Feminist Food Syllabus

compiled by Sophia Braddel

 

“Feminist eating assesses the social relations subsumed within food. Who grew, produced, and distributed this food? What costs did these processes have for the communities and environments involved? Who economically benefits from the sale of this food, and how does this organization promote or undermine women’s wellbeing?” (Heather Laine Talley: Food Is A Feminist Issue)


 

I, Undervalued Female Chefs/ Workers/ Kitchen Culture:

 

1. We’re not ‘Female Chefs’, Just Chefs by Dominique Crenn, published by Munchies (Mar ‘17)

“Of course, the absurd remarks made by chef Tom Kerridge this last week are a perfect example of something I must address; the same topic that my male colleagues can ignore.”
Michelin- star awarded Crenn outlines how jarring it is to be identified constantly as female in a professional field.

2.  Food Media Is Dominated by Women. So Why Aren’t We Writing About Female Chefs? By Sarah Zorn for Esquire (Nov ‘17)

"I don’t hear women whining in the press about their health issues. Because that’s what it would be considered: whining.”
An investigation into why female chefs still aren't well represented in the media.

3. Tipped Over the Edge: Women in the US Restaurant Industry by Saru Jayuraman published by The Shriver Report (Jan ‘14)

“The truth is that 70% of tipped workers in America are women who work at chains like Olive Garden, Red Lobster, and IHOP.”
An article elucidating the fact that the lowest-paid workers in the U.S are in the restaurant industry, as well as the industry having the highest number of sexual harassment charges filed by women. The end has practical suggestions for how to create change to the system.

4. Should There Be a Separate Michelin Award for Female Chefs? Depends Who You Ask  by Lindsey Traumata published in Food & Wine (Nov ‘17)

"I worry that I will always be seen as a female chef first, and a chef second. It's a corner I am forever stuck in."
An article including many voices of female chefs about their opinion on female-only-awards, among them Dominique Crenn.  

5.  Will restaurant bro culture ever end? By Jen Agg in The Globe And Mail (Nov ‘17)

“But the question remains: How does the dining public ensure these men are not spouting a public-facing message that doesn't reflect the true state of their empires?”
A slightly depressing, yet sharp analysis of why it will be hard to make a change in professional kitchens.

6. "You’re in a World Where the Rules Are Made by Men" by Gabriela Cámara, Camille Beccera, and Pam Yung for BonAppetit  (Nov ‘17)

“We were okay with being asleep because we didn’t want to cause more trouble, we didn’t want to lose our jobs, we didn’t want to lose the support of somebody. And now we’re waking up. It’s not about feminism. It’s about who is controlling that money and that power that I feel is the bigger problem, and we have to talk about it.”
Three female chefs talk about kitchen culture.

7.  Food Is A Feminist Issue by Heather Laine Talley, Published in The Feminist Wire (July ‘11)

An article outlining how women’s relationship to food is controlled and influenced by the “dieting culture”.

 

II, #metoo Movement & Sexual Harassment

 

1. A Harvey Weinstein Moment for the Restaurant Industry? By Restaurateur Jen Agg: in New Yorker (Oct ‘17)

“A genuine challenge to the hierarchy of power will have to come from those who have it.”
An article discussing whether the revelations about “bro culture” and sexual harassment in restaurant kitchens could also push a change in the food industry.

2. I've Worked in Food for 20 Years. Now You Finally Care About Female Chefs? By Amanda Cohen, published by Esquire (Nov ‘17)

“Women may not have value as chefs, but as victims we’re finally interesting!”  
Amanda Cohen (head chef at “Dirt Candy”)  responds to the #metoo movement coverage.

3. Rape in the storage room. Groping at the bar. Why is the restaurant industry so terrible for women? By Maura Judkis and Emily Heil for the Washington Post. (Nov ‘17)

“Advocates including ROC say the tipped minimum wage — which is several dollars lower than the standard minimum wage — is a primary driver of harassment.”
Interviews from more than 60 people around the country on sexual harassment in the food industry.

 

III, Classism and Racism Within the Food Industry

 

1. The Problem With Foodieism by Freesia McKee, Originally published by Food Politic (July ‘13)

“We want your fried plantains but we don’t want you,” the movement seems to be saying. “We want to eat wild ramps and organic tomatoes but we don’t want to think about who foraged or picked them and why.”
Excellent article discussing how the “foodie” movement must be more inclusive, and how white food business owners take food out of context, consistently excluding the ethnic groups that are the very creators of recipes. This is often reflected in the choice of language in menus.  

2. This American comfort food leads a double life – but only some of us know the secret. Do you? By Kathleen Purvis in The Charlotte Observer (Nov ‘17)

“In black culture, for the most part, macaroni & cheese is the pinnacle, the highest culinary accolade. Who makes it, how it’s made and who’s allowed to bring it to a gathering involves negotiation, tradition and tacit understanding.”
Tracking the many cultural meanings of Mac&Cheese in a great example of how to write about food many usually consider not interesting enough (unless it's elevated to a deconstructed, artisanal version)

3. Classist Health by Connor Pearce, published by The Gazelle (Oct ‘15)

“We should shift our focus away from ways in which to encourage individuals to make healthy choices, such as buying organic food, exercising daily and using preventative medicine, to instead look at what makes some people unhealthy in the first place.”
An article discussing the difference in prices of “clean” food, touches upon the classist problem of obesity, and how one needs both the privilege of time and a high budget to maintain and promote a “healthy lifestyle”.

