The rise of food trucks represent a successful combination of America’s culinary patchwork and the redefining of the the term “fast food”. They represent a cultural celebration of the diversity of foods we have. In rejection of how we do not have a singular, deeply-rooted cuisine like other older cultures, we are currently celebrating the patchwork of cooking that immigrant groups have brought along with the creative capacity to remix or revive existing cuisine.

In Jane Seo’s article “The New Cool Kid on the Block: How Food Trucks Evolved From Roach Coaches to Cultural Phenomena” she explains that the rise of food truck in the late 2000s during the economic recession when customers wanted cheaper meals, similar to the growth of fast food chains in the mid-20th century. Due low operational costs and ard marketing expansion, these food trucks made solid revenue and became a sort of think tank for passionate or experimental chefs to share their work. Kogi, one of the first food truck pioneers in 2008 is known for its fusion of traditional Korean and Mexican cuisine. They are a strong example of a re-introduction of immigrant food into popular American food culture. And unlike conventional fast food fare that have little regard for quality, food truck chefs are passionate about their creating their craft and sharing it proudly with customers (most of whom eventually turn into returning patrons). They send out Tweets to let them know where they will be stationed and of possible promotions, which represent the minimal distance between the cook and customer in regards to business-customer relations. Food trucks are a modern re-introduction of the pride and dedication of American cuisine we had following the Revolution, but presents it within the delicious vessels of beef bulgogi tacos.

 

Figure 1. “Trucks on a Roll” from NYMag.com

 

Sources

Seo, J. (2013, August 8). The New Cool Kid on the Block: How Food Trucks Evolved From Roach Coaches to Cultural Phenomena. Retrieved September 16, 2014, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jane-seo/food-trucks_b_3721730.html

Gallagher, A. (2010, July 10). Trucks on a Roll. Retrieved September 16, 2014, from http://nymag.com/restaurants/cheapeats/2010/67139/

After reading through the assigned articles this week, one idea in “A Culinary Declaration of Independence” stuck out to me. I’d recently come across an health news expose titled, “Is Obesity Cultural?” It goes on to state that the rising rate of severe obesity could in fact be linked to cultural traditions and norms. This is exactly the point that was being made in the reading. One large step on the road to an independent America was the fact that we needed to be self-sufficient enough to produce the necessary food our nation required. History shows we did more than just that. Despite the quickly growing population, we managed to produce even more than we needed. This leads us to the next major point. In this early American culture, with the excess of food so common, people were able to choose what food they wanted to eat, where they wanted it from, and how much of it they wanted. This freedom has been engrained in our culture since the beginning, and I believe it can be related to this idea of a “see food” diet that the obesity article mentions and is extremely common in the average American. We see food, we eat it. Any type of food we could want, we eat as much as we want, with no thought of the consequences of continuous unhealthy eating. This is very similar to the idea of food being a statement of our country’s independence. So this begs the question: if this unreserved way of consuming food is truly cultural, how can we change these habits as a nation? How will we ever lower the rates of obesity in America? Some could say that refraining from certain unhealthy food choices would not be exercising the freedom one inherits as a American. Not eating something despite that fact that you want it is not the American way. Solving this country’s weight problem is much more complicated and deep-rooted in cultural traditions than many believe. It’s going to take more than encouraging daily exercise. Most of weight loss comes from diet, not physical activity, and I do not see the American diet changing any time soon.

 

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2012/10/04/is-obesity-cultural

As we read in James McWilliams’ “A Culinary Declaration of Independence,” we learned that the taxes and laws forced upon citizens of the New World at the hands of the British in the 1760s and 1770s, many of which involved commerce and food, led to civil unrest in the Colonies, and eventually the American Revolution.

Today, many people are unaware that this battle over economic liberty and food freedom is still being fought today by farmers, restaurateurs, chefs, and other food entrepreneurs.  In Linnekin and Bachmann’s report “The Attack on Food Freedom” (http://ij.org/images/pdf_folder/economic_liberty/perspectives-food-freedom.pdf), it is argued that government restraints against those in the food and agriculture business are “undermining their right to earn an honest living and provide for themselves,” while also limiting the food choices of the American eater. Just as it was in the colonies in the 1760s and 1770s, restrictions such as The Commerce Clause, which allows Congress to regulate commerce such that “any one state cannot protect its own industries from competition” in other states.  The authors argue that the government restrictions on use of certain pesticides, as well as regulations on farming, labor practices, and “food safety” are ruining the livelihood of the food and agriculture industry of the United States, and limiting the American palate.

http://themintymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/finca.jpg

In Utah, the “Zion Curtain” law requires bar owners to erect a costly wall between bartenders and patrons so that the mixture of alcohol cannot be seen.

