Food Prize Winners: Science Needed To Fight Hunger

‘Chinese Food’ Is the New ‘Friday.’ Except Racist

Yesterday, Gawkers Cord Jefferson wrote a thoughtful article that explained how racism exists not just in overtly hateful thoughts and comments, but in the framework of plausible deniability that builds up around racism and how insane that plausible deniability can make people feel. Like those terrible Asian schoolgirl jokes on Seth MacFarlanes new sitcom Dads, Chinese Food can attempt to hide behind the post-racial America argument, the one that says that its okay to exploit stereotypes because they cant do us any harm, not anymore but it will fail. Thats the real danger behind the myth of colorblindness, the myth of post-racial America: the potential for the racism embedded in this confectionery video to be denied and enjoyed anyway. The problem, particularly with a viral video like this one, is that everyone sees it, but not everyone sees the damage implicitly wrought by it. Earlier today, a YouTube commenter wrote on the videos page , This is why kids become racist. She could be right; I can hear this song echoing down the halls of my high school as readily as I could The Fox. Viral videos like Chinese Food, when theyre widely viewed, become a part of our shared culture; theyre what millions of people talk about, reference in conversation, share with their friends. When those video depict other groups of people in inaccurate and demeaning ways for entertainment as exotic, monolithic, or otherwise fictionalized they encourage us to internalize those ideas, or at the very least to laugh them off. Chinese Food is, in a sense, a frillier, less overt manifestation of the same kind of minstrelsy that Miley Cyrus gets away with . It uses food the way Miley uses a dance incorrectly, with little concern for either accuracy or why its important to be accurate about other cultures to create celebrity, social capital or a desired image. This video will certainly follow Gold around for the rest of her life in far more consequential ways than Cyruss celebrity permits. But I wouldnt worry about her. In fact, Chinese Food will likely become a learning experience; over the next few days, Gold will almost certainly come to know the differences between Mongolian, Chinese, and Japanese cultures better than most people passing the song around. But will she come to know about why it matters? That understanding the one that prevents more Chinese Foods from getting made in the future is what its all about.

One winner, Robert Fraley , chief technology officer at Monsanto, said biotechnology and information technology are helping farmers globally improve crop production and can help solve the problem of a growing population with too little food. “Whether it’s a small farmer in India with a cellphone message that wind currents are changing … or planter in Iowa that says, ‘Change the way this field is planted every 10 meters to optimize yields,’ science has so much potential,” he said. “The challenge that’s going to come is: Are we going to limit it by policy and regulation?” Opponents of genetically modified crops say they are harmful to people and the environment. Some organic farmers warn that widespread planting of genetically modified crops could contaminate organic and traditional crops, destroying their value. Others are concerned about the uncharted long-term impact for those who eat products such as milk and beef from animals raised on genetically modified plants. Another winner, Marc Van Montagu , founder and chairman of the Institute of Plant Biotechnology Outreach at Ghent University in Belgium said some of the fear of GMO crops is absurd. He used the example of papayas in Hawaii, which he said were saved through genetic modification. The third winner, Mary-Dell Chilton , founder and researcher at Syngenta Biotechnology, said all the discussion by critics of biotechnology should be directed at the coming problem of widespread hunger as the population grows to 9 billion people by 2050. “There are going to be a lot of hungry people here,” she told reporters at a news conference. “I hope that you will at least give a balanced view of the safety, the utility of these biotech tools. We’re going to need them, believe me.” Environmental groups and activist organizations offered opposing views by holding their own press conference at the same time the food prize laureates were speaking. Cherie Mortice, a retired teacher from Des Moines and a member of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, an action group that fights large-scale farms, said the prize “is the grand promenade of corporate control over food production that undermines the independent family farms that are capable of producing a diversity of healthy foods that can actually make it to our dinner plates.

Food events in the Washington area

Culinaria Cooking School, 110 Pleasant St. NW, Vienna. 703-865-7920. www.culinariacookingschool.com . OCT. 19 18TH CENTURY AUTUMN MARKET FAIR: Food, drinks, costumed interpreters and herbs and flowers for sale. 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. $6; $3 ages 3-12 and seniors; age 2 and younger free. Claude Moore Colonial Farm at Turkey Run, 6310 Georgetown Pike, McLean. 703-903-9330. www.1771.org . AUTUMN REGGAE AND WINE FESTIVAL: Reggae music, wine tastings, winery tours and food and craft vendors. Noon-6 p.m.; Sunday, noon-6 p.m.

Food & Spirituality: Fall Feast with Armenians in San Francisco

Surabian learned how to cook by observing women preparing food for festivals at St. Johns in spite of attempts to protect their techniques by covered their phyllo with dish towels. Nothing gets past 96 year-old Amelia Surabian. Shes been cooking for fall food festivals for more years than most, and while shes the undisputed expert now, she struggled to learn the cuisine as a young woman. Not every cook wants to share her recipes! Photo: Gina Scialabba Some of them were kind of quiet and secretive about their recipes, Surabian says, but I was a little devil. She was also keen on learning how to feed her young family the traditional way after a childhood of desperate poverty. Surabians family fled their homeland at the turn of the last century. They moved to Massachusetts, and then to Fresno. Times were so hard then, she remembers some Armenian mothers made pants for their children out of flour sacks. Surabian herself started working at age 14 or 15, canning peaches for Del Monte in Oakland. She settled in San Francisco in 1938.