Archive for June, 2016

L’Arte Parla

June 18th, 2016 by agutie19

Spending a month in Italy has been an experience that, in my opinion, could never be put into the right words, but as words are one of the tools of communication I have to try and do so. While I knew that my time in Italy was going to be spent learning about the philosophy of food and the aesthetics and pleasure we derive from food, I was also intrigued with the landscapes, the wine, but most importantly: I was intrigued with the various forms of art. Sometimes accidentally, I would cross paths with sculptures or paintings and would spent at least twenty minutes trying to decipher the meanings behind it or what motivated the artists to create it. I am a person that believes that regardless of what one does, there is meaning behind every action, every recipe, every art; therefore, I felt almost entitled to understand the artist’s perspective or the connection they had to the art that they were presenting. I was left unsatisfied on almost every encounter I had with an artist when asking for an explanation or a small hint to further understand their motive. I started to ask myself, “Does art have meaning, or does personal interpretation give it meaning?

An Unexpected Self-Journey

Art Gallery in Radda

Art Gallery in Radda

While in Radda, at a wine festival, I had one of the many encounters that drove me to ask the question that I stated above. On my hunt to find exquisite art, I ran into Martino, one of our excursion leaders, and asked him if there were art galleries nearby that I could visit. Coincidentally, an art gallery was less than one hundred feet away from where we were standing. Martino said that before it turned into an art gallery it was a prison cell. I was instantly fascinated and ready to figure out what other important factors contributed to the artist’s decision to publish his art in a prison cell, a place with deep rooted history. Within five minutes of my conversation with Martino, I was running down the stairs anticipated to see what I would find. I like to think of art as gold, sometimes one finds it and is completely taken away or sometimes one is disappointed, if one’s expectations were not met. But in the long run, it is the search and the adrenaline of finding it in the first place where one finds the most pleasure. In the art gallery, I started to ask the artist questions, and was left with “I do art because I like to feel free and the art represented is metaphysical;” but nothing more than that. After that encountered, I walked around the gallery and saw a wide range of paintings that genuinely appealed to me, but, in my opinion, I still could not fathom that the artist was, in a way, disconnected with his art because he was not able to clearly express what his project was at the moment, or why he chose the space that he did. Yet again, I was trying to find meaning behind the art that was being conveyed and was left to no avail.  And that’s when I started to play the art game and ask questions of meaning. Every place that I went to after, left me alone to decide what the sculptures presented.

When we visited Nittardi, a famous winery, I was in awe by their art gallery and the family’s strong connection to art. It turned out that MichelAngelo, one of the most influential artists of Italian history, owned the estate. As a way to pay homage to Michelangelo, the family continues to present art on their wine bottles. Leon, our tour guide, also stated that they place art on the bottles as a way to connect the wine with a specific emotion that they wanted their consumer to obtain while drinking it. Immediately, I asked, what are the meanings behind the artwork that they decide to put on the bottles, or how do they determine what artists are worth painting the bottles? Again, I was not really given an answer. I had to figure out the meanings behind it just for my own pure curiosity. I started to think, and came to the conclusion, that by Nittardi putting art on their wines, it showed their unique identity but also was a form of guidance to their consumers. Asking Leon the meaning behind the painting was my way of figuring out, from his perspective, what the exact experience I was supposed to have while drinking, instead of figuring it out on my own. That is the moment I realized that I could not ask the artist the meaning of his art because they would not always be there and because art is an experience and a self-leading adventure. It needs to be felt within and wrestled with. It is supposed to widen our thought process, allowing the use of imagination, feeding our inner desire of curiosity, and leaving us with more questions than answers.

Art Gallery in Radda

Art Gallery in Radda

Wine and Art: Objective Vs. Subjective

In class, we discussed whether it is better to interpret a wine through subjectivity or objectivity when the guest speaker, Leon from Nittardi, came to speak to us. The reason I am discussing wine is because wine is also a form of art. Similar to making a sculpture or a painting, the process in which wine is made is profoundly artistical. One needs all the specific ingredients in order for wine to grow successfully; in the same way when an artist uses a different brush they would have a completely distinct concluding product.  Leon argued that when doing a wine tasting, we need to view wine through an objective lens: looking at its colors, taste, and smell in order to obtain a proper description that anyone can understand; instead of using a subjective point of view because subjectivity relies on personal views. He states, “our taste are influenced by who we are as people and our past experiences (Class, 5/26).” Leon believes that we cannot suppress the idea that wine is both objective and subjective. In that instant I realized that by him putting a specific art in front of a wine bottle, and not answering my questions as to what the meaning behind the specific works of art represented, I can infer that he wanted me to have a subjective experience by allowing me to figure out the message and or signification of the art in correspond to the wine bottle. Leon’s perspective that wine is subjective and also objective reflects the question that I have been pondering all month long. Art has meaning in an objective sense and each analyst also gives it significance through their own perspective of what is occurring at the time, whether in a wine glass bottle or on a sculpture.

Art on Nittardi's labels.

Art on Nittardi’s labels.

This brings me to Elizabeth Telfer’s article “Food for thought” that we had recently discussed in class. Telfer states, “If something is a work of art, then its makers or exhibitors intended it to be look at with or listened to with intensity, for its own sake (45).” In this argument, Telfer is declaring that we should appreciate an object for the purpose that it is a work of art and not because it brings pleasure or benefits to oneself. Telfer argument is valid in the aspect of a work of art because an artist intended to position a specific art so that the interpreters could be influenced and find importance in it.  I say this because we are all humans and we are all driven by our deepest emotions. Therefore, when we look at art we can appreciate it for what it is, but at the same time in order for us to truly appreciate it, we have to find a connection with the art piece. Art by itself has substance and value, but I would not be able to appreciate it to the greatest extent if it did not have a connection to a part of my identity. Leon, for example, appreciates the wine’s taste and smells but also finds pleasure in sharing that experience with others because it showcases a part of his identity as this is what he does for a living. It is the same way with art.

Similar to food and wine, art is left to be interpreted by the individual and this interpretation changes. A wine’s aging process, for example, is a perfect model that showcases this ever-changing nature. When a wine is first bottled, it will taste differently than ten years from now because it continues to ferment. This is because it is not supposed to stay the same, and we also have to adjust to it. Similar to wines, art is something that will always be open-ended. While in his article Andrea Borghini reflects on recipes, his standpoint of recipes being open-ended also applies to the arts. He states, “As instances of a recipe keep being delivered, the recipe is bound to change… Thus, we cannot identify all the instances of those recipes, if by ‘‘all’’ we mean also future instances; because we do not know yet how the recipes will evolve and because their possible instances are countless  (Borghini, 736).” Similar to recipes, art can evolve. In the same way that it can sometimes start with a functionality, the meaning can change over time which could result in a certain piece becoming art. As time continues, the significance of the art itself can change but also the meaning that it conveys to others can mature.


Last but not least, I am going to touch on my favorite encounter with art, at a place where I would have not expected: a monastery. The monastery was the final revelation to me that I had to find my own ways to interpret art, and truly conveyed to me that I was playing a game. The art game. An artist presented me with a painting, or a sculpture and it was up to me to find my own meaning within what they gave me. While at the monastery, we were given a tour and were shown different art pieces that related to the philosophy of the monastery: which is to live well. Without me asking, the monk, Friar Roberto, stated “Art does not represent anything, it is what it represents in your heart. In each of us we have to find the sound of life.” He was the first person that directly answered my questions, but I did not necessarily agree with him. I believe that art does have meaning in itself, because the person that created it gave it meaning to their life, and while the interpreters necessarily do not know that side of the story, and have the ability to figure out their own perspective, It could not have been created if there were not ideals or experiences that the creator itself wanted to portray.  

At the monastery, Friar Roberto, explaining that everyone has to find their own sound life.

At the monastery, Friar Roberto, explaining that everyone has to find their own sound life.


Although the artists that I engaged with on this maymester have not fully communicated with me their unique perspective, I have learned that by them presenting me with a piece in itself has meaning, and my understanding of their work also gives the artwork magnitude. Friar Roberto once said, “To live is to wait for those moments when we are stuck.” I have found those moments to be when I am gazing deeply into an object, and seeing it in it’s most profound beauty. Art has significance because it is art, but it also has significance because we are able to observe it using our imagination which allow us to undergo a magical experience. Thank you Italy, for giving me a new profound love!



Vines, Wines, and Market Lines: Going from Nature to Cultures

June 18th, 2016 by vrai17

Every wine has a story. It starts from the very grapes it was made of and ends when the bottle is emptied—or in some cases when the stomach is emptied. However, somewhere in between the transformation and transportation of the wine, its story is lost and so is its value. And without the story and knowledge about the wine, the consumers are left bereft of one of the pleasures they might have gotten, which is knowing where their food comes from.

The Art of Making Wine: Nurturing the Nature

“The farmer has, therefore, his tools and his technical knowledge: he cultivates an art of working the land [terre] which is also a violence against the land [terre].This violence must temper and sublimate itself in a taking care of this earth [terre]. The farmer causes nature to suffer, but while making nature suffer, he makes of it a culture—insofar, however, as he dedicates to it a cult.” – Bernard Stiegler

Fattoria Le Fonti

Fattoria Le Fonti

Le Fonti's grape vine.

Le Fonti’s grape vine.









In order to make wine, one has to start with the grapes, whether it be Sangiovese, Cabernet, Merlot, etc. The grapes, once de-stemmed, are placed in a tank where they are pressed gently for the juice. The juice along with the grape skins are left in the tank for the first fermentation to take place. During these first few weeks of fermentation, the wine has to be kept being mixed or circulated from the bottom to the top so that the skins don’t dry out. At the same time, the temperature has to be kept under check so that the heat from the fermentation doesn’t burn the sugar or nutrients or kill the bacteria and yeast in the wine. Once this phase is over, the skins are removed and the wine is moved to another tanks or container for the second fermentation. Once again the temperature has to be maintained. In this is second tank is where the aging of the wine occurs. Chianti Classico wines are supposed to be aged at least for one year.

However, for the wine producers like Vicky Schmitt-Vitali of Le Fonti in Chianti, it is not just about following the steps to make wine and selling it, for them making wine is “like taking care of a baby”. It starts with creating a relationship and taking care of nature: the grape vines and the land. The producers of the Chianti region, especially the producers of Panzano, believe in working with the land. They know the composition of the soil and what variety of grapes that would grow best in it, and where they lack knowledge they get help from the experts. They all participate in biological farming, Panzano Sustainable Territory Project. They don’t use any pesticides or chemicals. Instead, they plant grasses, wheat, peas and other nitrogen fixing plants to symbiotically help the grape vines gain nutrients and be free of harmful insects. Similarly, roses are planted because the pests infect them first and so, the producers have enough time to protect the vines before they get infected. Even then, they use sulfur and copper as biological pesticide as opposed to chemicals that may harm the ecosystem and community. As opposed to that, Ronald Sandler explains in his article that about 900 million pounds of pesticide and herbicide and 12 ton of fertilizers are used in United States for agriculture annually, which contaminate the air and water and cause adverse effects in the organism of that ecosystem.

