Food, fear and the price of limes in Mexico

Limes in Jamaica Mercado

If I could describe Mexico city with one word I would have to say food. When engaging with this city it is almost impossible not to notice the abundance of food possibilities. On nearly every street corner you can find juice vendors, paleta stands (fruit ice lollies), or taco stands. Women sit in doorways selling tomales to passers by on their way to work. As you move along the pavements you must make your way between and around those having a meal or buying their breakfast. In more affluent neighbourhoods there are tables on the pavements outside decorated with a basket of bread and where patrons linger over their meals in the pleasant warmth of the weather. Fruit is sweetly ripe and visually vivid while the smells of cooked meat and tortillas tempered by the sharp smokiness of chilies assault your olfactory senses. In this city one cannot help but interact with food; food becomes part of every encounter, in one way or another, as conversations inevitably turn to recommendations and comments about where and what to eat. Eventually, patterns to these interactions emerge and it becomes apparent that food in this city, as is the case throughout the world is classed.  But what seems unique here is the role that fear plays in making these class distinctions. Continue reading

Integrity, Honesty and Orientalist Food Discourse

“Yes, getting people to eat healthy vegetables and fruits and other products from wet markets is important; but the sanitation side is complex and you face all the horrors of these markets coming from China.  … But so much about these wet markets depends on what is grown and how and where.  In Europe and the US where the movement toward markets is huge but with high sanitation controls and with farmers with some honesty, it is simple.”

I was recently having an email discussion with an American food scholar, who has written quite a bit on the nutrition transition.  He was offering advice and sending helpful information and was broadly sympathetic to my argument about the importance of maintaining the wet markets.  However, as you can see from the quote above, there are some real stumbling blocks of the discursive kind that bear further discussion and consideration.  I was troubled by these words for a couple of reasons particularly. Continue reading

Closing wet markets not the solution to H7N9 Avian Flu Virus

In this morning’s South China Morning Post there is an article about how the poultry trade is the likely mechanism through which the H7N9 strain of Avian Flu is spreading. The article cites Professor Malik Peiris, an Epidemiologist and specialist in Zoonosis, as its main source of information. Prof. Peiris is no doubt an expert in his field of clinical virology. He has written hundreds of papers on the science of animal to human viral transfer.  He is probably right. You put infected animals in close contact with humans the disease will spread. One way that humans come into close contact is through the movement of infected animals to markets to be sold.  Where I disagree with Professor Peiris’ assessment is when he proposes a solution that involves closing the wet markets. Continue reading