Environment2. Food problems in relation to ecosystem and environmentDomestic Symposium

Minpaku open lecture meeting

National Museum of Ethnology’s Public Lecture Commemorating the 40th Anniversary Question the mature society again from food Cooking and Humans

Director-General, National Museum of Ethnology

The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) was opened in the Expo’70 Commemorative Park, Osaka, in 1977 as an inter-university research institute with museum functions in the fields of cultural anthrophony and ethnology. This year marks the 40th anniversary of its opening.

The number of specimen materials that Minpaku has collected from all over the world during the last 40 years now reaches about 345,000. This is the largest in the world in the ethnological collections built up after the late 20th century. Minpaku is also the largest ethnological museum in terms of facility size.

We have held a lecture meeting in Tokyo in the fall of every year since 2000 with the cooperation of Nikkei, Inc. Particularly since last year, positioning it as a part of the activities in Minpaku’s ongoing special research project “Contemporary Civilization and the Future of Humanity,” we plan the lecture meeting with intent to think together with you about various issues that contemporary civilization has. The theme for this lecture meeting is “Cooking and Humans: Question the mature society again from food.”

Aim of the Public Lecture
For humans, “food” is an important means to sustain life. However, it also has become an essential element in building social relationships and has come to have power to change the way the civilization that humanity has created should be amid ongoing globalization. This year’s lecture meeting is to question again how human food should be from a perspective of “cooking.”

First, Dr. NOBAYASHI Atsushi raises a question about what is “cooking” for humans under the title of “Cooking in between Civilization and Culture.”

Subsequently, Dr. NAKASHIMA Yasuhiro explores the possibility of a new food system in the present age in which the imbalance phenomena of satiation and hunger are being generated.

Then, Dr. UDAGAWA Taeko talks about how local cooking comes into existent today when globalization continues, based on her long-term fieldwork in Italy.

I expect to produce a new perspective for consideration of the relation between humans and food through today’s lecture meeting.
Research, collection, and exhibition at Minpaku
As well as conducting fieldwork around the world, 50 studies at Minpaku collect and preserve specimen materials, visual and audio materials, and other materials and make them open to the public to understand the local people’s life and culture more deeply.

The permanent exhibition galleries in the Main Exhibition Building finished its nine-year complete renovation in March this year. If you ever come to Kansai, please “experience” the reborn exhibition. We look forward to seeing you.

“Cooking in between Civilization and Culture”
Director-General, National Museum of Ethnology

Food, which has been a basic element for an organic individual to sustain life in the past, has come to have a role more than to meet ecological and nutritional satisfaction for humanity. Food was the most primitive form of wealth, providing clues to create larger economic activities through acts such as production (including gathering and hunting), storage, and exchange. Furthermore, the role of food as a means of communication, which is typified by co-eating and gift exchange, has expanded its scope and has become an element to formulate the integration principle in the state or the community. In recent years, it has become a diplomatic measure to deepen economic and political relations between nations as seen in “gastrodiplomacy.” In addition, a distorted situation has been created in which while, although declining, the number of hungry people in the world has reached about 800 million people, mass production and mass disposal of food resources create what has come to be called food loss.

In this lecture meeting, I want to use “cooking” as a perspective in considering a series of such issues over food.

Cooking is an act conducted only by humanity and is also an invention by humanity. Cooking increased varieties, quantities, and combinations of food to take in and created technologies and techniques necessary for them. Moreover, it constructed social relationships such as “a person to prepare” and “a person to eat,” and when, where and how to eat with whom became an important barometer to measure the social relationship. An important meaning more than eating was added to preparing something to eat. Cooking is a fortune for humanity that has enriched human eating habits and has supported food culture. At the same time, it has been deeply involved in the food production that imposes a burden on the environment as well as in the embodiment and visualization of a desperate society.

Defining cooking as “a series of acts to recognize ecological resources from natural resources, to exploit them systematically, and to consume food resources in accordance with the purpose” and understanding the acts as the cultural apparatus inherited from generation to generation, I would like to consider what cooking, which exists in the interface between civilization and culture, has meant to humans.