In these small scaled—as compared to industrial— wine production, the producers really pay attention to their vines and try to understand what it needs best to flourish. For example, if they see that the plant is stressed due to having too many branches, they cut some down. They also hand-pick and hand-select their grapes for the different wines. Each producer has their own artisanal way of making wine and they choose the type of barrel or tank, depending on the way they want their wine to mature and what they think will be best for the wine. Hence, no addition of yeast is needed to support the fermentation. It is in this taking care and nurturing of the nature and cultivating grapes to become wine that Stiegler’s statement applies. Although, these producers may have changed and caused violence over the land for beautification and production of wine, they take responsibility and take care of it. Additionally, they are also respectful of the grapes and wine, and are looking to produce something of quality rather than quantity. It is also in this moment that they are transforming nature into culture, and with the way they are performing this act they are adding meaning and value to the product—wine— that is being produced.

Lost in Translation

“Scoring wines at all—still more confidently assigning a numerical score to a particular wine as an assessment of its taste, smell, and related organoleptic virtues—is a de-contextualizing gesture.” – Steven Shapin

As the process of making wine nears to an end, the wine enters the world of tasting games that exists with its own standards and languages. In Chianti, especially, the wines meant to be Chianti Classico are blind tasted by officials sent by the government who decide whether the wine for that year is fit to be Chianti Classico or not. Already the story of how that wine was made is de-valued as the wine is de-contextualized to see if it fits the “standard”. If the wine does pass to become a Chianti Classico, it has to be bottled into a certain shape and sized bottle, with a natural cork, and geographical indication labels. The only creative freedom left for the producers then are their own name labels. Even then, the producers make sure to try and convey a few stories. For example, Nittardi’s Leon Femfert explained how different artists are annually commissioned to create art for Nittardi wine labels as a way to pay homage to Michelangelo Buonarroti, who once owned that wine estate and had his own reverence for wine. Similarly, the hares on the label of Le Fonti’s IGT wine symbolizes the hares that are live in the area and are in an ecological relationship with the vineyards and the land. But even these stories are stripped away when these wines are blind tasted.

Art on Nittardi's labels.

Art on Nittardi’s labels.

Blind wine tasting in class.

Blind wine tasting in class.








Wine scorers like Robert Parker who perform blind tastings completely decontextualize the wine and score solely based on “taste, smell, and related organoleptic virtues” (Shapin, 2011). But by doing so, the more ‘natural’ or ‘biological’ way some of the wines are being produced is being ignored. And they are being placed at the same starting level as those that are industrially made with imported grapes that are not grown by themselves, use of pesticides and chemicals in vines, addition of yeast to the fermentation process, etc. As Claude Fischler pointed out one of the reasons how identifying food is more difficult now is because “food technology is becoming increasingly powerful in the sense that it now uses more and more sophisticated processes tending to mask, imitate and transform ‘natural’ or ‘traditional’ products: reconstituted proteins, artificial flavours, preserving techniques, etc.” (1988). Similar things could be done to wine, because as Shapin has pointed out, when one finds that the wine smells like “bell peppers” it’s not because it contains bell peppers but because both the bell peppers and the wine contain the same kind of molecule that lends to that particular smell. A wine then could be easily manipulated technologically to have a certain taste or smell by containing certain molecules. This process of considering the value of wine may change later but for now it remains this way, and as the story lost along this translation from nature to tasting culture, consequences do arise.

Market Culture

“All the world’s wines are available to them and they have no special reason–other than metrics of prestige and price—to embrace wines of one type and place over another.” – Steven Shapin

Chianti Classico section in San Lorenzo food market in Florence.

Chianti Classico section in San Lorenzo food market in Florence.

In the city of Florence, near the famous touristic and religious attraction—the Duomo— there exists a building with a modern food market in San Lorenzo. In the market amongst the variety of food vendors stands an enoteca, part of which is dedicated solely to Chianti Classico wines. In the shelves of this part, however, are hundreds of bottles of wines, each with different label—which is the only symbol of their story. Though it can be argued that the people, the consumers in Florence do have some knowledge about Chianti and it’s wines. The wine seller could explain to any costumers some story of Chianti, but this would be a much general one compared to the one of the specific wines form specific wineries. In the same way, a wine store in United States will have many different wines from all over the world but not their stories. And since we already live fast lives in the States and not much time to spare on trying to learn about all the different wines or food for that matter, we end up being blind consumers, consuming whatever is marketed as “best” or as food to us. Hence, like Shapin says, the only way to decide which wine is best, then, is by the price or by the score or stars the wine has gotten from blind tastings which may not even be fair at times. For instance, wine made by an industry that doesn’t take care or take up responsibility toward the ecosystem could end up having a higher score or price than an artisanal biological one. The consumer, on the other hand, wouldn’t be aware and just assume that the most expensive or the one with most scoring is the best. Therefore, it is important that the story of how the wine was made be taken into consideration, and carried along and not lost during translation of wine from the nature into the culture and transportation from one culture to another.

The “Recipe” for Pleasure

“The pleasure of eating should be an extensive pleasure, not that of the mere gourmet.” – Wendell Berry

Getting to the conclusion that we are becoming blind consumers of wine then, leads us to what Wendell Berry discusses in his article: “eating is an agricultural act”—well in this case drinking or consuming wine too, is an agricultural act. And so, if we are ignoring how the wine was produced, consuming wine that was produced with the use of environmentally harmful chemicals, then we are acting as “industrial eater” and are suffering from our own“cultural amnesia” and being controlled by the market culture, heavily relying on ratings, prices and advertising. By not knowing where or how the wine is produced, we are missing out on the pleasure that we’d get from knowing where the food comes from and knowing that we are part of the “agricultural act”. So then, perhaps the “recipe” for this kind of pleasure is knowing the recipe—recipe being the “idea” or “information about how to prepare and—in some cases—how to consume a dish” (Borghini, 2015). But in this case, it is not to imitate the dish, the wine, but rather to have the knowledge—to have the story—in order to get “extensive pleasure”. And it is key to keep in mind that recipes evolve. So we just have to keep learning the new ones, or sometimes it is the old ones that are brought back with subtle changes. For example, Le Cinciole’s Valeria and Lucca’s new recipe of placing full grapes in a circular container letting it go through all the steps and fermentations and not adding sulfur in the end. Therefore, not letting the story, the recipe, get lost along the way of the wine going from nature to cultures is important because it allows for the consumer to know they are part-taking in the agricultural act and to be able to gain pleasure from doing so. And even if it does get lost, the consumer should make the effort to learn as much as possible.


Berry, Wendell. Pleasure of Eating.
Borghini, Andrea. What is a Recipe?
Fischler, Claude. Food, Self and Identity.
Sandler, Ronald. Food Ethics.
Shapin, Steven. The Taste of Wine: Remarks on Its Cultural History.
Stiegler, Bernard. Take Care.

Women in the World of Food Philosophy of Food-Tuscany, 2016

June 18th, 2016 by lmfria18


Sunset from Chianti

Sunset from Chianti

 Keeping Up with Traditions

“Caterina vieni qui!” You knew it was Friday when you found yourself at Lele’s and heard these words. This seemed to be Lele’s favorite phrase for the first few cooking lessons we had. Although Lele seems to be accepting of contemporary ways, her traditional instincts make appearances through the distinction in her actions towards MC (Caterina) and her husband Josh. During the beginning of the program, Josh became a student during these cooking lessons when he sat beside us and watched the food preparation of the day. Despite his clear interest for the kitchen, every now and then Lele would call MC, who was in the other room preparing the next philosophy lesson with Pr. Borghini, so that she can come over and prepare her own meal clear of any gluten. At this point, I don’t believe Lele had realized that the couple she had before her isn’t her “traditional” married couple, in which the woman takes her place in the kitchen as the man makes the money for the family. Instead MC and Josh are the perfect example of a couple that defy gender roles and make it work. For many generations before us, society has constructed expectations tied to genders, one being the one mentioned above. These expectations minimize the importance or value of a women within the world of food but women play an important role in maintaining identity and culture within this field.

MC (Caterina) & Josh

MC (Caterina) & Josh

Undervalued Women in Food Industries

The societal expectation of women’s position solely belonging in the kitchen, harms the progression for women’s position and respect in the world of food. Heather Paxson brings up the significance of gender roles within the production of cheese, “Initially a farm chore for which pioneer wives were responsible, making cheese by hand in the United States was transformed into a blue-collar job and then, post-industrial, into a vocation,” (Paxton, 41). Even though women introduced the production of cheese, they don’t seem to be getting much credit for the complex and lucrative industry that it has become. It isn’t ironic that when there was a shift in class from simple farmers to college graduates, there was also a shift in gender domination. Not only do these shifts reflect lack of opportunity for women in the past (since the people with higher education tended to be men) but also the undervalue of women in industries related to food. This lack of value is clearly seen when you compare the attention and progression that was present in cheesemaking while it was a female-dominated field and after it became male-dominated.

This lack of value for women in the world of food is also evident when you think about famous chefs. Amongst the top we have, Guy Fieri, Bobby Fla, and of course we can’t forget the infamous Gordon Ramsey! How many famous chefs can you name that are women? Probably very little and even if you do think of one it may take you a while to land that answer. This conversation hits closer to Panzano when you compare the fame of Dario Cecchini to Mamma Lele. Dario is known worldwide for his butcher shop and restaurants to the level that people fly from all over the world to visit him in Panzano. On the other hand, we have Lele, the sweetest woman you can ever meet who has great recipes to teach and culture enriching stories that relate to those recipes. The biggest difference between them both is their gender. As a woman, specially in Italy, Lele is expected to know many recipes and to be able to cook great dishes but since men don’t carry that same weight to care and feed their family, it is more valued and admirable when men are able to do the jobs that are “meant” to be performed by women. In this way, Dario may be more valued than Lele.

This issue of lacked value for women and sense of glorification of men in the world of food relates to the sociological term, the glass escalator. The glass escalator represents the way in which men are able to ease to the top when working in a female-dominated field, while women in a male-dominated field have a lot more difficulty rising to the top (2014). This glass escalator is present within the world of food when one thinks of the burden or responsibilities of food being held by women (thanks to our “traditional” ways, in which a women’s place is in the kitchen). So the men in this world of food, such as Dario, swiftly climb the

Lele teaching me how to peal tomatoes

Lele teaching me how to peal tomatoes

glass escalator and rise to become these master chefs that are known worldwide, while women are expected to be cooking and maintain that place and identity in the kitchen. In other words, when women cook great meals it is simply expected of them, while men who cook great meals hold a golden medal.