4. The Industrialization of Agriculture and Environmental Racism: A Deadly Combination Affecting Neighborhoods and the Dinner Table by David H. Harris, Jr. Published by the Land Loss Prevention Project (July ‘97)

An US-centric piece reporting the intersections of race, class, and the animal industry. The article presents a lack of environmental justice due to meat farm locations within areas that are socio-economically disadvantaged (as well as within communities that are primarily African-American)  and the lack of enforced regulations.

5. How it Feels When White People Shame Your Culture's Food -- Then Make it Trendy By Ruth Tam, published by The Washington Post (Aug ‘15)

“The Cantonese foods of my childhood have reappeared in trendy restaurants that fill their menus with perfectly plated fine-dining versions of our traditional cuisine.”
A personal article discussing how domestic Chinese food has been discredited and labeled as “gross”, yet high-profile restaurants are profiting off Chinese recipes and flavors.

6. Cuisines Mastered as Acquired Tastes by Francis Lam published by The New York Times (May ‘12)

“For immigrant chefs who love all their native flavors, it’s not necessarily obvious that a guest is more likely to become friendly with fried shallots than, say, fermented beans.”
An article discussing the American chefs that have culturally appropriated recipes and changed authentic flavors to successfully sell to the “mainstream” American palette.

 

IV, The Animal Industry

 

1. The Sexual Politics of Meat: Chapter One by Carol Adams (Sept ‘15)

An introduction to the famous and groundbreaking book by Carol Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat, which traces the relationship between patriarchy and meat eating.

2. Meat and Masculinity Politics by Vegan Voices of Color (Jan ‘18)

“It doesn’t take much to see how our society often applies a carnivorous gaze to women’s bodies.”
A quick overview discussing the link between the concept of machismo and the consumption of meat. The animal industry is comprised primarily female animal bodies, and the article goes on to explain, “to contribute to the meat and dairy industry is to actively support and sustain an industry that exploits and fetishizes women whilst promoting patriarchy and male dominance.”

3. Decolonizing Veganism to Make It More Accessible and Less Racist by Gloria Oladipo, published by AfroPunk (Nov 17)

“it’s important that trying to “veganize” ethnic recipes comes from people of that ethnicity compared to white vegans trying to “spread the good word””
This article brings up the issue of veganism often being a white movement, and how “veganizing” ethnic food must come from within said community, rather than white people appropriating recipes and profiting from them.

 

V, Female Tropes

1. Women Aren’t Ruining Food by Jaya Saxena for Taste Magazine (Oct ‘17)

“When men enjoy something, they elevate it. But when women enjoy something, they ruin it.”
An article pointing out the all too common trope of being annoyed by food trends associated with women.

2. Women Laughing Alone With Salad by Mrs.Wrenn published by Vegan Feministing Network (Oct ‘15)

An article pointing out the gendered portrayal of salad-eating as an ecstatic experience.

 

VI, Neo-Liberal Capitalist Critique

1. Feminism and The Refusal of Work: an Interview with Kathi Weeks by George Souvlis, published by Political Critique (Aug ‘17)

An interview with Kathi Weeks, author of The Problem with Work: Feminism, Marxism, Antiwork Politics and Postwork Imaginaries discussing how Marxist Theory can help us contextualize unpaid domestic labor as well as the specific types of jobs women are channeled into by society.

2. What is Socialist Feminism? By Barbara Ehrenreich, published by Marxists.org  (1976)

“It is women who are most isolated in what has become an increasingly privatized family existence (even when they work outside the home too). It is, in many key instances, women’s skills (productive skills, healing, midwifery, etc.) which have been discredited or banned to make way for commodities.”
An extremely comprehensive article about socialist feminist theory, explaining how capitalist ideology has spurred on the subjugation of women and the process of class atomization.

VII, Inspiration

1. How a New Wave of Feminist Cooking Publications Is Redefining Women’s Relationship to Food by Hayley Krischer, published by FlavorWire (April ‘15)

Krischer elucidates how women’s relationship to food is being redefined by Feminist food culture, to have an awareness of the food industry as well as its exploitative nature and to “choose how involved they want to be with the food that sustains them.”

2. Fertile Ground: Farming for Feminism  by Alison Parker, Published by BitchMedia  

“If we are buying questionable cucumbers that may have harmed the women, men and children from their origin farm with exploitative labor practices and toxic, foul-smelling chemical sprays, we are taking part in the system we, as feminists, are working so hard to unthread.”
Parker clarifies how farming and feminism are intertwined, and how ecofeminism has fallen under the realm labeled of “new domesticity” but argues that it can actually be domestic liberation.

3. Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor Is the Unsung Godmother of American Food Writing by Mayukh Sen, published by Munchies (Feb ‘18)

“She used food as her medium to share with the world who she was: a woman, then just 33, who’d been born in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, speaking Gullah as her mother tongue.”
An article about Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor, a significant figure in American culinary history,  who wrote the cookbook-memoir Vibration Cooking, pioneering ideas of the existence of a link between food and identity, as well as being famed for cooking for the Black Panthers.

4. The Culture is Changing, With Feminist Cheese, by Alexandra Jacobs for The New York Times (Nov ‘17)

“Cheese was historically woman’s “indoor” work while men were outside plowing the fields.”
Alexandra Jacobs reports on Erin Bligh and her company Dancing Goats Dairy, who makes cheese with a clear feminist agenda.