Lecture 1

“Post Dietary Transition and the Possibility of a New Food System”
Professor, The Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo

Since the end of World War II, humanity’s environment related to food has changed drastically. The world’s population was about 2.5 billion people shortly after the end of the war, around the 1950s. Today, it is over 7.4 billion people, nearly three times what it was, and is expected to reach 11 billion people in 2100 (World Population Prospects by the United Nations: medium estimate). Because the population has increased explosively in this way, a pessimistic view related to population and food that Robert Malthus, an economist in the 19th century, presented in An Essay on the Principle of Population was dominant even in the 20th century. However, with the success of green revolution in wheat and rice, no shortage of food exists at present from a global viewpoint. The caloric intake per person in 2011 was 2,900 kcal on the world average and 2,300 kcal in the least developed countries (FAOSTAT).

Still, 800 million people in the world are now undernourished. In the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), “Zero Hunger” is listed as one of the 17 goals. The lack of nutrition and food originates from inefficient distribution of food. Although global efforts at improvement to date have achieved some results (U.N. Millennium Development Goals), many difficulties are anticipated to resolve the problem comprehensively. Developed countries have abundant food. As a consequence, obesity has become a severe social problem. The situation is created by the excessive intake of animal products, oils and fats, and sweeteners. “The tendency that when people become wealthy, staple food decreases (Figure 1) and animal products increase (Figure 2),” such so-called “Dietary Transition,” is apparent globally (Smil and Kobayashi). The “lavish” food consumption in developed countries has been supported by the development of food production worldwide. Food in Japan is one example with reliance on foreign countries for most wheat, soybeans, and feed grains.
Source: Kazuhiko Kobayashi. 2009 Junkangata-shakai ni muketa shokuseni eno chosen. Yayoi, vol. 48. Faculty of Agriculture, The University of Tokyo.

Satiation causes not only health problems for people; it also causes environmental problems. For example, a large amount of feed grains is necessary to produce animal products. The production was expanded to meet demand after the war. A lot of nitrogen was to be used to increase grain production. However, in the case of beef production, it is said that only a part of the nitrogen components remain within the protein. More than 90% of it is released into the environment (Smil). Most recently, concerns have arisen about environmental problems caused by the emission of greenhouse gases in beef cattle breeding (IFPRI).

Changes in postwar society have also significantly changed the mode of delivering food to consumers. In Japan, with the increase in population, the economy grew rapidly. People who became wealthy were to concentrate in cities. The uneven distribution of population caused the uneven distribution of agricultural production. For example, in Tokyo, since many farmlands have been converted to other usage, agricultural products produced in the surrounding prefectures are insufficient. A large amount of agricultural products must be transported from distant regions such as Hokkaido, Tohoku, and Kyushu, consuming fuel and emitting CO2. Under the circumstances, food materials that have no connection at all with our living environment, including imported agricultural products, have been increasing. It can be said that with the change in lifestyle resulting from urbanization, adherence to traditional household cooking was being lost.

As described above, population growth, economic growth, and the progress of urbanization after the war forced great changes upon the economy of food. However, circumstances surrounding population, economy, and urbanization are beginning to change considerably all over the world from around the end of the century. In developed countries, a reverse phenomenon has already occurred, in which people need not “worry about” securing food and are given leeway. There is a growing number of consumers who explore how new food should be, considering environmental and ethical issues, to realize sustainable society. A food consumption style as post dietary transition will be created in the process. To achieve this, a new food system will be required, which should be called local production for local consumption in a new age. I would like to think about whether Japan, which is on the leading edge in the world in terms of the circumstances surrounding population, economy, and urbanization, can be the top runner.

Vaclav Smil and Kazuhiko Kobayashi Japan’s Dietary Transition and Its Impacts, MIT Press, 2012. Vaclav Smil Enriching the Earth, MIT Press, 2001. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Food policy in 2015-2016: Reshaping the global food system for sustainable development, 2016.

Lecture 2

“Globality, Nationality, and Locality Seen from Italian Cuisine”
Associate Professor, National Museum of Ethnology

Italian cuisine and regionality
Italian cuisine and food are renowned worldwide. Italians themselves are often proud of its tastiness and richness. In 2015, the Universal Exhibition, with a single unifying theme was food was held in Milano. In addition, the Slow Food movement originated in Italy has now become an international organization. Mediterranean cuisine, of which Italian cuisine is one component, was registered as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2010.