Culture Lives through Women and Kitchen

One of the best dishes we have made at Lele’s was the arista pillottata, a pork loin. Cooking it was so easy, I can even count all the ingredients used on one hand; arista (pork loin), garlic, rosemary, coarse salt and olive oil. All it takes is to first massage the arista with olive oil – chop the salt, rosemary, and garlic altogether – massage one more time with the chopped ingredients – and the oven will do the rest. Aside from the great food that Lele cooks for us, she also demonstrates that although traditions flaw in limiting the progression of the woman’s place in society, the traditions of women in the kitchen continue a sense of identity and culture.

Even if a tradition is no longer be present, women are able to maintain and share at least the significance of old cultural values through the kitchen. Lele has great stories to tell as she and her friends teach us how to cook their dishes. There is one about the tradition of the mezzaluna, a crescent knife that is normally used with a wooden cutting board. The old Italian tradition was that a new bride would get a gift of a mezzaluna and the cutting board. After the marriage, the mother-in-law would occasionally check if her son’s wife is cooking for him by observing the cutting board. If she has been cooking as she should, the mezzaluna will have worn down the middle of the cutting board. Although this tradition is no longer performed, it is important for the culture in Tuscany. This relationship between tool and culture connects to Wendell Berry’s idea of cultural amnesia. He argues that we loose a part of our culture when we don’t know what we are eating. In this case, if a person from Tuscany is oblivious to what goes into or the process of making IMG_3761arista, s/he is likely to also be oblivious to the story behind the mezzaluna and the tradition it represents. This story not only tells the history and traditions that the females in his/her family had embraced and also the value behind using fresh ingredients to make meals that are both delicious and healthy. In becoming oblivious to the use of the mezzaluna this person is loosing the pride that Tuscans place in their fresh produce, which is a very important aspect their cultural identity. Cultural amnesia is an important problem that we must face because we have a bad habit of not caring for what goes into our foods. In doing so, we not only distance ourselves from the identity of our culture.

Women are valuable tools for maintaining the identity of a culture. Paxson wrote, “A gendered class difference between blue-and-white collar labor may also obscure today’s connoisseur’s and artisan’s ability to recognize the “tradition of the cheese maker’s art” in early American artisan factors,” (Paxton, 41). The lack of women in these fields now have lead to the loss of the traditions that existed in cheese making once before. It may be true that the shift in gender had also shifted the main focus of cheesemaking. In the past women made cheese to provide food for family and it was an opportunity to make a little money. Although back then it wasn’t considered an art, the artisanal method women used in the past is now being used more.  so it was more of an art. While now it is easy to fall in to cultural amnesia in regards to becoming a mainstream factory and valuing capitalism before everything else. When women were dominant in the field of cheesemaking, the cheese was made through an artisanal method, which created a sense of identity and culture amongst cheesemaking. Nowadays, the culture and identity has been lost amongst the many variations of cheesemaking and focus. In the end, the fact that women are no longer dominating the cheesemaking industry has let a piece of the culture and identity die.


Women are important in the world of food and not just in their home kitchen. Historically they’ve demonstrated an authentic way of maintaining pieces of cultural identity within the world of food. Therefore, we need to appreciate the role of women within the world of food because society as a whole has the tendency to minimize her position in the world of food since it is an expectation of gender role in the home.

-Leyda Frías, 2018




Berry, Wendell. The Pleasures of Eating.

Paxson, Heather. Cheese Cultures, 2010.

WGST Course, 2014

The Return of the Cowboy: The only way to ethically farm cattle

June 18th, 2016 by vajack18

I believe it is important to be someone who has an opinion, someone who stands for something, someone whose actions takes a step closer to a better world. An integral part of this life includes contemplating ethical choices of what enables us to sustain this life, food. I can proudly say that I try to educate myself in regards to the source and quality of food that I consume. I started five years ago, by boycotting fast food restaurants on the basis of the cruelty and the morally repulsive living conditions of the animals that they raise. I then turned to the quality of grocery store products and forced my family to shop at Whole Foods. And now living away from home, where I cannot control the quality of the food available to me, I limit my consumption of meat. In part, this, what I then considered, a strict moral code is what drew me to this Maymester. I saw it as a course talking about what I already spent so much time revising in my own life, a confirmation, that in contrast to those around me, I am eating responsibly. However, what this Maymester, through both class lectures and our excursions to farms, has helped me realize is that my individual silent protest is not enough. Passively sitting next to my friends while they eat a big mac, or a burger from lower Kimball is not enough. In doing so I am just removing myself from the problem. There is much more to be contemplated in regards to the ethical consumption of meat and there should be a more systemic approach.
My New View Point:
Rooted in my experiences here, I have come up with a new mode of moral conduct based on a deeper understanding of the problem at hand and the feasible solutions, that if the production of certain foods cannot be ethically done, then it should not be done at all. And it is our job as consumers to collectively not support unethical practice with our patronage.
What I Consider to be Ethical Food Production:
Peter Singer in his book, “Animal Liberation,” addresses the ethical problems of meat consumption. He calls for the adoption of a vegetarian diet as the only solution to what he calls speciesism, which he defines as “a prejudice or basis in favor of the interest of member’s of one’s own species and against those of other species (Singer, 1975). He argues that because animals can suffer that they should receive equal consideration of interest, that we are not justified in the killing and eating of animals just for our benefit of satisfying the want of meat (Singer, 1975). Though Singer makes several good points, I don’t think that vegetarianism is the solution to the ethical problem of animal sufferance or that animal sufferance is that ethical problem at hand. Yes, animals are suffering by our hand but suffering is an inescapable part of life. As Stiegler states in his article “Taking Care,” agriculture, the act of eating, is to commit violence, to both plants and animals, in other words to inflict suffering. With that in mind, we not only cause the suffering of animals but also the sufferance of plants (Stiegler, 2006). By using Singer’s definition of the ability to suffer as a way to argue that we as humans are speciesist and to promote vegetarianism, then are we then not still speciesist by causing the suffering of plants and of the land? Should we then not eat plants as well? The consumption of plants and animals does not make us speciesist because humans need substance, just like any other animal that needs substance and obtains it through the consumption of other living entities. Instead, as Stiegler suggest, we must come to terms that death and suffering are apart of life; that we need to inflict violence in order to survive. That life is cyclical and we cannot hold this tragic conception of death. Death is part of life and the life I take and the suffering I inflict returns to me upon my death. Therefore, it is not the presence of sufferance, but undue sufferance that is ethically problematic. Before I can address what kind of agricultural practices I believe do not perpetuate undue sufferance to those that we consume, I first have to define what undue sufferance means to me. In the case of plants undue sufferance is caused by the exploitation of the land through the use of pesticides and other practices that leads to soil erosion and eventually, the infertility of the land. In regards to animals, undue suffering is the lack of adequate cleanliness and size of living quarters, the inability to graze, the administrations of growth hormones, and excessive infanticide. This can be achieved by biological farming of plants and animals.
How This Effects My Food Consumption:
During this maymester, I have seen several instances in which biological farming not only met my ethical criteria but was also economically profitable such as the vineyards of Le Fonti, Le Cinciole, and Nittardi, as well as the goat cheese producer in Greve, thus illustrating that ethical production of most food can be done while still maintain profitability. However, during my time in Italy there has been one exception that I have consistently saw where biological farming is not feasible, and that is in the production of beef. It was either not profitable, such as in Dario’s project; not of high enough standard, such as in Sabatino’s farm; or not re-creatable such as in the Maremmana.
Dario’s Project:
The economic infeasibility of the ethical farming of cattle is exemplified in Dario’s project. Dario’s project is an experiment in which he is currently raising approximately 55 Chianina, a large white breed of cow for their full life span. He also allows them to graze, thus creating the ideal, humane living situation for domesticated cattle until they reach the end of their life at which they will then they will be killed and butchered for consumption. Dario’s project was the first farm I visited while in Tuscany, therefore I had nothing to compare the experience to and no expectation of what a good farm should look like. Despite this, I was still struck by the beauty of the place and majesty of the massive snow-white cow. No one had to tell me that raising this large animal for upwards of twelve years is an expensive endeavor. As I learned from our guide, Tommy, as well as from class discussions, this way of raising cows is very costly and thus impractical for several different reasons. One of the main reasons is the length of cultivation. In order allow for the cow to live out its life in its entirety, one has to care for it for its entire life span, approximately 14 years. That means if you buy a cow today no profit can be made until fourteen years later and during those fourteen years you have to invest a significant amount of money, to feed it, to care for it, and to pay vet bills. That means you invest money for fourteen years before you ever see a return on that money. Another significant factor is that land is finite. In order to avoid undo suffering to the cow there needs to be ample living quarters and grazing land, which is one of the most expensive commodities. Another aspect to consider is the marketability of the end product. Meat in the industrial food market typically comes from cows that are young and never had much exercise. Because of this, the taste and texture of the meat is much different then the meat of the Chianina cows in Dario’s project, which will be much more gamey and tough than what the average consumer’s pallet is accustomed to and therefore what they enjoy. In addition, because of the expensive process of raising the meat, the price of the meat would be exponentially more expensive then the average steak, therefore you would have to sell “bad” meat at higher price than what consumers would pay for meat they they consider to taste good, or you would have to retrain the pallet of the consumer to like the taste of the Chianina. Both options do not make sense and therefore Dario’s project would not work in a capitalist market and is only possible now through Dario’s wealth and celebrity status.

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Sabatino’s Farm:
Unlike Dario’s experiment, the next farm I visited, Sabatino’s, is the best currently used farming method to commercially produce meat. However, without first being told this, I would never have come to that conclusion on my own. The barn itself was small, dark and had a strong pungent odor. The air was so thick that I felt claustrophobic and I was on the other side of the metal bars, on the free side, with autonomy to leave to get fresh air, unlike my bovine counter parts. In comparison to Dario’s Chianina, the animals seemed unhappy. There were two young calves separated from each other and from their parents, bottle feed instead of being nursed by their mother. The adult cows were confined in small areas and never graze, never to see the outside world. There short life, all they know is the inside of that barn, until they are sent off to the slaughterhouse at the ripe age of 24 months. I would not consider it to be a good quality of life or any quality at all. It may be one step above cruelty but it is not humane and certainty is causing undue suffering. Though it is better than industrial meat production, by no means it is a good way to produce meat. In addition to what I consider subpar living conditions for the animals, Sabatino’s farm is no longer fiscally viable either and thus his farm and this way of farming is becoming extinct and most likely won’t continue on to the next generation. So essentially the most humane way of raising beef is slowly dying out, and replaced by the morally repulsive industrial farming. It was after this experience that I started to really evaluate my consumption of beef.IMG_6406 IMG_6416 IMG_6412

Maremmana and the Butteri:                                                                                                          The only place that was ethically and economically viable in regards to raising cattle was at the Maremma National Park, where modern day butteri, the Italian version of a cowboy (though they don’t like to be called the “c” word), raise the Maremmana. Walking onto the farm was like walking into a John Wayne movie. There were beautiful brown horses in a wooden fence enclosure, workers in cowboy hats and jeans, and huge expanses of land where the cows happily roam with little to no restrictions, a luxury even Dario’s Chianina do not have. The scene fit my schema of what I imagine the American Wild West was like and seemed to be a haven for the Maremmana. Though this was by far the best environment for cattle that I have seen, there were still instances of undue suffering. One these instances is the separation between mother and calf when the calf is still at a young age, about 8 months. This separation causes both parties a significant amount of distress. Secondly, the Maremmana endure undue suffering through the way the butteri try to maintain bio diversity. They do this by selecting only cows with the distinctive characteristics that a Maremmana should have to reproduce in order to maintain the purity of the breed. The problem with this is that those who do not meet the criteria are then sold at a young age to the beef industry. Another hole in this practice is that it is solely based on the cow’s phenotype, which is not indicative of its genotype and therefore does not actually ensure bio diversity. Without these two practices, which can easily be changed without affecting the profitability of the endeavor, the way in which the butteri raise there cattle does not cause any undue suffering.

