researcher Merin Oleschuk found that chefs of color are often limited by what white and Western diners expect their food to look like, and punished when they don’t live up to those expectations. “These instances are problematic because they summon people to act as ‘representatives’ of their culture,” writes Oleschuk. “Doing so supports social distancing by asking people of color to occupy positions of bounded ethnicity whereby their role is to ‘enrich’ an otherwise normatively white, Anglo-Saxon society through ‘ethnic performances’ and ‘traditions.”
British Columbia is well-known for its abundant blueberries, apples and cherries. But many workers who pick these crops are paid a “piece-rate” wage that can promote an unsafe pace of work and may even be less than minimum wage.
Anelyse Weiler, one of the PhD candidates I supervise, recently penned an op-ed about the implications of the piece-rate wage with Mark Thompson (UBC Professor Emeritus) and David Fairey (Co-Chair of the BC Employment Standards Coalition). They call on the provincial government to implement the recommendations of the Fair Wages Commission and ensure that all workers receive at least minimum wage. This builds on a related op-ed Fairey and Weiler wrote for the Vancouver Sun on May Day.
Joe Pinsker just published an article in The Atlantic about a potential new trend: Americans seem to be spending less time eating at the kitchen table, and more on the couch or in the bedroom.
I provided some insights on why this might be the case, drawing from my research on gender inequity in foodwork with Kate Cairns, along with my research on the casualization of food culture. Shyon Baumann, co-author of Foodies, also weighs in on this curious cultural shift.
Check out the article here.
Merin Oleschuk has published not one, but TWO amazing new articles on food: one in Social Problems and one in Gender & Society. I’m so proud to be part of her dissertation research!
This article, published in Social Problems, explores how family meals are framed in news media discourse, particularly in regard to health. In it, Merin identifies a narrative of deterioration, or the presumption that families are replacing meals made from whole, unprocessed ingredients consumed communally around a table, with processed and pre-prepared foods eaten alone or “on the go”. In analyzing the construction of responsibility for this deterioration, Merin differentiates frames that assign responsibility for the creation of this social problem, from those that offer solutions for resolving it. In contrast to other scholars who focus on how cooking values reproduce individualized (rather than environmental, state or industry) responsibility for health outcomes characteristic of neoliberalism, she finds a more complex allocation of blame in news media: one that recognizes a multiplicity of structural conditions constraining regular family meals (such as unhealthy food environments and the competing demands of paid work and inflated normative standards), yet assigns responsibility for resolving that social problem to individuals (i.e. parents should simply work harder to combat these pressures and cook more at home). One important exception is media reporting on low-income families, who are framed as facing exceptional structural constraint. Merin argues that these findings apply to family meals particularly but can also be extended to consider the allocation of responsibility for social problems within neoliberalism more broadly. Link: https://academic.oup.com/socpro/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/socpro/spz006/5420111
In this article, published in Gender & Society, Merin draws from qualitative interviews and cooking observations to identify and analyze the cultural schema of “cooking by our mother’s side”: i.e. the automatic, semi-conscious understanding that learning to cook happens first and foremost “at our mother’s side”. She demonstrates first, that this schema reproduces gendered inequalities over generations by reinforcing women as primary transmitters of cooking knowledge. Second, she shows that the schema presents an overly uniform picture of food learning that obscures diversity in its enactment, especially by overemphasizing the importance of childhood and masking the learning that occurs later in life. Merin argues that identifying and analyzing this schema offers opportunities to reconsider predominant approaches to food learning to challenge gendered inequalities in domestic foodwork. Link: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0891243219839669
In a Poetics article co-authored with Tyler Bateman and Shyon Baumann, we investigate how meat is covered in public discourse. We use topic modelling to map the discourse as it appears in news media and on blogs. We find that meat is a commodity with a highly ambiguous status. On the one hand, it is connected to environmental risks, health risks, and business risks. On the other hand, meat has a benign, taken-for-granted quality that makes these risks disappear from public view. When we compare how newspapers and blogs discuss meat, we find that blogs tend to give more emphasis to meat’s risks.
Why do people continue to eat meat, even when they are aware of its health consequences, the environmental externalities, and the harsh conditions in many confined animal feeding operations?
In this article in Sociological Forum, we examine a diverse sample of Canadian meat eaters and vegetarians to study justifications for eating meat. We identify 4 key cultural repertoires that people employ to make sense of their continued meat-eating: embodied masculinity, cultural preservation, consumer apathy, and consumer sovereignty. Building off prior psychological findings, the identification of these cultural repertoires allows us to understand more fully how and why people maintain their meat consumption—even in the face of growing public discourse about meat’s significant health, environmental, and social risks.
Building on the insights from our new article in Social Forces, Emily Huddart Kennedy, Shyon Baumann and I blogged this week for the ASA Section on Consumers & Consumption. We discuss some of our findings on social status and ethical food consumption, the idea of “Cultural Capital 2.0,” and a visit to a farm-to-table restaurant in Victoria.
Check it out here!
Congrats to Dr. Sarah Cappeliez, who graduated from UofT last month! I had the immense pleasure of supervising Sarah’s dissertation, entitled “More than just a Fine Drink: Processes of Cultural Translation, Taste Formation and Idealized Consumption in the Wine World.” Her research investigates winemaking practices and wine culture that are driven by the concept of “terroir,” which describes the unique taste arising from a combination of biophysical elements and agrarian practices in a particular place. Drawing on fieldwork in French and Canadian regional contexts, she examines the cultural sociology of how ideas, tastes and consumption practices travel and are adopted in new locations.
While we miss her brilliant intellect and down-to-earth warmth at UofT, we’re delighted that Sarah recently began a position as an Assistant Professor at Concordia University in Montréal. She is currently teaching classes in media and culture, including an introductory course on Sociology Through Film.
Check out part of Sarah’s terroir research in this excellent recent Poetics article.
As part of a special issue in Canadian Food Studies, Anelyse Weiler, one of the PhD candidates I supervise, has published a policy commentary on five ways Canada’s forthcoming National Food Policy can advance equity and dignity with migrant farm workers. She argues that to realize a healthy food system for all members of our communities, the national food policy cannot be for Canadians alone. Her piece concludes by underscoring dynamics between farm labour migration and climate change.
To build on the insights from this policy commentary and her dissertation fieldwork, Anelyse will be co-organizing a workshop with injured migrant farm workers, grassroots organizers and a farmer at Food Secure Canada’s 10th Annual Assembly in Montreal.