Welcome. :)

Welcome to my blog. Here I share my successes and failures along my journey to becoming an anthropologist. My most prominent interest anthropologically are the new approaches to handing food security/healthy eating in the US, particularly in urban "food deserts". I enjoy the Anthropology of Tourism as well; combining food and tourism has scholarly promise. My other interests which have converted into anthropological hobbies of sorts include converts to Islam, diaspora of Muslims, and MENA in general. I also have some interest in historical archaeology.

I welcome comments, discussion and even respectful debating. I will however keep discussions to a respectable level. I reserve the right to ban anyone from this forum.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Little bit of food anthropology

"In a much lesser vein, although I generally feel very comfortable in France, I have, when rather fed up with something, done wild things like eat cheese and bread at the end of the meal as if it were a sandwich (you have to know the French to understand how truly rebelliously barbaric this is), and gone to the grocery store in a track suit–wild! "


Chiara wrote the above on one blog I rarely frequent (due to time constraints). I found this interesting. I used to be a beverage product developer and have been to cooking school and have had a love affair with food for years. I have waffled between an advanced degree with a focus in Food Anthropology (preferably from UI) or focus on my other passion-Western converts to Islam. I have chosen the later. :) Firmly!
That said, at almost 11 pm the night before I need to teach, I find Chiara discussing food and culture in one post! Yummy. I have been to Paris. I did not enjoy the experience (enjoyed Pakistan more). Maybe I did the very thing you said is a barbaric act. lol

Anyhow, if you are reading here-maybe we can discuss cultural food "mistakes" or times where you felt awfully uncomfortable in a food/culture sort of way.

I will share more of my own as things (hopefully) progress....


The Nomadic Gourmet said...

Food anthropology is very interesting. I'd love to study that, too.

Chiara said...

LOL :) Well this was a fun surprise on my Google Reader this AM!

I'm sure you can work in an aspect of Food Anthropology into a thesis on Western converts especially around the issues of eating halal and how challenging that can be in certain families, at certain times of the year, and in certain locations.

As a tee-totaler I often model and give advice on how to survive Western social functions without imbibing alcoholic beverages; and with a reasonable knowledge of ingredients can usually forewarn an observant Muslim off of a haram food choice.

I shall return with the story of the family wedding dinner!

Anthrogeek10 said...

Thanks Chiara-:)

Yes-you do have an idea there regarding a study topic.Hummm....lol :-)
Do you do Halal 100% of the time Chiara? I know I don't but I don't do pork even in its' "by-product" form.

Looking fwd to your story.
Welcome to the blog 'Gourmet'

Chiara said...

Anthrogeek--for sure that is a great topic or subtopic of your thesis.

Since I am a Daughter of the Book, halal is optional. Since I don't normally eat pork or even much meat, and don't drink alcohol at all, I think it is or would be easier for me than some others and I never have a problem in Morocco. I do know Muslims who find it a challenge though, as there are few halal butchers or restaurants near them. It was an issue for me when I had houseguests who were more observant of halal food practices than hub; particularly in restaurants, hospital cafeterias, take out, and especially Chinese food since most of the hot dishes are made with pork fat even if there is no pork or non-halal substance in the dish itself.

This changes with immigration patterns--which would be another aspect of your potential study, as food is a major reason immigrants cluster together where they have access to stores that cater to their food as well as other needs. The spices, particular fruits and vegetables, meats and butchering are all important.

I was thinking of the challenge of eating halal when your family doesn't, or doesn't want you to, or when family get togethers are around Grandma's prized glazed pineapple Ham roast.

The Nomadic Gourmet will comment on those aspects I hope, as she and her husband wrote about some of them on FHWS:


You might want to read them for ideas for your research as she is a Western revert.

The Nomadic Gourmet--Hi! I am glad you found Anthrogeek's blog! Sorry to talk about you, but please give your own views on this topic which is so close to your own interests and life experiences, and so relevent to your great food blog of international recipes and travel.

