Accepted abstract - Creative Tastebuds Symposium

The Procurement of Food as a Factor in Taste

By Joan Gross, Oregon State University

In addition to being influenced by the situations and conditions of the activity of tasting as Hojlund points out (2015:3), taste is also influenced by the procurement of the food being tasted. When I taste mushrooms that I have gathered in the woods, the experience of finding a treasure trove of golden chanterelles popping up through the moss around a decaying trunk in the cool forest forms part of my pleasure in tasting the mushrooms fried in butter with garlic back in my kitchen. In ethnographic interviews with food activists, back to the landers and freegans, the response to a question about a favorite meal often included how the food was procured. The production of a meal is a performance in which one demonstrates one’s food-procuring and preparation skills. The latter is always considered important to taste, but the former seldom is. Food activists and back to the landers were partial to food that they had grown themselves. Freegans foraged from restaurant tables, dumpsters, and in the forest. One freegan group raved about a big communal meal that they prepared of wild salmon and acorn mush. Everyone says that the taste of fish deteriorates as soon as they spawn, but the freegans didn’t think that it was right to take a salmon that hadn’t spawned, given their declining numbers. They grabbed one in the stream after it had spawned and smoked it over an open fire. They recognized that the taste was different, but it wasn’t bad. The fact that they had allowed the fish to reproduce before catching it made the taste more desirable. Understandably, if the procurement process consists of undervalued, backbreaking, monotonous work for insufficient wages, that, too, leaves its trace on the taste of the food.


  • Gross, Joan. 2014. Food Activism in Western Oregon. In Food Activism: Agency, Democracy and Economy. Carole Counihan and Valeria Siniscalchi, eds. New York: Bloomsbury, pp.15-30.
  • Gross, Joan. 2009. Capitalism and its Discontents: Back-to-the-Lander and Freegan Foodways in Rural Oregon. Food and Foodways, 17:57-79.
  • Hojlund, Susanne. 2015. Taste as a social sense: rethinking taste as a cultural activity. BioMed Central. (Accessed January 9, 2017).