#5 | There Is No Other News
The history of food and Black protest, dismantling inadequate systems, and the contours of cooking with hands
Hello. Thanks for being here.
This is the fifth edition of In Digestion, a weekly survey of the best food media on the web, and why you should care about it. If you like this newsletter, please follow @in_digestion on Twitter, and forward it to a large number of people. It should feel like too many. It won’t be enough. Thank you.
Food publications and companies are just now taking to social media to declare their newfound commitment to anti-racism while simultaneously forgetting to mention that an entire population of people have been and continued to be herded and hunted, slaughtered at the hands of people who live in a world of similar connivance.
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Amethyst Ganaway historicises the Black relationship between food and protest for Food and Wine. In an essay that lets history resound damningly, Ganaway details how ensuring nourishment is a means of resistance, both within and without the structures of oppression: “outwitting the subjugating white owners and overseers by claiming that if they were the property of these people, and they grew the food for them, it was just as much theirs.” Whether the work and the food that “fed and sustained protesters throughout the civil rights movement,” or the act of “reclaiming Southern and African-inspired dishes and ingredients,” the emphasis is on doing the work, the work of nourishing, leading, and building community.
“While food companies, upscale restaurant groups, and brands post their stances on protesting and social injustices on the internet, Black communities keep up the work of feeding their communities and supporting protests.”
Melissa Thompson lays out an overdue condemnation of Black erasure in U.K. food media for Vittles. It starts with a video designed to show the “diversity” of London restaurants that featured one Black person and zero Black restaurateurs. Or as Thompson more devastatingly puts it: “While it briefly paid lip-service to Black food, the melanin levels were so lacking they needed Factor 50.” Connecting patterns of consumption, food fashions, and a complete lack of critical representation, Thompson condemns both the systemic erasure of Black excellence, and the upholding of a system that will have to unlearn its entire existence if it is to stop being utterly inadequate.
SC Cook documents the systemic exploitation of workers at a Welsh meat plant for Voice Wales. While American meat plants’ contributions to labour abuse, animal abuse, and discrimination are well documented, the same is not true of the U.K., and Cook’s interview with “Jamie” highlights its reliance on exploited agency workers. “They can throw you away when they want and they know you're desperate and they know there's 20 people behind you that are desperate. It's disgusting that it's allowed to happen.” The piece also tacitly acknowledges the false divide between food production and food consumption, the former too often treated as hard news and the latter too often treated as lifestyle content. They are interlinked, they depend on each other, and this cannot be forgotten.
Ruby Tandoh grasps the intriciacies of cooking by hand for Heated. There’s the sensation of sensation, “something like mindfulness — a feeling of being in your body and fully inhabiting your senses — but less precious, maybe, and messier.” There’s the mutuality of connection between the hands and the food that traffics like water in a fast-flowing river: “we become more attuned to the intricacies of cooking, but our food is changed by its contact with us as well.” Watch and explore two of its touchpoints, A Love Supreme by Nilesh Patel and Mother’s Hand Taste by Jiwon Woo, both of which join this piece in acknowledging both the community of touch, and its individual callouses, wrinkles, and lines.
Tunde Wey looks at the insidiousness of timeliness on Instagram @from_lagos. Wey documents how American food media’s apparent “resistance” to the election of Donald Trump was in fact the reinforcing of a false divide — a bid to separate liberal, white media’s from Trump’s pride in white supremacy, a “good” against an “evil.” That bid used “their favorite weapons, Black and Brown folks,” and yet: “this weaponizing of identity, necessary for the war white food media was waging, was exactly what would later erase Black and Brown voices when the initial and visceral rage over Trump melted into quotidian political discontent.” The divide food media sought to create was, and remains, the falsification of a fundamental difference between degrees of whiteness masquerading as genuine resistance. It was resisting its own foundations, just a more naked, evil iteration. Meanwhile “the intersectional politics of nonwhite food resistance … interconnected and outerconnected,” know, and have alway known, that “the gulf between almost and impossible is the definition of resistance.”
Just think, right now, about the fact that while Wey had to write this on Instagram after having its publication and probably its fee killed, the 2020 James Beard award for profiling the impact of his work, of his resistance, goes not to him, but a white writer.