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Food Politics

Read This Now: Bitch Magazine's Food Issue

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Tue, Jan 7, 2014 at 8:00 AM
click to enlarge Bitch magazine - T. NGUYEN
  • T. Nguyen
  • Bitch magazine

The New Yorker, as it does most years, had a food issue last year; so did Wired. But maybe one of the best food-themed issues from a magazine that doesn't regularly cover food was saved for the last few months of 2013: Bitch magazine recently released its food-themed Winter issue, and it's worth picking up the next time you're at the newsstand.

Because while it's fun to read yet another article predicting this year's hottest food trends (i.e., "ethnic-inspired breakfast items"), maybe also take a moment to learn something else like, say, how farmworkers -- those folks who play integral roles in the "farm" part of "farm-to-table" -- are systemically exploited. If nothing else, for balance.

As S.E. Smith writes in her article about the labor movement, much of the discussion around food is pretty incomplete: "A lot of that conversation has centered on what animals are fed, whether chemicals are used on fields, how far food travels to get to the plate, and what kind of conditions it's grown or raised in, without any mention of the workers involved in food production. ... This elision of human beings from the conversation is a curious parallel to the erasure of people from an industrial agriculture narrative, a polite fiction that no actual people are involved is maintained to avoid uncomfortable conversations about worker exploitation."

Because it's a lot easier to ask about the kale on your plate rather than whether the people who picked that vegetable were paid fairly and had access to water, right?

This being a magazine that claims its space in the world as the "Feminist response to pop culture," there are also articles here that are about women and food, but these are written in a way that's very much unlike the way publications sometimes write about women and food, especially last year (i.e., ironically, flippantly and heteronormatively, if you're Lucky Peach; not at all, if you're Time magazine).

Sarah-Jane Stratford, for example, considers how the women's liberation movement did not cause the so-called "death" of the homemade meal, or the myth of it, anyway: "Long before women left the kitchen for the workplace, Rockwellian meals were swept off the table by a combination of industry and advertising, which redefined the American psyche as much as it did the home menu." As did, interestingly, food hygiene: "Polio, which saw its worst U.S. epidemic in 1952, could be contracted via contaminated food. Neither your local grocer nor farm stand felt as safe as the sterile offerings found in the supermarket, especially when they were wrapped in cellophane ('Shows what it protects, protects what it shows!')."

Other articles: A piece on sexism in specialty coffee that parallels the sexism prevalent in many industries, which may or may not lead you to ponder whether we need to redefine our measures of success; the world of extreme couponing that is less about crazy ladies running with scissors and more about the very real -- but, as with housework in general, unmeasured -- economic benefits of saving many cents off boxes of cereal; and an interview with Dr. Breeze Harper, whose Sistah Vegan Project uses veganism "as a platform to explore the intersections of structural racism, sexism, classism, and capitalism, and how it plays out in the lives of mostly black women."

Overall, an issue worth at least a skim. Maybe read it to ring in 2014. Maybe let it inspire to make you a resolution or two.


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