71. Taste Amidst Ruins: Food Science Workers in the Wake of Climate Catastrophe
Brad Weiss, William & Mary; Caroline Schuster, Australia National University;
The notion of terroir has been much debated in Food Studies. 'The Taste of Place' offers a natural-cultural framework through which to explore the ways that taste is elicited from localities, both through communities of practice, and geographical features of a terrain, But what happens, as we recognize is increasingly the case, when such places witness traumatic disruption in the form of drought, fire, subsidence, or salination from sea level rise, all features of the Endangered Ecologies that these meetings interrogate. Our own research has included discussions with enologists, viticulturists, and physical chemists, all deeply concerned with the impact of catastrophic wildfire on California's wine industry. In particular, food scientists at UC Davis are offering guidance on how to manage what is called 'smoke taint', the often-elusive tastes that emerge (usually over time, sometimes quite subtly) in wines made from grapes that have been exposed to the lignin components of wood released in brushfires. In Paraguay, novel financial expertise such as weather derivatives to cover catastrophic drought, agronomists developing resilient organic plant varieties, and farmers' rural livelihoods, align to cultivate sesame seeds for Japanese consumers, among the most demanding markets in terms of food quality. Do El Niño drought conditions generate taste along with crop yields and financial risk? In this panel we seek contributions from scholars whose work touches on the connections between taste, the 'Sea, Sky, and Land' whose transformations are altering food production and character, and the arrays of expertise that are forming to address these transformations.