In addition to its high ethical standards, this farm is actually economically sustainable as well. Unfortunately, the characteristics that make it so are not re-creatable for two reasons: 1) The land 2) The breed of cow that naturally inhabits the land. The fact that the land is a national park, meaning it is own by the government, means that those who farm on that land do not have to pay for it, thus reducing the cost of production significantly. This is not usually the case, so to recreate this somewhere else the farmer would have to own the land, which is expensive. What also makes it economically viable is that the Maremmana are natural inhabitants of the land. They had and continue to have the ability to sustain themselves on the land provide without the butteri needing supply them with a food source, thus lowering the cost of raising them. This is also only possible because of the anatomical structure of the Maremmana, which is closer to their undomesticated ancestors as opposed to other domesticated cows. Therefore, they have the physiological characteristics that enable them to survive with little interference. Such characteristics include, a larger stomach that allows them to digest a diet high in cellulose, more blood vessels in there chest to help regulate their body temperature, thick skin which reduces the amount of puncture wounds that one could get from pushes and other vegetation, large horns found on both the males and females of the species that allows them to push through shrubbery, and height which enables them to navigate the marshy lands. It is the culmination of all these interdependent components: the cows, the land, and those who care for them, the butteri, that makes the Maremmana not only economically profitable but also morally ethical endeavor. It would be hard, if not impossible, to recreate this complex structure in other places, thus furthering that there is no way to ethically continue our consumption of beef as a global society. And even if we could create environments like this in other countries, there would still have to be great changes in the expectation of the quality of meat, what we will be willing to pay for it, and how much we consume. Much like the meat of Dario’s Chianina, the Maremmana and those raised in a similar way, would produce meat that is much tougher and gammier. And since the animals there would not be mass produced there would be significantly less beef available, therefore one would not only have to change their pallet but also the amount of beef they consume, and the amount of money willing to be spent on what would be a scarce food.

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Conclusion:                                                                                                                                               As I said before, I believe if there is no way in which the production of certain foods can be ethical, it is the best to abstain from it. Upon reflecting on my experience here in Tuscany, I have come to the conclusion that the only ethical way to produce beef that is also economically sustainable is the structure exemplified through the butteri and the Maremmana. Unless there is a world wide return of the cowboy, I do not think the production of beef can or will improve. So until the day the cowboy returns, I will be abstaining from eating beef as well as all bovine dairy products. More importantly, though I spent the majority of this paper talking about the realization that the beef industry is amoral at its core, the greatest lesson I took away from this course is not my stance on eating beef, but the skills I learned that got me to this well-informed point of view. This maymester has taught me to think critically and helped me understand the amount of research and time need to just contemplating the information to reach my truth. And that my truth is not static, it needs to be revaluated and reassessed as the state of nature and thus the food industry continues to change.

The Artisans Behind the Vision

June 17th, 2016 by kalena19

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Katherine Lenahan
Professor Borghini & Professor MacDonald
17 June 2016

Throughout our time here, we have learned about food production in a unique way. From the process that ingredients go through to the way in which we taste these products and deconstruct them with our tastebuds, food and wine are more complex than I ever imagined. In order to understand how to deconstruct the components of each artist’s creation. I met multiple artists with each stop that we made, and learned about their method to their art, including the craftsmanship that is apart of each of their pieces. When we met with wine producers and butchers such as Dario and Vicky, we met artists that truly shape their products that reflects their innate creativity that yields an irreplaceable experience with each meal or bottle of wine that is created. Speaking with these artists in and around Panzano was a great experience and understanding their methods was essential, however with each artist that we met, we truly did not have the opportunity to understand the artists that remain behind the faces of the main artists such as Dario or Vicky. Dario and Vicky may be the heads of their projects, but they are not the rest of the body; they are not the hands that pick all of the grapes, feed all of the cows, trim the vines, and cut all of the meat. My objective in this paper is to capture the viewpoint of the layers of artists that reside behind the heads of these studios and correct the disconnect that we have with them in order to fully understand the importance of multiple aspects of the artwork that we experienced.
What is an artist?
An artist is an individual or a group of individuals who can convey their inner thoughts and emotions through a medium that an audience can interpret, and this interpretation can be through our senses or through our emotions. Telfer and I clash in regard to categorizing art; she feels that a “work of art” is something that its creator wanted it to be looked at “with intensity, for its own sake.” Telfer continues to expand upon this argument, but her ideas also encompass the concept that we cannot have an aesthetic reaction to taste or smell. Her definition directly clashes with mine because I feel that after experiencing extensive wine tastings and food samplings that I am moved in a way that a painting or a sculpture cannot capture. Taking her definition, it is essential to see that when we are served wine for example, we taste wine with an intensity that is unmatched with any other beverage that I consume to the point where I take notes about the wine just as some take notes about art that they view in a museum or gallery. Food is a major art that infiltrates my senses and emotions in a way that is unlike any other form of art. Telfer also argues that food is not a major art because we destroy upon consumption, however we criticize art when we visually and emotionally interpret it. In both cases we are “destroying” the art that is either hanging on the wall or on the table before us. Dario has captured the definition of an artist and this is evident from his restaurants which are his galleries atmosphere that he creates for individuals to interpret his work. Therefore it is evident that his dishes are considered major works of art. Through the definition that I provided above, the love, respect and savory flavors that are present in his work reflect the definition of an artist and are evident in each bite. We can better understand my interpretation through two cases, Dario Cecchini & Vicky Schmitt.
Dario the Sculptor, the Waiters the Chisels:
Dario is the master butcher, genius, and moderator of his butcher shop, but his genius shines with the layers of artisans that work for him. Their feelings toward this process reflect the overall product. The servers feel as if they are apart of a family and create an experience that is a form of art. This perspective is essential to understand because their contribution in their everyday work is an extension of Dario’s vision and without feeling this way towards his vision, we as interpreters of this art would not connect to a man who’s personality is overpowering and who’s meat would be seen as merely “special.” They are indispensable because they convey Dario’s message through their art of serving. Even though Dario’s genius is admirable, Dario can be an intimidating figure to approach, and the artisans behind his vision create an environment that aides the viewer in dissecting the art that they receive from Dario’s. These two entities are interconnected in such a way that truly makes this process an art form. Borghini explains how dishes and recipes are different but connected in the sense that “a dish is the stuff and the recipe is the idea,”; just as Dario’s artisans are the “dish” that contribute to the recipe, which is his vision. Borghini’s explanation of the importance of this phenomena is essential to consider in order to fully understand Dario’s craft. The combination of the art of service and the vision that Dario produces is not only beautiful cuts of meat but also a complex relationship with animals, that makes his work true art because we can consume it with our senses as well as just through vision and interpret its meaning. This significance and emotional complexities that exist in the ethical dilemma that we have as meat eaters makes us feel in some ways as if we are truly appreciating the creation that nature provides. This process is unmatched by any other medium that Telfer may try to argue because it is an organic experience that encapsulates so many emotional responses that we do not quite understand what we have experienced until after the meal. Dario’s work is a major art that cannot convey its true meaning to its audience without the layers of artisans behind his vision that truly convey the experience of joy and understanding of the creation.
Vicky at Le Fonti & Social Structure:
Vicky is another artist who has artisans behind her vision to better shape the taste that she encapsulates into her wine. Le Fonti’s workers encompass a multitude of backgrounds that influence the wine. The artisans are comprised of both Italians who chose to work in the fields as a vocation as well as the Eastern European immigrants who fled violence in their home countries of Albania and Kosovo. Vicky explained that they are all hard workers who enjoy their work in the fields and strive to pick only the best grapes for the winery. They enjoy their work because of the healthy and respectful relationship that Vicky has with the growers, which yields a more fruitful result. These workers are a part of the exception to the food system because they are not fiscally valued as a form of labor and their methods are not standardized which means that Vicky is willing to pay for more hours from them if there are slower field workers during the harvest time; it is not solely about quantity, but quality. The environment specifically at Le Fonti is dissimilar from the food system because the process to create wine is not as industrial as other larger wineries, as a result, the workers are treated better. Sandler provides a profile of workers that includes characteristics of immigrants and their risk of deportation, however, Vicky articulated that many of her workers who are Albanian or of Eastern European descent are so grateful to have an opportunity that supports a new life for them. The Italian workers are continuing an art that represents the region and is an art that is critical to generating quality in the product. This critical because the quality is something that we can smell, see, and taste and from our senses and detect flavors that vary from berries to vanilla and others that connect emotions and memories, making the tasting a powerful experience. This art is generated through a thoughtful harvest process; some artists creating other art forms convey suffering while others convey love, joy, or remnants of their culture through their process. In this case, the Eastern European field workers pick grapes knowing that the grapes represent freedom, and infuse this feeling into their work. This is why a bottle of wine is more emotional than we actually realize; when we consume it, we are not only tasting our memories, our thoughts, and our feelings, but we are tasting with it the artists’ aspirations and emotions as well.This is more powerful than Telfer’s examples of visual art because we are interpreting the wine that we consume in a communal way that is not present at a gallery.

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The artists that we met with are essential to representing this region and to generating paths to food resources that are ethical and delicious. The flavors that they pass to us connect us to memories and emotions in a way unlike any painting. Additionally, when we consume these products we are able to the emotions and sentiments that the artisans wanted to convey in a way that speaks to our own feelings and ideas. With out the artisans behind Dario and Vicky, their visions would be very different realities.