Similar to McWilliams’, the authors argue that these rules governing food production and consumption created by the government do not comply with the 14th amendment (which allows economic liberty), and although they were created with the intent to help farmers, they are instead harming their lifestyle.  Simlar to how the British government had a monopoly over what was taxed and produced in the New World, the U.S. government today has the ability, and is using it unyieldingly, to regulate what we eat, and where it comes from.  From the illegality of selling raw milk, to excess taxes on liquor, and even the refusal of the sale of alcohol, the government’s grip on the food and agriculture industry is as tight now as it was in the 1760s and 1770s, and these restrictions on economic liberty and food freedom ultimately led to a Revolution.  So the question remains: why have we as Americans not revolted today?

In Getting to the Guts of American Food, the Cole family spends an enormous amount of time and effort in the preparation of their meals. They do everything from curing their own meats to churning their own butter from scratch. If those people were to exist today, then there is no doubt that they would have incredible foodie cred. Compare to today, maybe not even the most dedicated food obsessed person/chef would rival the commitment and the knowledge of everything food that the Cole family had.

As a result of advancements in society and culture, Getting to the Guts of American Food talks about our lack of intimacy with food in modern times because of the accessibility and the convenience of food today. In our country, food is abundant. Food is everywhere. Inevitably, food is often taken for granted. Most people only think of food as a way to get from point A to point B. In our ever so busy lives, we don’t even think about the foods that we consume because we are so engrossed in everything else. Overall some people simply have zero respect for food.

The video above is probably a slap in the face to anyone who knows about the scarcity of food. It is a display of excess, debauchery, and wastefulness. I cannot even imagine that the Cole family, who slaughters and eat their own livestock, would prepare and consume their meals in the way shown in the clip. This is what happens when society at large is blessfully ignorant and lacks first hand experience with the whole “farm to table” concept. Most people have never witnessed in person a live animal getting slaughtered or grown and cook their own produce. If they did, then they would become more intimate with their food and ultimately more appreciative and aware in the ramifications of their meals.

That’s not a question I ponder over every day. Being a computer science major, and honestly just existing in our society today, it feels ridiculous to even ask that question. Of course faster is better, who doesn’t want what they desire, now? What benefit do I ever have of waiting? Being on a fraternity meal plan and growing up in a family where everyone had a hectic schedule, I have been constantly eating on the go my whole life.

I never once considered the effects of having no interaction with the preparation of my food until reading McWilliam’s excerpt “Getting to the Guts of American Food” last week. I then googled the issue to see if there were others constantly eating on the run, and found the article “America Has Stopped Cooking: And Here’s How Our Recipes are Suffering For It” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/30/recipe-language-jargon_n_5411832.html). Apparently I’m not the only one who ate half his meals in a car. And that might be an issue for American appetites.

I was astonished to read that the Cole family spent hours preparing ONE meal. I can’t imagine investing time like that three times a day. But more than that, I was surprised to read that preparing your food can affect your political stance, and also your patriotism. Every action I take today screams no commitment: I don’t want to buy groceries because I have to spend time to cook them, I would rather rent than own my next place I live, and I certainly don’t want to buy textbooks, that would be absurd. I have no emotional connection or responsibility with most of the things I interact with because I let others handle them for me. Small decisions that I make on a daily basis may actually have an amazing influence on my concern with our nation’s biggest debates.

Deliciousness.

I’m not saying we should all stop eating at Chick fil A and start getting our chicken sandwiches from the barnyard out back. I adore waffle fries, and will continue to consume them even when my doctor recommends me to stop. But there may be validity in this article and in McWilliam’s piece on how small things like preparing your food can have deeper reflections on our society. It may be worth it sometimes to take the dirt road of life rather than just the interstate. Who knows, taking time out of your day to prepare a meal may have more effects than just the delicious feeling in your stomach.