One feature of such Italian cuisine and food is regionality. The way food should be is enormously diverse across Italy. The tastiness and healthiness are regarded as related to the fact that food is rooted in the region. In fact, the Slow Food movement is an activity that tries to respect various food and eating in the region, in opposition to standardized food and eating typified by fast food.

However, it is noteworthy that the regionality and locality of the food and eating has been cultivated in the course of exchange with the outside world, not only in the current globalization context, but also when tracing back the history.
Picking grapes with the whole family and making wine (Roman suburbs).

What is “Italian cuisine” in the first place?
First, “Italian cuisine”, as a matter of fact, actually has only a short history. In general, “○○ cuisine” that prefixes the country name is also called national cuisine, which is regarded as having an association with the formation of modern states. The same can apply to Italy. It was 1861 when Italy was unified as a state. However, there was no feature common to the whole country at that time in terms of food and eating.

Under the circumstances, a cookbook collected recipes from different parts of the country, Artusi’s La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene published in 1891, had a great impact. The book was spread. It is said that every household has one copy even today, and became a guide to Italian cuisine up to the present day.

Another factor is emigrants. In the same period, Italians who emigrated to the United States, particularly those who opened Italian restaurants as a means of livelihood, faced many difficulties, and succeeded. The experience gave rise to self-consciousness as being Italian, and had an important meaning in forming the category of Italian cuisine.
Women preparing gnocchi for their family (Roman suburbs).

Relation between region and food
The formation and leveling of such Italian cuisine advanced after that. However, as La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene was a collection of recipes in different regions, an element of regional diversity was incorporated there. In Italy, numerous descriptions of cooking across the country had already appeared in travel books in the late Middle Ages. In the Middle Ages, cities in Italy had grown involving surrounding farming villages. Trade between cities also developed. It is considered that food and eating in different regions were attracting interest in the process.

Moreover, it should be noticed that a “region” in this case is not a wider area, such as regione, but is a “town” level area, such as cities. Of course, there are categories by regione and by provincia. However, it would be better to consider it derived from national reorganization of local food and eating after the formation of the state. Considering the actual state of people’s food and eating, it is the “town” in which their food and eating are rooted.

In Italy, people have a strong attachment to the town in which they grew up. Human relationships in the town society are also intimate. Actually, food and eating have major roles in cultivating and maintaining attachment and social relationships. Relevant details will be described in another report, but regional food for them is not merely something unique to the land. It is also something to embody and remember their own history and society in the meaning that they have built the society while eating it together.
A corner of an open-air market in the suburbs of Rome.

Regional food in globalization
Even in Italy, the way towns should be is now changing considerably. Waves of globalization are sweeping over eating habits. It is very interesting that the Slow Food movement trying to take back food and eating rooted in the region was born in the situation. In addition, interest in food and eating, such as agritourism, which uses food as a tourist attraction in the region, is growing again combined with the revitalization of the region. Furthermore, at the country and EU levels, a system to prescribe and protect geographical indications of food has been created.

The movement is, on the one hand, probably derived from the strength of the association between their food and region. On the other hand, it is a product of globalization in people, things, and information. Not only do people oppose globalization, they also actively use it. For that reason, some criticism has arisen that the regionality of food and eating these days is nothing more than commercialism that has turned to resources by market principles. However, it should not be forgotten that the regionality of their food and eating itself has been changing constantly in various contacts and exchanges with the outside world in the first place. It is not the past tradition exactly as it was, but it is often newly created. This will apply to cooking and food and eating in other regions of the world.

Then, now that the influence of globalization is growing at various levels, how should we be involved with an increasingly complex society through our own food and eating and cooking? The case of Italy will give various suggestions in again questioning the relation between such modern food and eating and society.
Artusi’s La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene remains on sale at bookstores. The small book with a yellow cover placed in the center of the lower shelf is the book (Rome). Gastronomy Map in Italy made by Ente Nazionale Italiano per il Turismo in 1931.