FOOD OF WAR
by Hernan Barros
Above all food is about power.
From birth somebody else has the power to decide what we eat. What we ingest has been imposed on us and we subdue our liberties and decisions to our food providers. The alternative is to emancipate ourselves and make our own choices, based on our own taste and sometimes on our own political and religious convictions. In that freedom, we surrender ourselves to our surroundings - the city, the country, the groups and tribes we chose to belong to. Within each of these collectives there is an etiquette about the ritual of eating. How we do it, when we do it, what we use with it, where, with who and why - these all change throughout our histories.
Hunger strikes, eating disorders, disease and famine, they are all enmeshed with power struggles between the individual and wider society. Armed conflicts are the ultimate scenario where these power struggles play themselves out and, once more, food is central. War changes the way we eat in more ways than rationing or the psychological menace of hunger. Food and War go hand in hand as many examples illustrate: Tin Food was developed by Napoleon to feed French troops in his bloody invasions and was perfected by the British to expand its colonial empire. Kebabs were created by the Turkish in the Ottoman Empire subjugations and the Norwegians were forced to become Pescatarian by the Nazis who appropriated all cattle during their brutal 5 year occupation. Colombian Bananas exported around the world in the 90s were sanctioned and managed by the terrorist paramilitary groups defending their regions and now in 2015 Vladimir Putin continues his crusade against ‘anti-Russian’ food to divert attention from sanctions and conflict.
The more we dig, the more we find examples of Food as a tool of War. A dish at our table is a biopsy of our society. It tells us everything that is happening at the time it is served but also shines a light on the past.
Like fashion and music, food illuminates its consumers on so many levels and in such diverse contexts. We need food to satisfy primary survival and its trade and character are charged with political, cultural and aesthetic meanings. The presence of food in our daily lives, at least three times a day, and the basic impetuses of hunger and status have blinded us to those layers of meaning.
Here, lies a collection of pieces where the entire struggle is present, where all that force comes through. It is not simply a group of images because, in addition, the viewer will be able to taste and in those flavours the palate will sense ideas and their power. New ways of connecting thoughts will be made as some sensations will last longer on the tongue.
Welcome to the real food revolution. This is not the latest diet fad, these are not gimmicky tricks to surprise your dinner party guests, this is not a foody reality TV show nor a trendy urban restaurant.
This is a mirror. If you are what you eat, then we are all Food of War.