After reading this week’s excerpt “Culinary Declaration of Independence” we are truly shown how much food and political independence are linked to one another, at least during the colonial times… These colonists felt that if they had just one right after coming to this new world, it should be that they were able to prepare and consume their own food as they pleased. Food was eventually viewed as their key to freedom, which I found to be the underlying concept for a majority of the reading. It was shocking to read that 85% of the food that was produced in America was also being consumed there, this resulted in a very successful dynamic internal economy and rendering the British ultimately useless.  This is exactly what these colonists had hoped for, but not exactly what the British had in mind. So when the British recognized the increasing self sufficiency of the colonial economy, they viewed it as a perfect opportunity to reassert their control on their overseas venture and to profit off of them as well. By parliament stepping in and beginning to set taxes and monopolize the trade of certain goods they were able to take everything away from the colonists that they had been working for. Needless to say I don’t believe that the colonists enjoyed this very much… They viewed food as far more than just nourishment for the body; it also proved to function as entertainment and jobs. It’s shocking that the British were able to strip the colonists of all of their freedom with such ease, just through food. In the end it just shows that if something really means that much to a society and it is essential to their success it is worth the fight.

While “American Cookery” is exceptional in its ability to serve as a testimony of womanhood in the late eighteenth century, its true value, from my standpoint, is in its insight of the social or gender relations during this time period. More specifically, Amelia’s focus on both the idea of orphans and women in general caters to a very eerie digression to a time where inequality was not only prevalent, but it was supported by both genders as Simmons provides.

                Amelia Simmons states clearly that cooking serves as a means to create “good wives and useful members of society.” She emphasizes how women who have been dealt a hand of misfortunes have to be especially precise in their skills as a cook and favorability as a woman for they do not “have parents, or brothers, or riches, to defend their indiscretions.”  In doing so, she equates being a good wife or cook with being a woman of “good character.” This particular opinion that a woman’s worth is in her abilities as a wife, seems to negate the early culture of North America, where the family unit each provided its keeps through the intensive labor of day to day life. The cookbook, while emphasizing the arduous task cooking can be, downplays the other skills of women at the time, which varied from needlework to being a farm hand. As seen in Mary Rowlandson’s account of her capture by Native Americans, her value was not limited to her ability to cook or bear children (two unnecessary skills for a captive of a different culture), but lay in her ability to mend cloth, and to read and write for those that captured her.  While many Puritan communities arose, especially in the New England where this cookbook was written, it as though Amelia Simmons has overlooked that simplicity and blandness were the way of life, fortifying lack of excess and waste of what heaven had provided.

                It is for these distinctive reasons that “American Cookery” makes me question the author’s purpose besides aiding women to be good wives. Was the purpose of the book to refine the Puritan mindset and to adapt a British taste for lavishness in cooking? Was the focus of the recipes to cultivate a gender hierarchy similar to that in the Old World, where woman were exposed to less grueling labor? Or was this preface in particular a clue to the history of the writer? Had she fell victim to hard times that would leave her to be meticulously judged by her ability to cook?

                Regardless of the answers, Amelia Simmons convergence to the crowd of conformity in terms of gender, provides an interesting take on the acceptance a this social hierarchy.

In this week’s passage “A Culinary Declaration of Independence”, I found it intriguing that McWilliams specifically mentions Thomas Jefferson’s anxiety towards Buffon’s characterization of America as unsustainable in terms of food. Jefferson seemed “startl[ed], obsessive, and panicked” in reaction to criticisms such as Buffon’s. He had just helped found the United States as an entity that could distinguish itself from the corruption of Europe, and needed to follow through with what he envisioned this new nation would be. Throughout the reading, there is consistent mentioning of how some Americans viewed economic expansion through manufacturing and luxuries as a sure way to corruption. So naturally, Jefferson promoted the frontier and agricultural way of life, which was also deemed as the “pure” way of life by other intellectuals, namely, Benjamin Franklin. And by adopting this “let’s do it differently than the British” mentality, the States launched themselves into the perfect position for an economic boom unlike any other seen in history.

Food has always been the key component to a developing nation’s long-term success. Since the earliest civilizations such as those of Mesopotamia, societies that utilized the most effective agricultural methods or had access to the most abundant crops would develop quicker and advance further than others. These methods and crops returned to these civilizations ample crops for feeding their populations, and granted these people the luxury of time, which had normally been reserved for laboring just to be able to eat. These people used this time to advance technologies and express their culture and ultimately make their society far more advanced than those without this surplus of time. For example, the Aztecs of Mesoamerica with their floating gardens, terraced hillsides, and irrigation systems thrived even though their land was considered unfit by most for agriculture. Their society became agriculture-based, and soon enough, food became plentiful enough for the Aztecs to develop its own unique cultural identity as well as a foundation for government. During the period when America was first established, the British were focused on expanding their economy through methods other than agriculture. They sought wealth through trade and manufacturing in addition to taxing colonies, all in the interest of gaining luxuries that would supposedly bring inevitable corruption into their government. The United States had just been established, and just like a developing civilization, it had to undergo the rigorous trial of sustaining itself for its first time. Rather than farming just for subsistence, the founders of the States emphasized an agrarian economy, and essentially admitted the United States into an exclusive group of nations that were able to pass the food threshold that would allow them to become a global power.