The Beautification of the land and Tourism

June 17th, 2016 by mmnguy18


Tourism is a controversial topic. On one hand tourism helps the area through increasing economic activities, while on the contrary, tourism exploits the culture and land. It is not strange that tourists would have a particular image and assumption of where he or she visits. As a result, to cater to their presumption image of the land, some places would change the landscape and environment so that the area can match what the tourists would want to see. In a sense, the process of changing the landscape to match the idealistic image is beautifying the land. However, it comes with a price. Countless numbers of violence have been done to the land, which includes animals and plants. There is a thin line between using violence to improve the land and harming the land, and this line needs to be observed and monitored closely.


Panzano: the ‘Golden Valley.’

Panzano is a small town that is located in the region of Chianti in Tuscany. The region of Chianti is known for its wines, especially the Chianti Classico wine. Despite being in a region that is known for the production of a particular type of wine, Panzano’s nickname used to be the ‘Golden Valley’ before the landscape changes. The reason why the town was given the nickname is that in the past, wheat was the main crop. During the harvest season, the wheat would have changed the color of the green valley into a deep gold color. As a matter of fact, Chianti used to be a significant producer of gains up until around the nineteenth century. A.M. Baldini mentions that

“One of the most productive areas for wheat was, in fact, the Conca d’Oro of Panzano, and as harvest time approached it was exactly what the name says, a golden basin of ripening wheat. It was only post-war years that wheat was replaced by the increasingly lucrative crop yielding olive oil and wine” (Baldini, Baldini and profile).

It is interesting that the crops transitions from wheat to olives and grapes because it represents the transition growing certain crops because they are necessary to grow certain crops because the will eventually yield more profit. Not only do the grapes, and the olives can be sold for more than the wheat when they are harvested, but the process of turning them into wines and olive oils can increase their net worth substantially. 

This picture is taken on one of the vineyard in Panzano.

This picture is taken on one of the vineyards in Panzano.

   Another reason to why these certain crops bring in more profit is that they cater and match the tourist opinion of Tuscany and Chianti. Dr. Martino Danielli, a naturalist, raises the points that, “The Chianti wine became very famous by the late ’80s and many more fields have been changed in the vineyard. Before that in Panzano in Chianti, farmers produced many more cereals, fruit and oil and the landscape was more varied” (Martino Danielli). Due to the popularity of the Chianti wines, the wineries have to expand and convert the land so that they can accommodate the demanding market.

This is an image of one of the vineyards.

This is an image of one of the vineyards.

   The increase in the popularity of the wines attracts the tourist to come and visit the area. Some people tend to have a mental conception of what Chianti is supposed to look like. Usually, that will be of endless rows of vineyards and olive trees. This preconceived notion of what Chianti can affect its economic. This is because it will influence the tourists’ desire to visit and to see the landscape. However at the same time, if the real image of Chianti does not match the tourists’ mental image of Chianti, it might cause them not wanting to go back and in the process, decrease the tourist activity in Chianti. By having this knowledge, the landscapes are altered to correspond the desired image.


‘Baking Soda’ Beach    

'Baking Soda' Beach

‘Baking Soda’ Beach

Even though most beautification processes are intentional, in some cases, it can be an unintentional result. Near the city of Castiglioncello, there is a long stretch of beach that looks magnificent. Spiagge Bianche (the white beach) or also known as the ‘Baking Soda’ beach is a beach that has fine white sand and turquoise water. The reason why this beach has a breathless view is that of the byproduct of the baking soda plant that is close to the beach’s vicinity. The addition of the baking soda is changing the water color from a deep ocean blue into a cloudy turquoise, and the white sand is coated with dustings of baking soda.

As of right now, it is uncertain if the baking soda is affecting the ocean ecology in a IMG_2244negative way, but one thing for sure is that the beach looks breathtaking. The beach appearance has lure many visitors and tourists to visit the beach. The idea of being on the beach that is covered with fine white sand and amazing color water is tempting to most people. Spiagge Bianche is a rare case of which the unintentional beautification of the land triggers the influx of tourists and not the other way around, which is tourism triggering the beautification process of the land.

Violence on the Land

   When dealing with nature, especially changing the landscape, there is always an act of violence on the land itself. A simple trimming of the brown leaf is also considered to be an act of violence because the person is physically severing a part of the plant, hence hurting the plant even if the person is trimming the plant with the purpose of trying to take care of the plant. “Taking care in Greek is called therapeuma, The farmer cares for the living at the same time as the does its violence… The farmer, therefore, his tools and his technical knowledge: he cultivates an art of working the land… which is also violence against the land” (Stiegler, 2). In the very beginning of every farmland, the farmer needs to perform a violent act against the land so that he or she can sow the land. The farmer would tear up and turn over the land to plants the seeds or to create space for his or her animal barns.

   In the case of Panzano, the initial act of violence was to plant and grow the wheat, then the next act of violence is to clear the grain field to plant and grow the grapes and the olives. Unfortunately, violence does not end there. Plants receive violent treatment from the farmers on a daily basis. For example, the farmers often cut the grape leaves so that the grape can get and store more sugar. In the farmer’s perspective, he or she is trying to take care of the plant and trying to get the best crop. On the other hand, the farmer is harming the plant because the cut is unnecessary since the plant can still survive without the intervention.

   The violence that is done on the Spiagge Bianche is much more extreme than the violence that is being done to farmland. On land, the violence is contained to certain areas, like a farm, whereas in the ocean, what started out in a tiny spot can spread out and will eventually affect the entire ocean. Baking soda, calcium carbonate, is widely used for cooking and baking in a small amount. In small amount, it can benefit us, but in large industrial quantity, it can harm the environment. “Although calcium carbonate is a base… our ocean is becoming a little bit more like vinegar… As the oceans become more acidic, the concentrations of carbonate ions available will decrease. This will make it harder for some species to build their shells and skeletons… in more extreme cases…  their shells may begin to dissolve” (“Basic Needs: A Report On Ocean Acidification | Oceans At MIT”). It is never good to have something in excess, and this proves the statement. Baking soda is widely used in household remedies, but at the same time, it can be deadly for the ecological system.


   There is no doubt that the landscapes have changed throughout times with and without human interactions. For a period, humans have only sped up the rate of the change and influenced what kind of changes happened. After the transition from being hunter and gatherers to farmers, people have learned to use and cultivate the land to their advantage.They still use this advantage today through the beautification of the land to bring in more tourists to their area. Tourism and the beautification of the land go hand in hand. They have a parallel relationship which when one increases; the other will increase as well.

As the dynamic between the two of the grows, violence towards the land is unavoidable. The acts of violence in agriculture are necessary to sustain the human population and the plant’s health up to a point. In both cases of Panzano and the beach, the beautification of the land has resulted in human giving the environment a violent treatment. While the change in landscape for Panzano does not harm the environment much, the beach’s ecological system could soon be destroyed because of the by-product that is being emitted by the baking soda manufactory. As cultivators of the lands, we should pay more attention to the health of the land and to not take advantage of it.



  • Baldini, Anna, Anna Baldini, and View profile. “Tuscany 2016 – Things To See And Do When You Visit Tuscany: Why Is The Conca D’oro Of Panzano In Chianti Called The Conca D’oro?”. N.p., 2013. Web. 16 June 2016.
  • “Basic Needs: A Report On Ocean Acidification | Oceans At MIT”. N.p., 2016. Web. 16 June 2016.
  • Danielli, Martino, June 16th 2016.
  • Stiegler, Bernard, Take Care.

I scream for Instagram likes (;

June 17th, 2016 by ejzavr18

How do you express your artistic self?

            While a lot people look for sweetness and richness in their gelato, I look for fruitiness and freshness. After surveying multiple gelato shops in Italy, there were nine that I used for comparison. Before eating each gelato, however, I made it my best effort to take a photo of the product. With all of the different colors and cone sizes, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the artistic value. With that being said, I believe the pictures I took represent a form of art. I especially enjoy looking at this type of art through different forms of social media, such as Instagram. On this IPhone application, there are numerous accounts solely dedicated to publishing pictures of food from all over the world. Instagram exemplifies a form of representation. In terms of food marketing and advertising, companies will strategically post on Instagram in order to evoke a feeling of desire within their consumers to want to eat their food. More often then not these advertisements have to be appealing to the eye or in other words – they must be artistic. In this essay I will use my own pictures and experiences with gelato to argue that pictures of food can be considered a part of one’s artistic identity and moreover that the publication of these pictures of food can create emotions and cravings.

Food as Art

            In Elizabeth Telfer’s article, Food for Thought, she argues that food is a form of minor art. In my opinion, however, I believe that food is a form of art without a minor or major label attached to it. I believe more specifically that pictures of food can be considered a form of art. One of Telfer’s main arguments for why food is a minor art is because it’s transient. Moreover because it’s transient she believes, “A work of food art will not be around very long to be contemplated.” [1] While this claim is partially true due the act of consumption, it is also partially not true due to the photographic solution for this. As Telfer also states, “many meals are intended by their cooks…to be savored, appraised, thought about, discussed.” [2] An example in opposition to this claim comes from the part of this essay where I contemplate the different gelatos I tried throughout the month here in Italy. In order to do this I reviewed the photos I took of each gelato and thus thought back to my food experiences at each different place. Overall by taking photos of food, consumers like myself are able to continue discussion about their food experience once the meal is over by using those photos to provoke their memories and experiences.

Identification through Instagram

            Social media is making a tremendous impact on today’s different cultures, societies, industries, and businesses. One major social media platform used is Instagram. Instagram is a fun way for users to share a collection of their photos and videos with their friends or with the general public. Currently there are over 75 million daily users, with 50,000 of those users uploading 5,000 photos each hour around the world. [3] Posting pictures on Instagram has become a way of representing a person’s artistic expression. With this in mind, Claude Fischler discusses in his article, Food, self and identity, about how food is a central component to identity. Therefore I think an Instagram post of food is no different. An Instagram post of a certain meal or dish represents a lot about ainsta person’s culture, personality, beliefs, interests, etc., simply based on the pictured food he/she chose to share with their followers. By looking at the various accounts on Instagram solely used for the publication of food, a person can learn a lot about the different ways of life and different diets  people from all over the world use. For example accounts such as @thecakeblog or instagram2@trophycupcakes post delicious photos of just desserts. While an account like @cooksmarts represents a food lifestyle of mainly healthy, vegetable dishes. Fischler also points out that “food and cuisine are a quite central component of the sense of collective belonging.” [4] One example of this collective belonging can be found when an Instagram post creates discussion in the comments amongst users, which allows for more voices and opinions to be heard.

