This work explores diverse cultural understandings of food practices in cities through the senses, drawing on case studies in the Americas, Asia, Australia, and Europe.
The volume includes the senses within the popular field of urban food studies to explore new understandings of how people live in cities and how we can understand cities through food. It reveals how the senses can provide unique insight into how the city and its dwellers are being reshaped and understood. Recognising cities as diverse and dynamic places, the book provides a wide range of case studies from food production to preparation and mediatisation through to consumption. These relationships are interrogated through themes of belonging and homemaking to discuss how food, memory, and materiality connect and disrupt past, present, and future imaginaries. As cities become larger, busier, and more crowded, this volume contributes to actual and potential ways that the senses can generate new understandings of how people live together in cities.
This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of critical food studies, urban studies, and socio-cultural anthropology.
Table of Contents
List of figures
List of abbreviations
List of contributors
1 The ‘food, senses, and the city’ nexus
Ferne Edwards, Roos Gerritsen, and Grit Wesser
PART I The city and its other
2 Digging into soil, the senses, and society in Utrecht
3 Food activism and sensuous human activity in Cagliari, Italy 40
4 Humming along: heightening the senses between urban honeybees and humans
5 Sensing vernacular Chennai, not Madras – a photo-essay
PART II Past in the present: memory and food
6 The sensorial life of amba: taste, smell, and culinary nostalgia for Iraqi Jews in London and Israel
Joel R. Hart and Daniel Monterescu
7 Thuringian festive cakes: women’s labour of love and the taste of Heimat
8 The taste of home: migrant foodscapes in marketplaces in Shantou, China
9 Sourcing, sensing, and sharing Bengali cuisine on the Gold Coast
10 Transmitting traditions: digital food haunts of Nepalis in the UK
Premila Van Ommen
PART III Disrupting and re-imagining
11 A taste for tapatío things: changing city, changing palate
Melissa S. Biggs
12 The foodie flâneur and the periphery of taste in Bucharest’s street food scene
13 Michelin stars and pintxo bars in Donostia: taste, touch, and food tourism in contemporary urban Basque Country
14 Source and supply: situating food and cultural capital in rural–urban interactions in Vietnam
15 Preparing Uchu Jaku: the politics of care in a traditional Andean recipe
Paz Saavedra, J. Guillermo Gómez-Urrego, and José David Gómez-Urrego
16 Future directions for food, senses, and the city
Ferne Edwards is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Socially and Environmentally Just Transitions, Department of Design, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway, and was previously Research Fellow, RMIT University Centre for Urban Research, Melbourne, Australia, and Work Package Lead of the European Union’s Horizon 2020 EdiCitNet project at RMIT Europe, Barcelona, Spain. Ferne is a cultural anthropologist researching edible cities, food waste, urban beekeeping, non-monetary food economies, and food sharing.
Roos Gerritsen is an anthropologist who works in social innovation and design. In her work she tries to bring science outside its academic bubble. She also works for an organisation that enables exchange through cooking. She worked previously at Heidelberg University and holds a PhD in cultural anthropology and development sociology from Leiden University, the Netherlands. Roos is the author of Intimate Visualities and the Politics of Fandom in India (2019).
Grit Wesser is a social anthropologist currently working on the AHRC-funded collaborative research project ‘Knowing the Secret Police: Secrecy and Knowledge in East German Society’ (2018–2021) at Newcastle University, UK. Previously, she taught social anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, UK, where she also earned her PhD in social anthropology (2016).
"This collection, rich in nuance, offers both visceral and intellectual pleasures. Shaped by diverse and sensitive ethnographies, Food, Senses and the City provides insights into the challenges of our times. Questions of belonging, gentrification, sustainability, humanity and authenticity, for example, emerge through the less usual prism of sensing knowledge in city spaces. Often the approach is vested in "entangled objects" – "the damp vegetal smell" of steamed tamales in Mexico, the deliciousness of greasy meat in a Romanian market. Such objects, similar to Seremetakis’ iconic disappearing peach, allow reflections on how we live and eat together, now and in the future."
Jean Duruz, Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Creative People, Products and Places Research Centre, University of South Australia; Affiliated Professor, Culinaria Research Centre, University of Toronto.
"Given a tendency in urban design to privilege the visual and in social science to focus on process, this fascinating book is a timely reminder that sensory approaches to food and place offer rich territories to consider cultural understandings of food and townscape. By exploring smell, taste, touch and hearing as ways of comprehending the interplay of food and cities, the authors establish a new nexus between food, urban space and the senses. This sensory exploration of food practices in diverse domains – ‘tactile, affective, visceral, and embodied’ – offers a fantastic read for anyone interested in understanding more about food and urbanism and is highly recommended."
Susan Parham, Associate Professor, Director of University of Hertfordshire Urbanism Unit; Academic Director International Garden Cities Institute.
"Many recent works promise sensory ethnography…Food, Senses and the City delivers! The contributors to this collection explore urban foodscapes with creative methods, trenchant theorizing, and innovative writing, making this collection a pleasure to read. Through the food/senses/city nexus the authors explore the role of synesthetic conviviality and commensality in bridging distinctions, provoking memories, shaping 'place', and challenging rural/urban dichotomies and more static notions of identity. Will be of interest to scholars across a number of fields, including migration studies."
David Sutton, Professor of Anthropology, Southern Illinois University.
"Food, Senses and the City, edited by Ferne Edwards, Roos Gerritsen and Grit Wesser, is a book to be savoured first of all for its fare: from Thuringian festive cake to amba (the pungent Iraqui condiment) and from Colada de Uchu Jaku (a creamy flour-based soup of the Andes) to honey produced by urban bees (that is, bees who have been transposed by their keepers from the meadows of the countryside to Melbourne and other Australian metropolises).
This book is also to be savoured for its ethnography – gustatory ethnography, with an accent on the multisensory, for taste is never simply an affair of the tastebuds, but also the aroma, the look, the acoustics, temperature, and mouth-feel of victuals. Catherine Earl’s chapter on Vietnamese cuisine is positively mouth-watering: the gustatory sensations roll off her tongue by means of her pen, mixed in with all the other sensations of the ambiances in which food is consumed. One of the main themes of the book is transferences between, for example, the rural and the urban, which is explored not only with reference to the bees but also food activism (putting producers and consumers in direct contact), urban gardening (a fast-growing trend), and foodie tourism (including slumming it, as in the case of middle class foodies who titillate their palate by trolling the eateries of disadvantaged neighbourhoods in search of crudities – the opposite of the delicate crudité). Of particular note is the way the contributors eschew phenomenology and focus on the politics of gustation, highlighting all the ways in which the sensory qualities of foodstuffs divide people (mainly due to smell but also texture) as much as unite them. While Food, Senses and the City is quite advanced in this respect, the contributors should nevertheless have been more conscientious about the ethics of cross-species consumption.
This book is above all a testimony to the productivity and richness of David Sutton’s concept of gustemology, the enculturation of taste that gives rise to worlds of flavour, a concept that puts paid to the increasingly outmoded notion of cultures as being distinguishable by reference to their "worldview," even with the rise of dining remotely via Instagram."
David Howes, Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Co-Director of the Centre for Sensory Studies, Concordia University, Montreal.