Okay the family wedding dinner has to come in its own comment! LOL :)

The Nomadic Gourmet said...

Yes, it is very difficult observing halal eating pratices in a non-muslim family. I had issues, especially on Thanksgiving since I couldn't eat the turkey or even the stuffing cause it's made with non-halal chicken stock. My parents were very annoyed/angry about it and seemed offended. Also, sometimes my mom would cook traditional meat dishes from our family, and I wouldn't eat it and she would say I'm acting like a fundamentalist. Concerning pork; I had no problem. My family was originally muslim but converted to Christianity 4 generations ago through forced conversion by the British during their colonization of our country (Grenada, W.I). Therefore, pork is not eaten in my family, and we do some Islamic practices in relation to food, such as sipping water.

Chiara said...

Anthrogeek--don't forget to toss in a little Claude Levi Strauss on the cru and the cuit--the food paradigm for civilization.

Nomadic Gourment--thanks for adding this, and I didn't realize that aspect of British colonization before. Was it the Indian side of your family who were the Muslims?

Okay the family wedding dinner:
A Moroccan cousin-in-law married (civil service) a French Catholic without telling either sets of parents (who knows why, both sets were later more offended by not having been told, than by the marriage itself). When his brother was marrying a French Protestant Swiss from a missionary family, and all the family were in Europe, the parents of the French wife decided to hold a wedding dinner to celebrate their marriage. We arrived by chance on our way through France for conference/ vacation.

Chiara said...

The family wedding dinner cont'd:

The woman's family is from a farm community in Lorraine, very close to the German border, but of French heritage for centuries. A normal wedding dinner in that region would probably feature pork as a main dish, and definitely alcohol: aperitif, different wine with each course, dessert wine, digestif, champagne to toast.

Given that the groom's parents were to be in attendance, the mother prepared a wonderful dinner of veal, and side dishes, and the father, very proud of his "cave" or wine cellar, left all the alcohol there out of sight. Part way through dinner, after the hors d'oeuvre and the entree (in France the appetizer), the father of the groom asked if the veal to be served was halal, and the mother of the bride explained there was no halal butcher in the village so she bought kosher meat.

Huge kerfuffle--cannot eat Kosher meat because it hasn't been blessed properly; questions asked, I say "wrong God", get a lecture on the same one God; but not blessed in the same way as Kosher ie blessing each animal as opposed to the group being slaughtered, or some such. I'm not sure they were sure about it all, just being suddenly ultra-Muslim, since saying Bismillah in such a circumstance would have been sufficient, and they normally weren't such sticklers in my experience; but then I'd only eaten with them in Morocco, and when they weren't angry with their son for getting married behind their backs.

Finally, they said that there was no problem they would just eat the vegetables, and the bride's brothers who were doing farm work for the summer ate their share. I praised the dinner and the meat profusely, and luckily truthfully.

Ah, but dessert--the mother had prepared from scratch a regional specialty "Black Forest Cake" which of course has Kir in it, which of course the father of the groom knew because he wasn't always so halal in his food habits. So the "wedding cake" couldn't be eaten either, but the rest of us made up for it and there was also fruit for dessert.

Everyone was gracious and pleasant, but I felt devastated for the poor mother who had cooked all day and thought she had accomodated the religious dietary needs of her guests. I was also rather miffed that the groom hadn't instructed the bride on how to help her mother with the menu.

My hub made everyone happy with story telling, and asking where the champagne was, whereupon the bride's father beamed, gave him a "man hug" and went to fetch his prized champagne, which everyone except the groom's parents enjoyed--me with my token sip and hand off to the hub.

So the moral of this story for me is that people can be easily accomodated, and people are willing to accomodate but it helps immensely if those who are bicultural help them out!

Anthrogeek10 said...

especially Chinese food since most of the hot dishes are made with pork fat even if there is no pork or non-halal substance in the dish itself.

