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Food, Ethics, and Culture

By Conner Gordon
9 Oct 2013

There is a certain truth to the saying, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” After all, practically everyone, man and woman alike, enjoys a good meal now and then. However, the immense sociocultural power of food is not limited to trite, gendered stereotypes. In fact, it offers one of the most crucial ways through which we interact with our world and the people who inhabit it.

Fundamental to the importance of food is its ability to connect people and cultures. As espoused by travelers such as Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain, food offers us the most basic of windows into the lives of cultures outside our own. By sitting down and enjoying a conversation-filled meal with others, we are able to form a vital connection not only to their culture, but also to their lives. Without the medium of food, such cultural differences would be all the more difficult to bridge.

The connections and discussions that food provokes are not simply cross-cultural. Food can be artistic; the world of culinary art, made famous on programs like Iron Chef America and Chopped, stirs up questions of what qualifies as art in the first place. Food can be religious, tying us back to the consumption traditions of faiths the world over. Food can even be political, as it acts as the crucial lens through which we view issues such as fair trade, global hunger and climate change.

While the connections that food provokes are both nuanced and numerous, there is no question that approaching such connections requires a discussion of its underlying ethics. For food is not simply an object in a vacuum; from the farmer’s field to the consumer’s table, food is a constantly evolving medium that brings some of the most salient political and cultural questions of our time to a single plate. In approaching food ethically, we face issues of who creates our food, how it is produced and how we can address the issues and inequalities that surround it.

For those wishing to explore the myriad of connections that food creates between us, our world and its pressing ethical issues, the second annual campus farm dinner offers a promising first step. Co-sponsored by the Prindle Institute and the DePauw Sustainability Office, the dinner will feature produce grown on DePauw’s campus farm and will include discussion about the origins, implications and ethics of food. The dinner will take place on Wednesday, October 9th at 5:30 p.m. at the Campus Farm; tickets will be on sale in the Hub from 5-7 p.m. For more information about the dinner and how you can take the first step towards exploring the rich connections food creates, click here.

Conner was a Graduate Fellow at the Prindle Institute from 2016-2018. Conner's writing focuses on memory, politics and culture. He is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Oregon.
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