Happy new year eaters,
Apologies for my tardiness in getting around to this edition. The last stretch of 2016 was madness and by its end it was all I could do to be as far away from my computer as possible. In the meantime I've been settling back down and begun my PhD. I'll share more about that in due time but for now I've got a round up of my summer reading and some political art. I hope you've all had a lovely summer and are gearing up for a stellar 2017, no matter how uncertain the world might feel right now.
If you're back and work and ready to procrastinate start with Civil Eats best food justice stories of last year, and then move on the Food Tanks 117 organisations to watch in 2017. If your new years resolution is to learn more about the food system sign up to UC Berkley's live-streamed edible education series. Or maybe get 2017 off to a good start with The New York Times' new years gut makeover. If that’s your kind of thing and you’re in Melbourne you should come see Guilia Enders (author of Gut) speak at the Melbourne Town Hall. Exciting new enterprises to watch out for this year include this massive food redistribution hub in New York and a new crowd-funded union for Australian retail and fast food workers.
The time has come for the 'sentient cheeto' to assume office - and lots of people are speculating what the impact of the new American administration will be on food policy. Mark Bittman, Michael Pollan, Olivier de Schutter and Ricardo Salvador have put forth a call to action to expand the food movement in the Trump era. Some are wondering how the new first family will follow up Michelle Obama's strong Whitehouse food game.
Early signs suggest that the new administration will be bad news for food chain workers, food safety and the environment, even Big Food brands got messily entangled in Trump's insane twitter electioneering. A sense of foreboding is settling in as political art from the Bush era starts to resurface:
Cue the Imperial March theme music while catching up on the background to the merger, and histories, of Bayer & Monsanto – two of the world’s largest agro-chemical and pharma companies. The merger has massive potential to impact the global food system, the new company could control 25% of the world’s seeds. While there was some speculation the merger might have been experiencing turbulence, the CEOs of both companies chummily met with Trump before his inauguration and he is set to clear away anti-trust concerns ASAP. Meanwhile the merger of Dow and DuPont (Big players in Agrochemicals) is hitting regulatory stumbling blocks. If all this consolidation worries you read this great essay from Felicity Lawrence in the Guardian and this think piece from Anne Lappé about the dangers of concentration in the food industry.
A succulent, iron rich, juicy meatless meat patty is getting closer than ever, while scientists are working with supermarkets to redesign the shopping experience to encourage consumers to buy less meat and more veg. Dairy farmers are getting cranky about rising sales of plant milks. Meanwhile millennials dietary preferences might be slowly reshaping the food system - and hopefully for the better.
In the face of growing social division there are increasing conversations about intersectionality, not least concerning food. From analysis of the cultural significance of hot sauce to contemplations on decolonising diets, the cultural politics of inducting new emoji and how we can work to achieve food justice. In a recent episode of The Secret Ingredient Krishnendu Ray takes listeners on a journey through the history of immigrant contributions to America’s food culture. His historical lens informs his opinion that we should deal with power in food relations while maintaining the ability to share between cultures and allow foodways to evolve as they always have. I’ve probably shared it before but it is worth returning to Soleil Ho’s Craving the Other, if you haven’t read it yet, do. Rachel Kuo and Lorraine Chuen offer their own perspectives on cultural appropriation. If you're keen to explore these issues in more depth Bitch Media have put together a great list of resources.
A mysterious carpet of skittles spreading across the state of Wisconsin in the US set people wondering, until someone worked out that they were spilled from a truck en route to become farm feed for cows. This sparked a flurry of conversation about feeding industrial food waste to livestock including marshmallows and gummy worms, a practice that became more widespread after a feed price shock in 2012. Yet another perverse symptom of a failing food system. Dan Barber has some slightly more intelligent suggestions about how we can fix food waste by making better choices about what we plant and produce in the first place. More on his vision for the food system here.
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his morning I was hunting for the iconic 'You Are on Aboriginal Land' poster by Marie McMahon to share in support of the #changethedate campaign. While looking around I was reminded of how much great work came out of Redback Graphix and found this public health poster from the eighties. Redback was set up in 1979 by Michael Callaghan in Brisbane to allow artists to make a living while producing politically charged art. The studio produced everything from public health posters, including the famous Condoman to protest posters, to flyers about benefits and gigs for socially progressive causes. Originally meant for the street these posters are now highly collectable.
Eat Good Food was designed by Leonie Lane for the Nganampa Health Council, an Aboriginal owned and controlled health organisation operating on the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands in the far north west of South Australia. Home to 3000 residents who speak Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara as their first language and celebrate the Ananou culture. The poster shows a young boy holding a coolamon full of honey ants and surrounded by fruits, vegetables and bush tucker encouraging healthy eating and traditional food practices. The sentiment is as important today as it was three decades ago. Aboriginal people have life-expectancy a full decade shorter than their white counterparts, largely attributable to preventable, diet-related diseases. Many communities and people struggle with a lack of access to fresh, affordable and healthy produce, don't have sovereignty over their own food supply and Indigenous Australians face food insecurity at a higher rate than all other groups.
Posters and their visual language has an important role in Australian social history and in some ways was a vector through which new vocabularies came into popular conversation. As explained by artist Julia Church
Community-based organisations have carried new ideas across Australia, introducing concepts like disarmament, human rights, aboriginal land rights, feminism and gay rights into the vernacular. Cooperative presses have acted as a mouth-piece for these issues and they have been vital to the development of Australian literature and art, publishing the work of experimental writers and artists when commercial printers and publishing houses refused to do so. The presses have championed the right of people to shape their world.
Posters of the 70s and 80s segued into the street art of the 90s and 2000s, a practice that has in part, come to define Melbourne as a city and had a huge impact on Australian art. In the current shifting social landscape maybe its time to bring back the political power of graphic design, if nothing else at least to save us from the banal visual language of current government public health messages.
Until next time, read widely and eat well friends,