The Mess

Deconstructing the institutional food menu

Review of

Joshna Maharaj’s Take Back the Tray: Revolutionizing Food in Hospitals, Schools, and Other Institutions ECW Press 2020

Oh, to taste a long-lost Ansault pear.

Fake and Forgotten Foods

Satiating our ceaseless hunger for authenticity.

Review of

Lost Feast: Culinary Extinction and the Future of Food, Lenore Newman ECW Press, 2019 &

Pure Adulteration: Cheating on Nature in the Age of Manufactured Food, Benjamin R. Cohen, University of Chicago Press, 2019

Food and Instagram (Credit: Emily Contois)

How to Think with Your Body: Teaching Critical Eating Literacy through Instagram.” Part of #FoodInstagram: Identity, Influence & Negotiation (Forthcoming from University of Illinois Press), edited by Emily Contois and Zenia Kish.

“I want to do my paper on activated charcoal. Is it actually good for you, or am I just seeing it everywhere because it looks so good on Instagram?” A visually charismatic health fad, activated charcoal illustrates the frame of reference my students on both coasts have brought to our interdisciplinary classroom discussions of American food culture. What kind of diet is truly healthy? And what kind of diet just looks that way? I discuss how students on both coasts have critically interrogated everything from the neurological effects of food porn to the racial politics of appropriative health trends like matcha–and how to cope with the unattainable body images of IG models and influencers, all through processing food less with their eyes and more with their bodies.

“Revisited & Undone: Fresh Perspectives on Molecules and Life in the Twentieth Century” (presented at the ISHPSSB 2019 meeting, prepared with Hannah Landecker, Lisa Onaga, Mathias Grote, Soraya de Chadarevian, Angela Creager, Daniel Liu, Gina Surita)

This essay considers how historical approaches to the molecularization of life have lent to a collapsing of molecular biology with molecular genetics over the last several decades in order to recast ideas about what topics can further contribute to the history of molecular biology. From the study of cellular membranes and structures to histories of metabolism and diet, to the practices of laboratory work, still new horizons remain open for questioning. Doing so will encourage attention to hitherto neglected aspects such as about the relationship of life and matter, or chemistry and biology. Recognizing that there are plural molecularizations and approaches to their study helps decenter the historical narrative from one that is unified around the historical legacy of molecular genetics following the discovery of DNA. This plurality of topical and analytic approaches, in turn, serves to encourage scholarly attention on more diverse historical actors that stands to enrich the field in generative ways.

Image: Kinoshita, Udaka, and Shimonō, “Studies on the Amino Acid Fermentation,” 1957

Tasty Waste: Industrial Fermentation and The Creative Destruction of MSG.” Food, Culture & Society. Special Issue: Edible Feminisms: On Commodities, Wastes, and (Un)intended Consequences, edited by Sarah E. Tracy and Rachel Vaughn. August 2019 (Guest Editors’ introduction)

Image: Chaudhari and Roper, “The Cell Biology of Taste,” 2010

Delicious Molecules: Big Food Science, the Chemosenses, and Umami.” The Senses and Society 13:1 2018. Special Issue: Accounting for Taste.

“Assorted ‘Indian food'” (iStock)

Debating Data Science: A Roundtable.” Co-authored with Brian Beaton, Amelia Acker, Lauren Di Monte, Shivrang Setler, and Tonia Sutherland. Radical History Review 2017, Volume 2017, Number 127 : 133-148.

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Image: Burkitt, “Economic Development – Not all Bonus” (1976)

Developing Constipation: Dietary Fibre, Western Disease, and Industrial Carbohydrates, 1968-1984.” Co-authored with Sebastián Gil-Riaño. Global Food History, September 2016.