Yes, its the second to last week of the term, no I haven’t finished writing that essay or started writing the other one, no I haven’t done my Christmas shopping, yes I have thought about hiding in the shed and not coming out until I can see daffodils.
Also, I can’t make my photos from my phone BE ON THE COMPUTER. I know there is a Bluetooth thing that does a thing where the, you know, whatever, just magically makes it be on the computer but it won’t work. I made bread, but it emerged from the oven a steaming dateandwalnut-pocked turd rather than a loaf. So all in all, it’s not been a very productive week.
Nonetheless, I did have a lovely meeting with other Anthropology of Food students and we went to a totally rad coffee shop with a concrete floor and nice soya lattes (am I embarrassed? I’m not sure yet) where we stayed and were all studenty, talking about the reading from this week and being animated about Proust until my feet got too cold (concrete floors may look marvellous but they are not good for insulation or not smashing coffee cups when you drop your soya latte) and we dispersed into the rushing traffic of Bloomsbury, possibly clearer, or possibly even more mired in the all too much theory of long dead white men.
It seems to be normal to be experiencing some considerable twinges of doubt round about now – existential doubt as to whether there’s any point to anything, doubt regards doing a masters in Anthropology if it’s all exhuming the theories we know are not the way forward, doubts about there being too much theory, doubts about the british educational system, about exams and essays, doubts about it all being too late anyway…
Still, there is hope. We concluded that it was important to ‘know thy enemy’ and understand the old theory so we can learn what not to do and move on. There were happy stories about alternative agriculture that bore the mark of possibility and it’s only a year. And this week I particularly enjoyed the readings – about food, sense and memory. An article about how exiled Palestinians remember their stolen homeland (oofk contraversial!) through visits and collecting herbs and plants, particularly olives when they return; about how is has transformed from a real place to one that no longer exists in reality but lives on in memory, habit and even through their bodies. An article about Greek emigrants in the US who eat feta cheese and feel as if they eat with all those they have left behind and when they create and eat favourite meals from home, time compresses and the past, the present and even the future converge on one plate.
We have to hand in a ‘reading response’ every week, a reaction and collection of thoughts on the week’s readings. Naturally, I’ve totally failed to save most of mine, handed in a hand-scrawled bit of tripe that doesn’t exist in any other form but I thought I might try to post some of my previous ones, just as food for thought. Here is this week’s:
Food, memory and the senses
Every week I find myself drawn to discovering the dichotomies, to identifying the conflicts and divisions within the reading. This week was no different:
Framing our identity in terms of us/them, this food, our food/that food, their food
Experiences or smells and consumption as external/internal
Tensions and crossovers between national/local or local/global or global/national
Sensory experiences and understandings as Western and Modern/Arab or non-modern as aligned with visual/olfactory or multisensory
Differences and transitions between remembered/commemorated
Habitual, lived/explicit, performative
Divisions between ethnicities, social status, generations of exiled Palestinians as expressed and explored through food choices
However, this week I’ve gone totally crazy and tried to see how those divisions are crossed or how divided parties are reunited through some of the subjects explored in the readings. It seems possible that the experience of remembering with food is synaesthetic, encompasses many senses, using them indiscriminately to recreate a ‘whole’ rememberance, with one sensual experience crossing over into another. In eating feta, Greek emigrants outside of their homeland experience a sense of commensality as, across the sea and land, they eat the same cheese as if they eat with those they have left behind. They become ‘whole’ again having lost some part of themselves by leaving their homeland and its food. As the higher status groups in Belize consume lobster, considering it a status boosting delicacy, it seems they share the same meal with the lowest classes who choose to eat it as an affordable and readily available food stuff. In recreating food reminiscent of times gone by there seems to be a compression of time as past and present converge in the same meal. In the most extreme case, exiled Palestinians not only remember Palestine, keeping its image fresh with visits and websites, they must consume and even become Palestine ‘The homeland is not an orange, the homeland is us.’ It at once does not exist, it has become an abstract construction, a commemoration, and yet at the same time exists in their minds, in them.
Other thoughts –
Distance and threats, the need to leave the homeland or for it to be under threat in order to concretise and abstract/give importance to the idea of a national food.
Memory of Palestine as static – had they not been thrown out of Palestine the towns would have changed, they would be different now