The Politics of the Pantry: Stories, Food, and Social Change

The Politics of the Pantry: Stories, Food, and Social Change

Michael Mikulak

Language: English

Pages: 268

ISBN: 0773542760

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The Politics of the Pantry: Stories, Food, and Social Change

Michael Mikulak

Language: English

Pages: 268

ISBN: 0773542760

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


"What's for dinner?" has always been a complicated question. The locavore movement has politicized food and challenged us to rethink the answer in new and radical ways. These days, questions about where our food comes from have moved beyond 100-mile-dieters into the mainstream. Celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Alice Waters, alternative food gurus such as Michael Pollan, and numerous other popular and academic commentators have all talked about the importance of understanding the sources and transformation of food on a human scale. In The Politics of the Pantry, Michael Mikulak interrogates these narratives - what he calls "storied food" - in food culture. As with any story, however, it is important to ask: who is telling it? Who is the audience? What assumptions are being made? Mikulak examines competing narratives of food, pleasure, sustainability, and value that have emerged from the growing sustainable food movement as well as food's past and present relationship to environmentalism in order to understand the potential and the limits of food politics. He also considers whether or not sustainable food practices can address questions about health, environmental sustainability, and local economic development, while at the same time articulating an ethical globalization. An innovative blend of academic analysis, poetic celebration, and autobiography, The Politics of the Pantry provides anyone interested in the future of food and the emergence of a green economy with a better understanding of how what we eat is transforming the world.

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morality, and faith in reason. Let us consider two specific examples. The first, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth uses a mixture of moral argument and scientific expertise to address risk and uncertainty by establishing the impartial status of the scientific-manager 25545_Mikulak.indb 50 13-07-12 7:48 AM How Green Can We Grow? 51 as wise leader. The second example is vertical farming, a futuristic solution to urban sustainability and local eating that epitomizes the techno-utopian faith in

of doing so lies in the seeds we sow.7 Industrial agriculture has – very literally – shaped the food we eat in the name of economics: by breeding cultivars to become more economically useful, focusing on their yield, uniform ripening, visual uniformity, and ability to withstand transport, many modern-day agricultural producers have sacrificed taste, nutrition, disease resistance, and adaptability.8 Corn, rice, soy, and wheat now provide most of our calories, and much of that is limited to a small

grown entirely by Pollan, and represents the ultimate goal of storied food, the transparent meal in which the entire foodchain is revealed and accounted for. It is a meal that can be eaten in full consciousness and in full conscience. In this revelation, it becomes possible to tell a story, to understand 25545_Mikulak.indb 87 13-07-12 7:48 AM 88 The Politics of the Pantry the foodshed in a perfect, albeit fleeting, moment of clarity. This perfection later becomes the ideal to which all

alternative value practices to capitalism, and as such, is crucial to challenging purely economic notions of sustainability and pleasure. The very process reveals the importance of stories in framing the environmental crisis. While critics such as Lavin are quick to reject the citizenconsumer as no more than an embodiment of neoliberalism masquerading as sustainability, I believe that certain aspects of this shift are necessary in order to challenge the economic turn. This is one reason I felt it

generations of farmers have bred and selected tomatoes for traits they value, and finally to the seed catalogue I am looking at, connects the local and global in an enchanting complexity. The local and global are always imbricated and, it is through gardening and eating locally that their interrelationships are revealed and can be celebrated. Their circuits become manifest in the processes of coproduction that tie me into the lifeworlds of plant, soil, animal, and human history. Eating local has

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