I no such clue!
I will make sure i ask next time.
I probably should be more halal....I wont go into it here...lol :)

Thanks for that story Chiara. I remember a time when I went to a Pakistani wedding in Bahrain. It was a gender separated event. So, my Paki husband at the time was nervous about sending me to the "wolves" alone but I told him I would be ok. Ok, buffet set, time to eat. Well...for some...lol....no lines form in the ME! I was shocked. the women seemed to run up to the food like it was their last meal. :) I had to usher my man in there to get food for me. I was quite bashful. The ladies were shocked he was there on "our" side....

I will write more later....:)

Thanks for your comments Gourmet. My sisters do not understand my need to avoid pork....my Christian husband accepts it and follows my rules in the house about it.


The Nomadic Gourmet said...

@ Chiara, yes it was the Indian side of my family on my dad's side that were Muslims, the Africans on my mom's side were also Muslims but they were converted by force during slavery times. The Indians on my mom's side were Hindus, also forcefully converted.

Anthrogeek10 said...

Thats horrible Gourmet. :( I have been interested in the slave and Islam connection from an archaeological point of view. Chiara-that was another one of my ideas! I don't want to be a broke in debt scholar with no job(although with an 11% unemployment rate in my state, that could happen soon).

I am sorry that happened to your family...

Chiara said...

Nomadic Gourmet--very interesting, and sad! Somehow with my doctorate in decolonization I overlooked forced conversions. However I was dealing with the 20th century by which time such conversions in the French and Spanish colonies were long past. In general the French did not force conversions that I am aware of, except probably the Amerindians, and that during the 19th century, after the initial Jesuit missions in the 16th.

Freedom of choice about religion should weigh strongly in your family!

jan said...
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Chiara said...

Anthrogeek--you must finish your story! And you must find an employer to pay for you to do all these theses!

The Nomadic Gourmet said...

Yes, it's sad, and also with the forced conversion came loss of identity. They had to change their surnames to be accepted in society. Begg became Alexander, Baldosingh became Baldeau, Yousef became Joseph, etc. They were also forced to lose their language too; Bhojpuri.

Well, you'd think that my family would be very pro-choice in regards to religion but... generations of being taught that anything that the British don't do is savage, what can u expect? We're a bunch of brainwashed people.

Chiara said...

Nomadic Gourmet--Thanks for the further information. Since I now work more on British post-colonialism it is good to know.
It is sad for your family that this type of rigidity has been the final result. As I said in the previous comment "should"; but shoulds don't always happen.

Anthrogeek10 said...

Well, to continue the story, my then husband came over to the other side to push his way through the crowd to get me a plate. Women all stared at him. lol Anyhow, he got food for me and he took me to the mens side (where there was alcohol!). Anyhow, it was a strange moment but the wedding customs were so interesting. I want to go to another Pakistani wedding someday.

anthrogeek10 (who has TONS of schoolwork to do).

Chiara said...

Anthrogeek--thanks for finishing the story. A friend married to a Muslim Indian said that in India she spends a lot of time on the "men's side" because she is highly educated, interested in politics and news, and doesn't speak any languages other than English, French and Ukrainian, so she gets on better with the men than the women in her hub's family who are more home oriented.

Ah yes, the alcohol at the Muslim wedding. I have a story about that too, but it is Nomadic Gourmet's turn! LOL :)

Anthrogeek10 said...

"lot of time on the "men's side" because she is highly educated, interested in politics and news, and doesn't speak any languages other than English, French and Ukrainian,"

No Hindi for her huh? Actually, languages of India are MUCH more than Hindi...
Thats interesting.

Chiara said...

Just got back to this. His family is from Chennai and is Muslim so probably Urdu. She probably has some language skills but not enough for debate, and in any case the conversation among traditional women tends to be about family and home concerns, not news, geopolitics, etc.

Anthrogeek10 said...

Probably right Chiara. I would be so lost among women talk. :)