In putting out the call for submissions to this book, we prompted our contributors to think about the distinctions and interconnections among food matter, food meaning, and food movement. They responded to this prompt, and each chapter both highlights how these different elements are also inseparable. Some texts may foreground the symbolic, traditional importance of, say, Green Bean Casserole, while others demonstrate how fermentation can transform not just molecules but also the cultural and economic significance of a given food stuff.
We encourage you to note for yourself what elements come forward as you read and listen and look. Does a chapter about backyard chicken polices make you think about municipal governments, the architecture of hen houses, or maintaining neighbourly relationships? Do the sounds of Cuban ice cream street vendors make your mouth water? Do they raise questions about the history of sugar production? Do they make you want to travel?
We also asked our contributors to format their chapters in one of three ways: as a Case, a Creative, or a Perspective. Cases look at more ground-level examples of food system contexts, from food in the Polynesian country of Sāmoa to the practices of artisan cheesemakers in Vermont to the communications challenges facing migrant farm workers in Canada. Creatives come at food from more oblique angles, visualizing the sense of closeness one can have with pollinators, or using poetry to shout, cry, and laugh about food’s emotional impacts. Perspectives pull the reader up to a broader view of things, sometimes of the invisible but powerful effects of financialization, sometimes of how eating and identity can produce both a sense of belonging and problematic effects of isolation and othering.
Overall, the book is organized within a loose, thematic evolution. We start with subjects that are close to everyone’s personal experience: food-making, the self, and the intimate meanings that food conveys. Subsequent chapters flow into questions about the relationships among humans, other living things, and the places and issues that food production and consumption implicate. Toward the latter part of the book, more challenging themes are presented, including the morals and ethics of meat, the complexities of financialization and law, and the intersecting futures of digital technology, people, and food. As much as we could, we created a certain logic in the transitions from one chapter to another—whether creative or more concrete—so as to help readers identify or build connections among them.
This structuring, however, is just one way to use Food Studies. As it is a digital publication, readers are encouraged to curate their own selections of chapters, and to jump from one theme to another. To this end, the Zotero-based search and filtering application on our website can help find the most pertinent entries for a given discussion or assignment.
Abbreviated chapter titles summarize the main focus of each, noting also the format (Case, Creative, or Perspective) that the chapter takes. The authors’ own, more expansive titles then follow, deepening the framing they have used. Author biographies also appear at the top of each chapter, intentionally positioning themselves and their text, all in support of critical reading. Learning objectives follow, guiding students and teachers to attend to key elements of the text, whether more factual or more synthetic. (Creatives do not include learning objectives, largely to enable more subjective and open-ended reading of what follows. We encourage teachers to use these chapters in both guided and unguided ways, and to propose to students ways they can think about what these pieces suggest.)
Most chapters include one or more highlighted glossary terms; clicking on a link will bring up our interpretation of that term, which is sometimes more generalized and sometimes more specific to food or to the chapter’s content. It should be noted that these terms are neither definitive nor exhaustive; as with much knowledge related to food, word meanings are pluralistic. Many terms also cross chapters and show connectivity among themes.
Overall, we have attempted to keep references and citations to a minimum, both to support an accessible, generalized reading experience and to help readers grasp key aspects of the text without extensive distraction. Bibliographies and additional resources are nonetheless included, to give teachers and learners prompts for further exploration. Similarly, discussion questions and exercises follow most chapters, enabling the text to serve as a jumping off point for a broader classroom exploration, debate, and customization.
Our public-facing website, FoodStudiesTexbook.online, includes a Zotero-based search page, which is a helpful way to find pertinent chapters. (Much thanks to University of Ottawa School of Information Studies master student, Swati Sood, for developing the Zotero library.)
Searching for keywords will return all chapters tagged with that term. It also provides a useful way of seeing which chapters address similar themes, such as power, taste, agriculture, or emotionality. (The entire text of every chapter is also searchable within the HTML version of the book, using the Search bar in the upper-right corner.)
The website also offers links to the EPUB and PDF versions of the book, which can be downloaded and used in an offline context. The web-based version offers the most dynamic reading experience, but it also requires internet access, which we recognize is not universally available and accessible.
Food Studies is also available as a print-on-demand textbook, and copies can be purchased from Ingram Spark. While there is a price associated with printed copies, it is solely to cover the production cost; no profit is returned to the publishers, editors, or authors. Please contact us for more details.
What to do if you find an issue/typo/problem
As is increasingly standard for high-quality, openly accessible educational resources (and as required by our funding agreement), Food Studies is machine-readable and compliant with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act of 2005. All content is designed based on current Universal Design Standards, including alt-text for all graphics and proper text-to-background colour ratio.
If, however, you find an issue related to accessibility, or other content that is either in error or problematic in your view, we encourage you to get in touch with us to report the problem. This can also include such minor issues as typos, formatting problems, or broken links. While the book has been extensively reviewed and proofread, mistakes always happen!