Marketing a Desired Art

            Many companies display their food on Instagram in the form of art in order to entice their consumer’s appetite and desire. Sharman Russell addresses this technique in his article, Hunger: An Unnatural History. He claims after seeing a commercial for Olive Garden, “a chemical message from your cerebral cortex to your nerve cells in the lower brain, which in turn sends a message to the stomach and pancreas, stimulating their production of enzymes, acids, and mucus.” [5] From there he says the process continues until the “body has been primed” with the desire to eat that food. [6] This statement contradicts with one of Fischler’s statements that consumers “might retort that sight and hearing also require a physical link between thing perceived and the organ of perception.” [7] My personal experiences align with Russell’s beliefs because there have been countless times when advertisements, whether commercials, posts on social media, or posters/billboards, have influenced me to crave that certain food. Companies will strategically present the photos of their food in a very artistic manner in order to entice their viewers. Part of the reason for this commonly desired response comes from the fact that “appetite is a desire, born of biology, molded by experience and culture.” [8] After viewing an Olive Garden commercial, it can trigger a good memory and subsequently generate a feeling of desire to re-experience that memory again. Whether eating the food in the moment or while looking back at it through the form of a picture, food has the ability to bring out a multitude of different emotions. They can bring a person happiness and excitement from the familiarity of their associated taste, as well as excitement from the unfamiliarity and an urge to try new foods. These posts, however, can also expose feelings of sadness from the deeper and personal connections or memories associated with certain foods.

The Taste of Beauty

 Edoardo (Florence)Out of the eight gelatos places I visited, my favorites were Edoardo in Florence, De’ Coltelli in Pisa, and Caffetteria Gelateria dell’olmo in San Gimignano. At Edoardos the ice cream is biological, which means that it is free from additives, coloring, preservatives, or any chemically synthesized productive factors. From this place I tried the melon and strawberry with champagne on a cone. I could taste the fresh, natural ingredients with every lick. My favorite part, however, was hands down the cone. In fact this was the best cone I’ve ever had because unlike a lot of generic ice cream cones these cones were homemade and had a rich, buttery texture.De’Coltelli (Pisa)

Similarly at De’ Coltelli, they also only use fresh fruit and organic ingredients. They do not use synthetic fragrances or dyes. Unlike the other gelatos places, at De’Coltelli we did a sampling of some of their flavors. The very first thing we tried was called Granita. This was a lot different from a gelato due its semi-frozen consistency. Because I liked the sampling of this so much, I ended up getting a cup of it in the melon and strawberry flavor. On top there was a scoop of their fresh crème. The combination of the refreshing fruity flavors with the sweet, rich crème was so satisfying.

Caffetteria Gelateria dell’olmo (San Gimignano)Lastly I really enjoyed the gelato from San Gimignano. The consistency of it was very thick yet fluffy. In the photo of my raspberry and melon gelato, you can very clearly see this texture. The sorbets are made with freshly chosen local or exotic fruits every morning. Without the use of any dyes, the colors were still so naturally vibrant. La Curva (Panzano)

After trying all three of these fantastic places, it was hard for other places to compete. For instance, Caffe Terzani in Panzano had very good gelato, but the cone tasted a bit like plastic. Meanwhile in Volterra at L’Incontro, I was so excited to finally find a mango flavor, but unfortunately I was not impressed with its bitter and artificial taste. Ultimately as I look back at my pictures of my gelato, I am reminded of my experiences at each place. By looking at my photos, viewers can learn about myself. For instance based on the photos, it can be understood that I solely like the fruity flavored gelato sorbets.E Incontra (Volterra)

To sum it up…

        As soon as I arrived in Italy I knew I needed to take  pictures of everything we ate because I wanted to be able to look back and remember the experiences. Luckily because the food in Italy, especially the gelato, is very beautiful on its own, it was easy to create art through this taking a photo. As an expression of my artistic identity, I posed my gelatos in front of beautiful backgrounds in order to add to the overall representation of the picture. Moreover I consider pictures of food art because of their ability to provoke emotions. One of these emotions being desire. Many companies will advertise their food in a very artsy manner in order to visually sell their products to buyers. Companies will use forms of social media, such as Instagram, as a mode of this communication. Instagram in general is a way to communicate and express one’s identity. Although I’ll the gelato here in Italy, I know I will always have these photos and similar photos on Instagram to keep the memories alive until the next time I return.

Turnadot (Lucca)

Turnadot (Lucca)

Gelateria Caffe della posta (Bulgaria)

Gelateria Caffe della posta (Bulgaria)

La Chiccheria (Marina di Grosseto

La Chiccheria (Marina di Grosseto)

Grom (Siena)

Grom (Siena)

  (All photos were taken by Lola Zavras)


Fischler, Claude. Food, self and identity. New York: Columbia University, 1988.

Russell, Sharman Apt. Hunger: An Unnatural History. New York: Basic Books.

Smith, Craig. “By the Numbers: 170+ Interesting Instagram Statistics”. Last Modified June 11, 2016,

Telfer, Elizabeth. Food for Thought. New York: Routiledge.


[1] Elizabeth Telfer, Food for Thought, (New York: Routiledge), 58.

[2] Telfer, pg, 46.

[3] Craig Smith, “By the Numbers: 170+ Interesting Instagram Statistics”, last modified April 2016,

[4] Claude Fischler, Food, self and identity, (New York: Columbia University), 1988, 280.

[5] Sharman Apt Russell, Hunger: An Unnatural History, (New York: Basic Books), 17.

[6] Russell, pg, 17.

[7] Fischler, pg, 52.

[8] Russel, pg, 24.

What is gelato?

June 17th, 2016 by aklica19

During the Italian Renaissance, the Medici family of Italy asked Bernardo Buontalenti to serve a feast for the King of Spain. Buontalenti ended the meal with a milky frozen dessert, and thus gelato was born. Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, a restaurateur, is the one responsible for making gelato famous throughout all of Europe. Dei Coltelli moved from Sicily to Paris and opened a café where he served gelato. The dessert then spread throughout France and beyond. In the 1770s, Giovanni Basiolo brought gelato to New York City, its first appearance in the United States. At this time, he brought two different kinds of gelato: sorbetto and one with a cream base. Americans adapted gelato into their own ice cream, a product very similar to gelato, but also noticeably different.

Gelato and ice cream are so similar that unless you are lucky enough to visit Italy to try gelato or find a truly artisanal shop outside of Italy, you probably would not be able to tell the difference. They share nearly all the same ingredients, but their textures vary immensely. Gelato is known for being soft, flavorful, and dense, but still quite light, while ice cream is icy, firm, and milky. How can these frozen desserts be made from the same ingredients but have such different textures?

Gelato contains less fat than ice cream since it is generally made with more milk than cream, while ice cream is typically made completely with cream. Some gelato does not contain eggs, which are another source of fat in ice cream. Eggs make the gelato or ice cream creamier and fluffier and are used as what some call an emulsifier. The process of making gelato and ice cream is what makes the biggest difference between these products. They are both churned in an ice cream machine; however gelato is churned much slower. The slower speed allows for less air to be whipped into the mixture, making it denser. Because this mixture is denser, the gelato must be served at a higher temperature. If it were served at the same low temperatures as ice cream, it would be very difficult to scoop. The density would be too high and the gelato would freeze and become too hard to scoop. The lower fat and higher density result in what is known as gelato.

There are three kinds of gelato typically available at good gelato shops: granita, sorbetto, and cream. Cream is the most similar to ice cream and is what we first think of when we think of gelato. Its base contains milk, sugar, air, and flavorings (and sometimes eggs). It is then churned in an ice cream maker and stored and scooped at a higher temperature than ice cream. It can be difficult and time consuming to create a tasty gelato of the right consistency that will appeal to customers, so many shops use a powder as a base. This ensures that the end result will be soft, rich, and creamy with no experimentation of ingredient ratios necessary. In Italy, there are no regulations on gelato, so anyone is able to call something gelato, and most popularly, artisanal gelato. Artisanal gelato is significantly more appealing to passersby, since it makes it seem like that gelato is made with the highest quality ingredients by very talented people. There are many truly artisanal gelato shops, but in reality, there are too many shops that use the word artisanal as false advertising. Many so-called “artisanal” gelato shops use a powdered mix as a base.

Because powdered mixes ensure a “high-quality” end result, it saves the owner money because they are not forced to experiment with ingredients and risk creating an insufficient product. These powders come as already flavored or simply as a base flavor, allowing you to create your own. Powders make gelato making easy, which is why it is so commonly served in coffee shops and bars. The frequency of gelato shops in a large city in Italy is so high that you could literally walk down the street and try gelato from six different shops. If you actually did this, you would most likely be eating gelato all made from powders (unless you got lucky and found a real gelato shop), and probably the same powders! These are very generic gelato shops, which can be found within steps of each other in cities like Florence. Also in Florence, however, you can find high-quality, organic, and original gelato shops, but it may take a little more looking.

Sorbetto is another type of gelato typically served alongside the cream based flavors. Sorbetto is different, as it does not contain any dairy products. Its ingredients contain sugar, water, and some sort of flavor liquid (fruit juice or puree, wine, coffee, etc.). It is then churned in an ice cream machine, which gives the sorbetto its smooth texture. It is icier than gelato since it does not contain dairy, which is why sorbetto is generally produced in fruit flavors. It is also popular to create wine flavored sorbetto, like Chianti Classico in this region.

Granita is the third type of gelato. Granita originated in Sicily and is not usually found in the generic gelato shops. It is very similar to sorbetto, made with the same ingredients of sugar, water, and a flavor liquid. The difference is in the process. Granita is frozen on a thin sheet, which is then scraped off instead of scooped, giving it a courser texture than sorbetto. Granita is popular to eat with a sweet whipped cream on top or as a breakfast on a brioche bun.

After trying gelato at so many different shops in Tuscany, sometimes twice a day, I feel like I have a grasp on what a good gelato should taste like. Most of the shops I visited were very generic and used a powdered base. After trying so many powder-based gelatos, I started to realize that if I got the same flavor at each shop, it would taste nearly identical because of how unoriginal the shops are. Although unoriginal and not made from scratch, these products should definitely be considered real gelato. Does cookie dough that you take out of the package and put in the oven produce real cookies? According to the average consumer, yes. What about brownie mix, or a frozen pizza? Pasta from a box? All of these products are not fresh or handmade from scratch, but they fit the general interpretation of what that product is. Andrea Borghini writes in “What Is a Recipe?” about a realism approach to recipes, and from the mild realism point of view, all of these products are considered “real” versions of themselves. The ingredients sometimes differ, but for the most part, they remain the same. Gelatos made with a mix still contain the basic ingredients of milk, sugar, air, and a flavor, so it is recognized as gelato.

In another of Borghini’s articles entitled “Geographical Indications, Food, and Culture”, he describes the importance of geographical indications. A geographical indication is given to a certain food that is produced within one region. These foods cannot be created in any other part of the world because the quality would be reduced due to the differences in climate, land, and historical knowledge. Geographical indications are used as a way to brand a type of food. Instead of being branded to a company, these foods are branded to the region in which they are created. The best example of a geographical indication is Chianti Classico wine. It consists of at least 80% Sangiovese grapes and must be aged in oak barrels for at least seven months. There are several other standards that a wine must meet in order to be considered a Chianti Classico, but the most important is that it can only be produced in the Chianti region. Because it is geographically indicated, a vineyard outside of Chianti could produce a wine that meets all of these requirements, but it would not be able to be called Chianti Classico. Other examples of popular foods with geographical indications are parmigiano and gorgonzola cheese, basmati rice, and kobe beef.

