Issue 12: Eat This! (//)

You are what you eat, goes an old materialist saying. If we take pleasure in our food, do we also know what it takes of us, and how we form ourselves in the process? With our forum, Eat This! we offer a different kind of fare, thoughts about food and the politics of consumption, at home and out. Included in this issue are Flower Sifliman's reflections about cuisine as a cultural force, one that itself changes with history. Thus if spicy food used to be found mainly in hot countries, we, witness an increasing flow of peppers and other condiments from south to north, in a steady creolization of northern and western cuisine. (In 1992, the sales of salsa in the U.S. for the first time overtook those of ketchup, itself an earlier and milder sign of creolization, in one index of a gradual cultural change.) Dining out takes on a wholly new light with the SAMAR forum on restaurant workers, and the evidence it offers of the sweat and tears that help make New York the restaurant lover's paradise. The irreversible effects of genetic modification of food, now going on at a great and mostly undetected pace, is discussed by Nandita Sharma's essay on basmati rice. Chaumtoli Huq examines the intervention of an NCO in rural development in Bangladesh. Ecological harmony, a tasteful diet, and community action all come together in Jyoti Thottam's fascinating encounter with an activist restaurateur in Kerala, Vadakkancherry, who derives his tactics from Gandhian civil disobedience and his ideology from Marx. "There is no ashram," Vadakkancherry points out, to the movement he is starting. "So they cannot destroy us. We are merging our work into people's lives." If eating is often viewed as enjoyment through mere indulgenve. Eat This! is about the pleasures of foods that are good to think, and about the polities of those pleasures.

You are what you eat, goes an old materialist saying. If we take pleasure in our food, do we also know what it takes of us, and how we form ourselves in the process? With our forum, Eat This! we offer a different kind of fare, thoughts about food and the politics of consumption, at home and out. Included in this issue are Flower Sifliman's reflections about cuisine as a cultural force, one that itself changes with history. Thus if spicy food used to be found mainly in hot countries, we, witness an increasing flow of peppers and other condiments from south to north, in a steady creolization of northern and western cuisine. (In 1992, the sales of salsa in the U.S. for the first time overtook those of ketchup, itself an earlier and milder sign of creolization, in one index of a gradual cultural change.) Dining out takes on a wholly new light with the SAMAR forum on restaurant workers, and the evidence it offers of the sweat and tears that help make New York the restaurant lover's paradise. The irreversible effects of genetic modification of food, now going on at a great and mostly undetected pace, is discussed by Nandita Sharma's essay on basmati rice. Chaumtoli Huq examines the intervention of an NCO in rural development in Bangladesh. Ecological harmony, a tasteful diet, and community action all come together in Jyoti Thottam's fascinating encounter with an activist restaurateur in Kerala, Vadakkancherry, who derives his tactics from Gandhian civil disobedience and his ideology from Marx. "There is no ashram," Vadakkancherry points out, to the movement he is starting. "So they cannot destroy us. We are merging our work into people's lives." If eating is often viewed as enjoyment through mere indulgenve. Eat This! is about the pleasures of foods that are good to think, and about the polities of those pleasures.

Articles in this Issue

A Conversation with Thomas Kocherry

A co-founder of the Basmati Action Group argues that the corporate rush to patent life is a new form of colonialism

Nandita Sharma

A Conversation with Satinath Sarangi

Arvind Rajagopal

Interviews with New York City food service industry workers