HISD71 Winter 2016

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Mapping Migration Movements

MMM is a multi-media series discussing migratory and diasporic experiencies through the lens of food. Through this, we are looking into promoting connection within and around communities , by looking at shared pathways through mapping, while also compiling alternative histories of the area by creating timelines.  Thus, a main question that comes to mind is "How do migrant families experience Scarborough (& the GTA)?".

Authenticity of Italian-Canadian Cuisines

Why do proprietors of Italian-Canadian restaurants and grocery stores evoke authenticity to advertise their products? 

The ethnic revival of the 1970s saw individuals reclaiming ethnic identities that their ancestors had given up in the prior decades due to the negative implications of evoking, for instance, one’s Italian heritage during the Second World War. Reclamation took various forms. One of the most prominent ways of doing this was – and still is – consuming products. Individuals wishing to celebrate their ethnicities became one of the major factors that influenced the increased demand for ethnic products. The other part of the demand came from non-ethnics, meaning people purchasing and consuming ethnic products representative of different ethnicities.

There was a particular demand for ethnic foods because as Marilyn Halter eloquently puts it, food is a universal and accessible way to express identity. People wanted to experiment with these new ethnic foods even if a particular food held no cultural connection for them because it was a taste of the exotic, and a way of becoming a tourist without leaving one’s country. There was an increasing demand for fare that adhered to the represented culture. In other words, people wanted authenticity.

The quest for ethnic foods is largely reflected in foodie sentiment, which emerged in the 1990s. It is important to note that the definition for “foodie” is highly contested; this could mean somebody who thinks and talks about food, or somebody who is knowledgeable about food, or simply someone who loves food. In any case, foodie sentiment spread across the nation. Foodies evaluate food based on two central criteria: authenticity and exoticism. Authenticity in and of itself has numerous sub-categories, three of which are significant to our project on Italian-Canadian cuisine. Geographic specificity establishes a connection between a food and a specific place. History and tradition relates to how a food “should be” cooked, how it has been prepared historically. Lastly, simplicity emphasizes a food’s distance from mass-production and connects to small-scale production. All three of these factors call forth authenticity, and owners of food-related businesses evoke these – alongside exoticism – to advertise their products more effectively.

Meating Your Local Butcher

 

Before the advent of modern refrigeration, the butcher would purchase an animal directly from the farmer: He would clean it, break it down and sell it the very same day. Modern technology allowed the craft to change and the business was separated into two vocations: The wholesaler who made large purchases from the farmer and the butcher who purchased his products from the wholesaler. The butcher then broke down the meat and sold it to his customers. Since most families would visit the shop several times per week to purchase meat, the butcher shop became a space of community and familial relationships developed between the butcher and his customers. Moreover, the shop provided a place to exchange knowledge: The butcher offered advice and guidance on purchases and cooking technique, and he learned from customer requests about new and different cuts of meat. Yet the rise of the supermarket made it economically difficult for local and family-owned butcher shops to compete. 

Authenticity in the Home and the Restaurant

As consumers of food we often hear the phrase, "this is authentic _________" from our family, friends and community, but what does it mean? Our research indicates that authenticity is a fluid concept which we construct to explain our memory of engaging with a particular cuisine. 

Food prepared in the home and restaurant offer a familiar yet distinct experience because of how it is presented. Restaurants try to engage clients in a multi-sensory environment where the sights, sounds, smells, and taste connect memory to the contemporary and is especially true of ethnic cuisine. Home cooking maintains a more intimate engagement with the cuisine that restaurants try to create.

Our project takes a closer look at the South Asian cuisine, primarily Afghanistan, Indian, and Pakistani as a diasporic journey from one "homeland" to another.