Since gelato originated in Italy and is today known as an Italian dessert, should it be given a geographical indication to ensure its quality all over the world? At first thought, the answer is yes. It makes sense that because it originated in a specific place, its quality when produced in other parts of the world would be reduced. The ingredients would not be from the same farmers and might not be organic or fresh, thus making the final product completely different.

On the other hand, gelato has been spreading around the world for centuries. Different countries have adapted their own variations of gelato, like American ice cream and shaved ice in Asia. Gelato also differs so much within Italy. As Borghini writes in “What Is a Recipe?”, the recipe for gelato can be looked at from the mild realism point of view. It has the same basic ingredients, but there is definite variation between all recipes. If gelato was geographically indicated, the only place to purchase fresh gelato would be in Italy. A geographical indication seems extreme, as there are many artisanal gelato shops beyond Italy that have producing real gelato for decades. It is important to realize that while the ingredients in gelato are definitely not all from the same place, quality gelato can still be produced. There would be added regulations on gelato, making it the exact same product within every gelato shop. It would make the product boring since there would be no variation between all the shops in Italy. It is important that gelato producers have freedom when creating flavors in order to keep consumers interested.

Right here in Panzano is Bar la Curva. La Curva serves food like sandwiches, pastries, and coffee along with gelato. This is usually an indication that the gelato is not the main focus of the bar, so they probably use a powdered mix, and in this case, they do. They serve the traditional flavors you would find in a gelato shop, like chocolate, fior di latte, bacio, crema, nocciola, pistacchio, stracciatella, and fruit sorbettos. This gelato most definitely hits the spot, but if you are looking for something made with fresher ingredients and from scratch, this is not the place. Just because it is made with a mix, it is still technically real gelato. To the average consumer, it meets their personal requirements of creaminess, sweetness, and coldness. If the average consumer, the majority, can consider a product gelato, it should pass as gelato. On the other hand, it should not be considered the best gelato, since it can of course be made with better ingredients, an original recipe, and more care.

I have been here several times for gelato and I definitely enjoy it, mostly because I’m not very particular about gelato. I generally go for the same flavors that I know I like, so I don’t risk disappointment. At la Curva, I’ve tried fior di latte, bacio, nocciola, and pistacchio. My favorites are nocciola and pistacchio, which have also been my favorite combination of gelato at the generic shops I’ve been to (which are a lot).

Named after Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, the man who made gelato famous throughout all of Europe, De’ Coltelli is a truly artisanal gelato shop. They use no powdered bases and only local ingredients. The source of their fruits, spices, and other fresh ingredients used as flavorings can impressively be found on their website. At De’ Coltelli, they serve granita, sorbetto, and cream flavors that have all been carefully crafted. While they have the more traditional flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and nocciola, most of their flavors are very original. Among my favorites that we were generously given to try were ginger lime sorbetto, saffron, beet, and ricotta. Other flavors that would have been interesting to try are pine nut, wasabi, and licorice. After we tasted, I decided to order my own cone with flavors I had not yet tried. I ordered macadamia nut and ginger. I love nutty flavors of gelato, and since I always get nocciola, I figured I should branch out (especially at this special shop). The macadamia nut was much less nutty than nocciola, which worked well with the somewhat spicy ginger. The owner and creator, Gianfrancesco Cutelli, is noticeably very passionate about gelato. He spends an immense amount of time experimenting with new ingredients and flavors, ensuring that the consistency is correct and the taste is exactly what he envisioned. His love for his job is what makes the shop so successful, as he knows what he wants and is able to execute it.

Chiccheria was my favorite gelato shop that I visited while in Italy. They serve sorbettos, granitas, and traditional cream flavors, proving that they know what they are doing. Their ingredients consist of local and seasonal fruit, fair-trade cocoa, and organic eggs and milk. They never use GMOs, hydrogenated fats, fake colorings, chemicals, or emulsifiers. All of their flavors are natural and perfectly crafted.

Chiccheria, like the others, serve the traditional flavors that almost all gelato shops serve, but they also have very original flavors, like ricotta with caramelized figs, coconut, pine nut, and chocolate with pink salt and caramel. I tried the ricotta with caramelized figs, and while I liked it, I wanted something with a little bit more texture. I ended up ordering coconut and chocolate with pink salt and caramel. It was obvious that the coconut was made with real coconut and not just the flavor because there were real chunks of it in the gelato, which I loved. The other flavor tasted like chocolate with a little bit of an edge, due to the salt. The caramel made it a little bit sweeter than usual, but did not overpower the chocolate. The combination was perfectly balanced and surprisingly worked well with the coconut, which just added some nuttiness. These were both flavors I had never tried, and while I took a risk I don’t usually take, it created my favorite gelato experience so far.

Gelato was, by far, my favorite product to eat while in Italy. You can grab it and eat it on the go, and it is always satisfying, even in the most generic of forms. I found a love for pistachio flavored gelato and ice cream and through visiting a variety of gelato shops, I gained a significant amount of knowledge about the product. Although I am able to appreciate how much better a truly artisanal gelato is, made with the best and freshest ingredients from scratch, I realized I don’t have a preference as to whether I eat the highest quality gelato or one made with a powder. I am satisfied either way and because I tend to be physically lazy, I would rather get gelato immediately than search around town for the best place. However back in the United States when I am really in the mood for a softer and creamier gelato than a hard and usually watery ice cream, I know I’ll put in the extra effort to find a gelato shop, just to remind me of my time in Tuscany.

De’ Coltelli

Bar la Curva

Works Cited

Borghini, Andrea. “Geographical Indications, Food, and Culture.” Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics (2014): 1115-20. Print.

– – -. “What Is a Recipe?” Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 28 (2015): 719 38. Print.

Falkowitz, Max. “What’s the Difference Between Gelato and Ice Cream?” Serious Eats. N.p., 31 July 2012. Web. 15 June 2016. <>.

“Frozen Desserts.” La Cucina Italiana. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2016. <>.

“History.” Why Gelato. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2016. <>.

Global Ingredient Markets, Equality, and the Modern Food Movement

June 17th, 2016 by jwcrea19

A Cone from Gelateria dell’Olmo

The very first reading that we covered in class, The Pleasures of Eating by Wendell Berry, introduced us to the concept that we have been looking at food the wrong way for most, if not all of our lives. He describes our lack of understanding when it comes to the way in which our food is produced, and how this leads to many of the issues he sees today in the global food system. They are as follows: inhumane practices on farms, the rise of processed food, a decline in caring for what we eat, declining health, and the general commercialization of cuisine. He even goes so far as to suggest a list of solutions, recommending that we participate in agriculture, cook our own food, learn about farming and species, and educate ourselves on the global economy of food. These all sounded like noble ideas to me, and they were even nobler in practice. Gelato producers like Edoardo in Florence, De’ Coltelli in Pisa, and Caffetteria Gelateria dell’Olmo in San Gimignano provided a high-quality product using the best ingredients, sourced with an expertise that exhibited itself in the quality of the gelato. When we got to Sandler’s concerns about the global food system, however, I began to wonder about exactly who was producing these ingredients. After grappling with the ethical quandary of meat production, I knew that gelato couldn’t possibly be so simple. In this paper, I will explore the production of two main ingredients in gelato making, vanilla and cacao, examining their effect on the countries and farmers that choose to produce them, and how that information affects the global market for ingredients and gelato as well as the moral affect it has on us as consumers.

Methods of Production
Cacao trees grow largely on small farms in areas near the equator. Surprisingly, 80 to 90% of its production takes place on a small-scale. They are very delicate trees and require strict protection and cultivation, reaching their peak pod production at five years and sustaining this for another ten. They usually have two harvest times per year, largely variable and dependent on climate. Farmers harvest with long sticks, then split open the pods to remove the beans. They are then packed away to ferment for three to seven days before they are sold to an exporter (Foundation). Vanilla also must be produced in equatorial regions. It is the world’s most labor-intensive crop, making it one of the most expensive. The plant is a vine, growing on whatever it can find. It needs to grow for at least three years before in can produce beans. The beans are picked when they are still green then undergo a treating process to extract their flavor for what could be a few weeks to even months. Farmers do so by treating them with hot water and placing them in the sun. They then spend a month or two resting to continually develop flavor. Finally, they dry and are shipped off (Hachmann).

Market Overview
Africa produces the largest percentage of the world’s cacao, 68%, followed by Asia at 17%, and the Americas at 15%. Within these continents, the largest producers can be found in Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Ghana, Indonesia, Brazil, Ecuador, and Colombia. The United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Spain are the largest demanders of cacao (Foundation). Cacao futures are traded on the NYSE and the Intercontinental Exchange. It is currently selling for $3153 per metric ton on the latter (ICE). It tends to be less volatile than other major commodities like wheat. Currently, the price is fairly average. Much less financial information is available about vanilla. We know the largest producers are Uganda, India, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Madagascar. Prices have surged lately as a result of a poor harvest. Vanilla was selling for around $220 in April (Hachmann). The World Bank predicts that commodity prices are likely to fall for the remainder of 2016, continuing a downward trend that lately has killed producers. They provided the following information in their latest report, “Agricultural prices have been revised lower, and are projected to decline 4 percent in 2016 with prices falling in most commodity groups. This agricultural price outlook reflects adequate supplies in anticipation of another favorable crop year for most grain and oilseed commodities. Agricultural commodity markets are also aided by lower energy costs and plateauing demand for biofuels. The largest price drop is for grains and beverages (-5 percent each) and oils and meals (-3 percent). Other food items and agricultural raw material prices are expected to fall as well” (World Bank). They note that countries that heavily expanded production based off of surging early 2000s prices are now feeling the effects of oversupplied markets.

Consumer Effects
In 2015, the average retail price for an ice cream was $3.75. In contrast, most gelato places that I have seen in Italy charge around 2 or 3 euros, depending on the size. This difference can partially be attributed to change in portion size, as an American ice cream cone is usually about three or four scoops, making it a large in Italy. In general, U.S. ice cream prices have risen over the last ten years from $3.69/half gallon in 2005 to $4.73 in 2015 (Statista).


