Culinary Infrastructure: How Facilities and Technologies Create Value and Meaning around Food

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... They are doing so figuratively, by relying on existing databases, media, and surveys, and literally, through the use of GIS mapping software. Through these different strategies, we will obtain a nuanced ''socio-technical transitions'' view of how grocery stores, restaurants, food banks, urban gardens and farms, markets, and other less formal elements of the city's culinary infrastructure (Pilcher 2016) have supported food provisioning in light of COVID-19, as well as the pandemic's overall impact on them. Finally, we deem it imperative to reach out to stakeholders in different Global South locations (starting with India and Sri Lanka) to compare such findings, especially in light of the globalized social location of several people in our research team, whose personal and professional ties are inextricably linked to places beyond North America. ...
In this overview of a COVID-19-related food system project underway from Toronto, we relate our research questions, methodologies, and initial findings. We focus here on two of the key questions we are asking: (1) How are food supply chains and food insecurity rates being affected within this pandemic context?, and (2) How are different actors—from newcomer urban gardeners and those involved with farmers’ markets to BIPOC groups—responding to food system-related constraints and opportunities during this time? Preliminary results from this public-facing project ( show that the city’s food system is not highly resilient in the face of crisis, although many grassroots initiatives are compensating for this lack of resiliency—from the coordination of food security initiatives, to modified approaches to food production and marketing. Over the span of the project we are also exploring: (3) What experiences from other jurisdictions (nationally and globally) should be considered in informing local food system strategies?, and (4) What policy outcomes, and community and civil society responses, are needed to address identified challenges in both the near term and the longer term?
... Location and physical space are thus central to a deeper understanding of how cuisines are assimilated, renamed and physically altered over time. Food historians have recently coined the term 'culinary infrastructure' to encompass the ensemble of spaces, technologies and immaterial practices that organise and convey knowledge about food production and consumption (Pilcher, 2016). Culinary infrastructure includes material aspects such as eateries, transport networks, marketplaces, ports and refrigeration, as well as embodied expressions of knowledge in the form of recipes, cooking practices, quality certifications and even health regulations. ...
Technical Report
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Culinary Biographies is a two-year collaborative research project that examined Singapore’s intangible food heritage from a longue durée perspective. Between October 2018 and October 2020, Singapore’s documented 700-year history was surveyed, tracing the pathways through which ingredients, culinary techniques and regional culinary philosophies converged in Singapore. We found that many of these conjunctures established crucial precedents for some of Singapore’s most iconic food offerings. Our study makes three key contributions to the dialogue surrounding Singapore’s food history and heritage: ● Singapore’s food offerings are multi-layered historical artefacts that resist cultural ownership and monopolisation. ● Food history offers an accessible yet nuanced avenue for recovering a people’s history of Singapore. ● From a 700-year perspective, Singapore’s iconic edibles were most heavily influenced by creative and destructive forces during the twentieth century.
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Some scholars contend that the Global South is experiencing a consumer-driven nutrition transition characterized by a sharp increase in meat consumption. This article engages critically with this hypothesis by exploring the production, distribution, and consumption of chicken in Tamil Nadu (South India). Using the analytical lens of political ecology, it argues that food circuits are shaped in the interaction among political-economic processes, biophysical processes, and embodied encounters with food. In India, intensified farming and agrifood industrial capitalism affect the materialities of, and the meanings attributed to, chicken meat, making it more available, more accessible, and more desirable. The industry strives to control and conceal the animality and organicity of chicken as animal and as food. Yet new materialities and meanings are resisted by the biophysical processes that pervade the circuits of meat provision and by eaters’ visceral and cognitive engagement with chicken meat. The very people who produce, sell, buy, cook, and ingest food, even though they are partly dispossessed by capitalist and state control over knowledge and economic processes, also play a role in shaping, negotiating, and resisting the material, political, and emotional dimensions of taste, and of eating practices at large.
Over the course of the 20th century, Singapore was divided about where, how, what, and by whom street foods, especially satay, should be sold. Even if satay and hawking were a critical part of culinary infrastructure, municipal and colonial/post-colonial elites defined street hawking as a problem. The dispute, a contest over the use of streets and the meanings of street foods in the colonial and later postcolonial city, boils down to the common sauce pot. Typically, at least until the 1970s, satay diners dipped individual skewers into a large shared pot of satay sauce. If, for some, satay and other street foods were livelihood and favorite tastes, others saw them as unclean contaminants. The common sauce pot could symbolize conviviality. Dipping in the common sauce pot, could also represent threats to public order and health. Linking the delivery of foods to its cultural meanings also offers a useful frame to understand the historical debate over street food regulation in specific locales, suggesting links between how it is understood, remembered, contested, and experienced by those who cook, those who eat, and those who regulate. the ways Singaporeans remembered and represented satay becomes a sensory study of streets, street foods, and regulation.
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