The Christmas period is a time when we think about food a lot. We buy tonnes of it; we cook it; we share moments (positive and otherwise) with our family while consuming it; we berate ourselves for eating too much of it; we waste it. Every possible relationship we may have with food plays out over this period, before we quickly and guiltily retreat into diets and newfound ethics come the new year, when Veganuary and Dry January kick in.
We cannot deny that food is political. The last couple of years have seen conversations heat up and reach boiling point around food waste, farming, veganism and more. It is impossible to look away. But why would we want to? The decisions we make around our diets and attitudes towards food now could have massive implications in the years to come.
“It is impossible to create an all-encompassing overview of such a rich and constantly evolving field”
Delfina Foundation—based in London, and home to almost 100 art/food collaborations and residencies and countless intimate art lunches as part of its Politics of Food programme over the last seven years—has released a substantial book on the subject. The book (edited by the foundation’s Aaron Cezar and Dani Burrows) hones in on the last decade of food development and creativity, bringing together reflections on the subject from chefs, policy makers, anthropologists, activists and more, with one foot firmly planted in the arts.
“The subject of food is blown wide open, far beyond the product that ends up on our dinner table”
This is a time of great cultural cross-collaboration, and the combination of food and art is one that is becoming much more nuanced in recent years. As the curators of V&A’s Food: Bigger Than the Plate exhibition recently told me: “We will never enact any meaningful change to the food system if what we propose is not fundamentally delicious!” Reading this book, one gets the sense it must be visually original also, as this publication eschews the typical, seductive #foodporn photography for hand-drawn maps, sketches, artwork imagery, luscious typography and more. The subject of food is blown wide open, far beyond the product that ends up on our dinner table. Here, we are encouraged to take, through both the visuals and texts, a holistic view of our food.
The structure of the book, laid out in four key sections—Food Journeys; Food Futures; Food and Identity; Food and Hospitality, which are full of snappy individual essays and ideas—allows for a snacking approach. You can pick and choose which elements to dive into first. There are some weighty responses to industry research with Raj Patel’s introductory Epistemology of a Shopping Cart, exploring gentrification, ruthless profit-making in the food industry and the ecological damage it causes. Playful conversations entertain and enlighten, such as the one between Michael C Vazquez and Michael Rakowitz (who recently released a fantastic book on the politics and pleasures of cooking with dates), which hilariously recounts their work at Delfina five years ago, as well as discussing the complex status of Mexican food in America.
The last year has seen a swathe of publications and exhibitions that focus on the politics and future of food, including Elephant’s own issue 39. It is impossible to create an all-encompassing overview of such a rich and constantly evolving field. What this book does very well is put forward insights from those at the forefront of a broad cross-section of disciplines to start to open this subject up. It left me wanting to go away and read, see and, above all, eat a lot more (responsibly, of course).
Politics of Food
Edited by Dani Burrows and Aaron Cezar. Co-published by Delfina Foundation and Sternberg PressBUY NOW