The Americans sought to stray from following the likes of ancient civilizations such as the Romans, who the British were seen to closely resemble in terms of economic activity and corruption of government. Although this was the case, they chose a path similar to older civilizations and would base their society on an ancient, seemingly irrelevant civilization based solely on farming on the frontier. Throughout history, food has proven to be the essential ingredient into progressing a society independently of others. Americans sought independence, and if they were to truly achieve it, they had to depend on the development of their agriculture. It seems to me that the stubbornness of the Americans to avoid the corruption that comes with manufacturing paved the way for them to have these ample supplies of food that throughout history, have created powerhouses out of the civilizations who were fortunate enough to reap their benefits.

“Aztec Culture and Society”, accessed September 15, 2014, <http://www.crystalinks.com/azteculture.html>.

This week’s reading “Culinary Declaration of Independence” proves our desires as Americans for simplicity in our daily consumption of food. Food still remains as supreme as it once did in the colonies in the 18th century. After the Revolution Americans were pressed to start their own way of eating, straying away from the British of “high seasoned” eating and lifestyle all together as the years went on; they were in need of their own identity. The refusal of European cuisine is understandable due to the independence that was just savaged; however, the decline of the French culture came as a shock seeing as they were allies in the Revolution. Seeing as it would have been easier to learn from the French instead of creating an entirely new culture, why did the colonies decline the help?

French food was seen as gourmet or luxurious. Most dishes were very complex, time consuming and overzealous in flavor.  The daily meals of the French were extravagant and equivalent to meals Americans seen as for special occasions. The French were misunderstood in these aspects by the Americans. These things were basically a “what not to do” guide to the colonies. They viewed themselves as the total opposite, wanting their food to be in ways as they were newly politically in honesty, high virtue, free from dictation and most of all extreme simplicity.  For the desired result they had to start from scratch. Soon recipe books were created, listing the most popular dishes in this new found American culture, most only using four to five ingredients to prepare.  The main three ingredients in the simplest dishes offered in the cookbook being molasses, milk and salt for flavor. Most of the dishes made by Americans were “watered down” versions of English meals they were once subject to. These meals were now meant to make larger servings to feed more people, take less time to prepare and make easier to store. Practical cooking became the focus rather than luxurious cooking, which is why the French way of life would have never worked for the Americans.

In 2007, two revolutionary events unfolded. The publication of Revolution: The Culinary Declaration of Independence and revolutionary high food prices. West Bengal experienced the repercussions of increasing prices in the form of food riots that injured over 300 people. These riots are the most recent incident of food riots in the world. Similar to the local food riots of the 1770s described in the Preface of James William’s book Revolution: The Culinary Declaration of Independence, food riots consumed the livelihood of India citizens as they strained to cope with spending a larger percentage of their salary to put food on the table. India was not the only country affected by these changes, global food price increases led to political and economic instability of many countries. Increasing prices were just one signal of the dramatic structural transformation of the world food system, transformation from single farmers selling their crops to market to the dominance of only a few monopolistic food producers.

William states, “food and drink in America became a critical manifestation of independence.” India has struggled to find its voice since independence in 1947, some 150 years after the United States. With an already unstable government from the modification of India’s political ideology to that of neoliberal capitalist, India scrambled to maintain composure as it approached a food crisis. According to Susan George, famines “represent the final stage in an extended process of deepening vulnerability and fracturing of social reproduction mechanisms” and India diligently tried to put the pieces of their country back together.

James McWilliams concludes by explaining how America’s food culture has evolved to frozen dinners and fast food restaurants. While Americans fight the growing grapple with obesity due to the convenience of quick meals, India struggles to provide food for their families due to the globalization of food production. A small farmer being displaced by large monopolistic food suppliers is a familiar reality for Americans, but Indian citizens are still attempting to survive as a small fish in a very large pond. William believes food and drink are “integral to the period’s defining events” so it seems fit that amongst governmental change and the globalization of industries, food production is at the center.

http://monthlyreview.org/2009/07/01/the-world-food-crisis-in-historical-perspective/