What do we learn when an anthropologist and a historian talk about food?
Across endless eras, landscapes, and civilizations, humanity’s relationship with food has played the part of one of the landmark features of culture and community. We feel this on both the micro and macro scale — from learning a recipe passed down through generations of one’s own family to the excitement of exploring an unfamiliar local market in a city far from home.
Culinary curiosity invites us all to the table, and through their new book, Ways of Eating, authors and storytellers Benjamin Wurgaft and Merry White are here to serve. Wurgaft and White aim to introduce readers to the interwoven worlds of global food history and food anthropology, exploring how we’re not just what we eat, but where, why, and how we came to eat it in the first place. Throughout their collaborative work, Wurgaft and White embark on a world tour of anthropological accounts and vivid storytelling, paying visits to Panamanian coffee growers, Japanese knife forgers, and the medieval age of women brewing beer.
Ways of Eating explores the influence of migration and politics in shaping both group identity and global culinary practices, from the Venetian spice trade to the Columbian Exchange to the parallels between ancient Roman garum and contemporary Vietnamese nớc chấm. There are as many dynamics at play across the world of food anthropology as spices in a well-stocked pantry, and Ways of Eating seeks to understand and follow them from the plate back to the kitchen, the farm, and the field.
Co-authors Benjamin A. Wurgaft and Merry I. White are a son and mother duo with backgrounds in history, philosophy, anthropology, and the social study of food. Merry White is a Professor of Anthropology at Boston University, with a specialization in Japanese social and food culture. Their previous publications include White’s Coffee Life in Japan and Wurgaft’s Meat Planet: Artificial Flesh and the Future of Food. This is their first book written together.
Presented by Town Hall Seattle.