The purpose of this discussion board is to practice analyzing contemporary cultural events using course concepts. This week we will each choose one global food or drink to discuss.
Part 1: Preparation:
CHOOSE a global food or drink from NPR’s (National Public Radio’s) food blog website called The Salt:
They have articles about lots of different kinds of foods, including Italian Chocolate Easter Eggs, Chinese dumplings, hot sauce, noodles, tlacoyos and many more. Scroll through the articles and choose one you want to focus on. Make sure to choose one that no one else has chosen. Make your food or the title of the article the first line in your post. (If you want to reserve a food while you write the post, you can write your post with just the food name first, then go back and fill in the rest).
READ the article. Find out what it is made of, where it is produced and sold, who buys it and why. As you read, think about what point the article is making and their conclusions about the significance of this food.
RESEARCH online: these articles are very short, so you might have to do a little more research to find out about this food. For example, the article on Italian chocolate eggs doesn’t say where the chocolate originally comes from (HINT: it doesn’t come from Italy!). You might have to Google more to find out. It’s OK to use Wikipedia or any other site for this. Read about the history of the ingredients or the product, and the place where it is produced or sold. You might be surprised—things that seem pretty boring, like chocolate or bananas, have a very violent history.
Part 2: Write up your findings:
Create a new thread on the discussion board and include the name of your food in the title so no one else writes about that food. Answer the following questions (use the headings I have below):
- SUMMARY: Briefly summarize the article you read. Which food was the article was about? What was the argument or main point of the article? Did the article leave you with more questions? What else would you like to know about this food or its significance? Include the link to your article. (3-5 sentences)
- COMMODITY CHAIN: In this section, I want you to make a commodity chain of your food. A commodity chain is a description of the life of your product from production to consumption. Include the packaging and ingredients in the chain. You might have to do extra Internet research to figure out this information about your food. Where is it produced and by whom? How is it made? Where is it sold and by whom? Who buys it? When do they buy it? What do they do with it? You don’t have to cite any sources for this part because it is general information, but rephrase everything in your own words. Make sure you include where ingredients originated (for example if you google “where did oranges come from” it tells you China, India or Southeast Asia)
- If your food is a vegetable (like a potato), your commodity chain might be simpler at the beginning, but get more complicated at the end. But if your food is a final product (like wine), you might have to be more complicated at the beginning of the chain when you talk about the ingredients and packaging, etc.
- You can do this commodity chain in a few different ways. You could draw a picture of it (and label it), make an outline in bullet form, or write it out in a paragraph. Make sure you include the names of the countries where it goes during the commodity chain. If you draw a picture, upload it with your post.
- CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE: This should be the longest section of your post. Here is your chance to analyze the cultural significance of your product and tell us what YOU think. To do this you could refer to something you discovered while making your commodity chain, doing online research, from the article, or potentially from what you have observed as a consumer of this food. Do your friends or family consume it? Why? You could talk about the history of your food and how it has changed over time (or if it is new, why it is popular now) Choose three of the topics from the list below and write about the significance of this food in relation to the points you choose. Write this in your own words, but you might want to cite an article for this part (if you got the idea from another article). (Choose THREE points and write 3-5 sentences for each point. Put the key term in bold or underline it.
- Colonialism (was/is this produced in a colonial relationship? What are the implications?)
- Slavery (was/is this produced with slave labor? What are the implications of that?)
- Migration (did migrants bring this food? Did they change it?)
- Health (obesity, Genetically modified foods, etc)
- unconscious taboo (look at the lecture for more information)
- cultural reproduction (look at the lecture for more information)
- Nationalism (do certain groups claim this as a national food? What are the reasons for that? What does that do?)
- War (Does this cause wars or come out of a war zone?)
- Cultural change
- Power hierarchy
- Reciprocity and gift giving (is this given as a gift? What is the meaning of it?)
As an example: think about sushi from the lecture on “How Sushi Went Global”
Commodity Chain: Who produces sushi and where does it get sold? Who buys it and why? How does the value get determined? When do people eat them? Who does not eat them?
Cultural Significance: Politics: The global popularity of sushi rose along with the economy of Japan. By the 1980s, sushi had gone from being an unconscious taboo food in the U.S. to a prestige food valued for it’s connection to Japan. I see a connection between politics and food in that Japanese political connections with the U.S. made it’s cultural products more popular than those from China, which has a different relationship with the U.S.
Globalization: When people from the U.S. purchase and consume sushi, they feel like they are participating in globalization because they see it as a global food. The producers also feel like they are participating in globalization through selling them (and having a global job). The irony is that many blue fin tuna are caught in the U.S., and only shipped to Japan to become “authentically” Japanese and accumulate value. This shows us how “authentic” food is not natural, but naturalized.
(Your answer would be longer than this. It is just a quick example)
- REFLECTION: What is the most interesting thing you learned or realized from doing this activity? What did you learn about globalization or the connection between food and culture? Write 1 paragraph.