Hunting and Design

I have hunted, but I am, truth be told, not a hunter. I am one of the millions of people who consumes meat without as much thought as it probably deserves and certainly less effort than it should entail. But I am also a former chef and having learned that trade well before I went […]

The Importance of Learning Participant Observation

Teaching and learning is interactive. Despite the fact that learning is all-pervasive in our life, there is no single, universal theory of how people learn. There are two major schools of thought concerning the learning process: one consists of behavior theories, the other of cognitive theories. Cognitive theorists view learning as a function of purely […]

Why REAL Ethnography Still Matters

Fieldwork takes us to strange places. It allows us to come face to face with unexpected moments of both clarity and confusion, which can, in fact, spark innovation. I once spent a day with a 29 year old man who made about $600K a year running all things web-related for a major clothing designer. He lived […]

Mythology, It’s What’s For Dinner

Mythology is perhaps the most archaic and profound record we have of our collective spirit. From the inception of cave art, and presumably long before that, we find myth and myth-making as a fundamental element in relating to the mysteries of life, the cosmos and the world around us. It goes beyond recounting the day’s […]

The “Authenticity” of Culinary Tourism

When walking around in highly frequented areas of France, Italy, or San Francisco there are no shortage of restaurants boasting assurances of authenticity and regional cuisine, but how many of the claims provide diners with accurate representations of the regions culinary history and traditions? Does the same hold true in New York? Or Alabama? I […]

Is the Local Food Movement Over? Hardly

Since the organic food movement took off decades ago, a growing group of conscientious consumers have shown themselves to be interested in the quality and nutritional value of the food they put into their bodies. Over time, this movement has evolved to include greater questions of environmental impact, local economic development, etc. Local food sales […]

Coffee: When Simple Things Change Everything

I, like many people, start my day with a steaming cup of coffee. When I was younger the process of waking up began with a book, the newspaper, or occasionally a pad of paper as I reflected on something that felt meaningful at the time. Today, my coffee is taken with a shot of news […]

Reveling in BBQ: Dining Out and Ritual

I am in smoked meat paradise this week. Kansas City is perhaps the focal point of this marvelous cuisine – whether you’re a fan of Carolina or Texas styles, KC is a defining setting in the near-religious sects that defined American BBQ. There are places where it is served by waiters in white jackets and […]

Snacks, Time, and Sex

We have to eat; we like to eat; eating makes us feel good; eating nourishes our bodies and souls; it is more important than sex. It is also a profoundly social urge. Food is almost always shared; people eat together; mealtimes are events when the whole family or settlement or village comes together. Food is […]

Culture, Food, and Food Porn

Eating is not as a simple food-in, excrement-out process. It is a series of encounters – with cultures, with memories, with time. What we eat is a matter of self-creation, culture-building, and expression. People connect to their cultural group (groups, more accurately) through similar food patterns. Immigrants often use food as a means of retaining their […]