My first gelato at Edoardo



A Blurry Picture of an Average Gelato, This One from Lucca

In a world where ingredient prices are low and developing countries are experiencing losses on commodity production, how are consumers still paying increasing amounts for ice cream? It could be the prices of the other inputs, namely dairy or sugar. One possible theory is that the industrial processing of the ice cream adds too much to the price. In Italy, a producer like De’ Coltelli can afford to make his own gelato in-house, with fresh and delicious ingredients, while paying several employees. His processes are simple, using only six ingredients: milk, cream, eggs, sugar, flour, and locust bean seeds (Gelato Artignale). Edoardo also produces gelato that is free of additives, coloring, preservatives, and the other mysterious ingredients that commonly grace the fine print of our American ice creams (Gelato Biologico). We’ve established the fact that we can feel good about the ingredients of this gelato, but can we feel good about where they came from? Or how they were produced? How did their production affect the local economy of the likely developing country where they were grown? These questions are often heard in modern society and represent the views of an increasing number of “responsible food advocates.” We heard their arguments in James McWilliams’ Loving Animals to Death when it came to the responsible production of meat. McWilliams points out the obvious contradiction in such a situation: it cannot possibly be moral to raise an animal kindly and affectionately knowing the whole time that you plan on killing it. The same logic can be applied to gelato. It seems contradictory to ask all of these questions about the ingredients and production while ignoring the inherently exploitative nature of most of these businesses. If none of the proceeds of your artisan gelato make it back to the peasant farmer who picked the cacao beans that made the flavor, how can we be acting morally? Similarly, how can we bet on the future pricing of a metric ton of cacao, when the vast amount of money this speculation makes has no direct affect on those who enable it? Sandler mentions the problem of food sovereignty in Food Ethics, describing it as the ability of a region make its own decisions regarding its own food and agricultural products/processes. When we speculate on the price of cacao, say by buying a large futures contract, we may indirectly affect the market value. This will then lower the price and hurt producers; something they have no control or even knowledge of. I believe a practical solution harkens back to Berry’s suggestions. When we learn about where our food comes from, we cannot be too simplistic. There will always be someone who is willing to sell you an “authentic and organically produced” product. Or maybe even a chocolate product that supposedly gives back to the cacao producers. As long as we are learning, we are making progress. If enough people educate themselves, it may be enough for a serious change. However, we must also avoid over-adherence to these guidelines. It is simply not practical to research the sourcing of everything you buy, and even then someone may just be putting on a very good disguise. Like many things in life, it has occurred to me that balance is key.

Works Cited

“Cocoa Futures.” ICE-InterContinental Exchange. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2016.

“Cocoa Market Update.” World Cocoa Foundation. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2016.

“Commodity Markets Outlook.” World Bank. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2016.

“Ice Cream and Gelato Category Average Price per Unit United States by Segment, 2015 | Statistic.” Statista. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2016.

“Ingredients.” Gelato Artigianale Con Ingredienti Naturali. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2016.

“Semplicemente Buono.” Gelato Biologico. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2016.

“Vanilla Market Report NO. 48.” Aust Hachmann. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 June 2016.

Keep Calm and Continue Eating

June 17th, 2016 by rqiang19


Throughout the trip, many have pointed out the unethical treatment some domesticated animals are receiving, and the non-biological methods of growing grapes in many towns outside Panzano. Some of my friends have also decided not to consume such unethical food anymore, and will lean towards choosing ethical products, such as beef from free range and grass fed cows, and wine made from biologically grown grapes.

Yet, in my opinion, labeling food as ethical or unethical is purely a game played by various parties, and by avoiding consuming “unethical” products is never a solution to this problem. This is because almost all of the food we are consuming can be termed as unethical in various ways.




Production usually come in two categories, labor-intensive and non-labor-intensive.

Non-labor-intensive industries such as mechanized and automatized production of crops have numerous problems, one of them being the replacement of human labors with machineries. Mass production of corn and wheat with the help of state-of-the-art cultivators, sprayers and harvesters has reduced the cost of production, and has been gradually diminishing the role of human workers. Unemployment prevails in countries that have just adapted such methods as automated harvesting. China’s 1.4 billion populations used to consist of more than 1 billion farmers, but now only just slightly more than 200 million as a result of increased efficiency by using machines. Many of them are in a transitional period from the primary industry to secondary industry. In other words, farmers who do not make profits planting crops are trying to make a living in the city. Being semi-skilled, most of them are forced to work in the labor-intensive industries such as electronics assembly line or construction zones. These people are usually labeled as migrant workers, making a population of 270 million in 2015 in China alone. It is not difficult to observe that this whole process of automation and mechanization has led to a shift in labor, making a tiny fraction of the producers happy, and leaving the rest suffer. It may not necessarily take place in Italy, but there certainly are places fit into such description. Saying these food ingredients (those harvested and planted by machines) come from an ethical source? I highly doubt it.

On the other hand, labor-intensive food production processes such as cocoa picking in Central Africa and South America are surely unethical, as workers are underpaid, child labors are involved, and working conditions are just too awful to imagine. An example would be Ivory Coast. During the 2013–2014 harvest season, an estimated of 1.2 million children of age between 5 and 17 worked in the cocoa production, of which 95.9 percent were engaged in hazardous working conditions[1]. During our stay in Toscana, I’ve observed that much of the chocolate we consumed have cocoa produced in such regions as Central Africa and South America, and it is hard to tell whether the cocoa used in gelateria comes from an “ethical” source.




Advertising plays an essential role in the operation of any distributor. TV commercials, event sponsorship and free samples given on streets are all common forms of distributors’ advertisement. However, instead of telling consumers about the ingredients used in manufacturing such products, which should be the primary focus to ensure safe consumption, advertising campaigns often focus on drawing attention from the customers, such as the “Share a coke with”, and “StayExtraordinary” by Coca-Cola in the United States. In Italy, situation is not any better. During my evening stay at a hotel in Castiglione della Pescaia, the TV had more than two hundred channels broadcasting food and snack commercials simultaneously and non-stopping. With limited understanding of Italian language, I could not figure out the exact meaning of these commercials. Yet, I was able to capture words such as “benessimo”(very good) and cartoons aimed to draw children’s attention. These advertisements usually create a falsely presumed sense of product safety among consumers, as consumers may take for granted and think that there is nothing to worry about when drinking coke or eating biscotti. Yet, there are things to worry about. Problems associated with food products such as soft drinks and sweet snacks are the excessive amount of sugar present, and the use of caffeine (in coke). And it is east to tell that they are not really good for a healthy lifestyle. With such advertising campaign taking place almost every day, I believe that this practice, and hence such products, shall not be considered as ethical.

By now, some people may be eager to argue that such advertisement campaign does not apply to all the distributors, and many of them actually highlight information such as chemical content in their commercials and brochures like what we’ve observed in vineyards such as Le Fonti and Nittardi, which gave detailed descriptions about their products and production process. Yet this practice takes place not very often, and it usually takes place only on the early distribution process. When wines, biscotti, and many other food products enter supermarkets, like Mercato della Piazza di San Lorenzo in Florence, there is not much explanation about the food products available on the shelf or even from the shop managers. I could only obtain limited information regarding all the products, and could not figure out which products were the results of an “ethical” production process.

Generally during distribution, products of various qualities are often mixed up, and it is difficult to tell the source, ingredients or production methods associated with the food products from the consumers’ perspective. This is because distributors usually aim at maximizing profits. Creating a competitive price and an appealing image of the food products is their primary goal. Consideration on if these food products are ethical is often left way behind.

Aiming at creating more profits by encouraging people to consume more, yet discarding potential health issues caused by over-consumption and excessive nutrients intake, food distributors should reconsider their advertising strategy, and help consumers to make a healthier choice of diet. As such, I hold the opinion that food distributors with such advertising strategies taking place shall not be considered as ethical distributors, and their products neither.



Imagine a particular food item that miraculously escapes all the criticisms mentioned above. “This must be absolutely ethical,” you might say. However, in my opinion, by passing the last stage, consumption, such ethical food products are not ethical anymore.

Consumers nowadays share one common characteristic. That is their endless demands. If consumers do not like certain products, the products disappear from the market. If consumers like something that was only produced in the 90s, distributers still can get it back, just like the “Bring Back Crystal Pepsi Movement”.

The demand for food products triggered, or partially helped establish, the Silk Road, where the exchange of goods such as spices, fruits, and grains took place in between Asia and Europe. Till now, we could still find traces of evidence such as mulberry trees (leaves are used to feed silkworms) planted in the Chianti region. As technology advances, people found out that automation could reduce the cost of products and thereby making products more affordable. So the industrial revolution came. Massive automated assembly lines such as those of Barilla took over the roles of workers. Only a tiny fraction of the food manufacturers could maintain a small-scale profitable production process. Repeatedly raising a demand and meeting the demand goes on till today. In general, consumers help shape today’s world.

Yet, this endless demand for better, more varied and cheaper food products has led to a chain of actions that harm producers, distributors and consumers themselves. When consumers say, “We want affordable beef”. Distributors say yes in order to meet the demands of the consumers. Distributors then turn to producers who raise cows, and proba
bly will tell them that the buying price has dropped. Producers, in order to maintain profitable, will often change the way cows are raised. A common practice would be feeding cows with corn, and keeping them in tiny sheds to minimize land use, hence reducing the cost. Some farmers may not have the means to raise cows in such way, and they may go bankrupt eventually. In the end, large “factories” take over, as large scale of production usually leads to small marginal cost, and hence could cater to the needs of the consumers. Yet, back to consumers, nowadays only a few of us choose to accept higher price grass fed beef, and most of us go with corned beef. This creates a vicious cycle that traps the consumers, distributors and the producers. This cycle is also the reason why Dario Cecchini’s project Chianina di Lunga Vita is a only luxury for the rich.




After observing the whole cycle of food production, distribution and consumption, I believe that consumers are the true source of evil. As our endless demands keep going, producing healthy, organic and harmless food products seems to be an insurmountable quest. And at the end of the chain, greedy consumers who want cheaper products are killing the future of healthy food production, and as long as we still demand our food ingredients to be cheaper than it is today, there is simply no room for discussing what is ethical or unethical, because consumers’ actions and involvements in the food production and distribution cycle are not ethical in the first place. Furthermore, any products that come out to fulfill the demand of consumers, which help consumers fuel and propel all the unethical actions in the stages of production and distribution, should not be considered as ethical. And that means all the food we have on our plate today.

Yet, I believe that as consumers, there are things we can do on a personal level even though it may not necessarily alter the well established and the seemingly unshakable food production and consumption cycle. I believe that the least we can do is showing respect to the food we have today. When we have a plate of beef stew in front us, regardless whether the cow went through ethical or unethical treatment in its life, it is our chance and final chance to show it respect.

We need to keep in mind about the effort put in by farmers, butchers, cooks and waiters, a group of people who make this dish possible in the first place. It is never about whether we like it or not. It is also not about the flavor or the texture of the dish on an objective point of view. We need to show respect, and eat or drink it without necessarily feeling elated or disgusted by the dish like many people are doing today. Respect is key. And eating while paying respect, in my opinion, is one of the few ways to consume our food “ethically”.





[1] United States Department of Labor, 2014 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, 2014,