Fresno's food scene has been chronicled by all kinds of media, but an anthropology class? That might be a first.
Fresno State students taking Henry Delcore's Anthropology 111B Ethnographic Methods and Dvera Saxton's Anthropology 118 Women, Biology, and Culture recently created Fresno Foodways. The website takes a look at restaurants and other local food producers, including a mobile cake-in-a-jar business.
What's different about this website is that it also looks deeply into the culture and background of the people running these businesses. The story about the Lao Thai Restaurant on Kings Canyon Road by Alexis Hoang, for example, talks about sticky rice and larb, a dish sometimes made with raw meat.
But it also delves into the owner's background, coming from a refugee camp to Fresno, his path from a Fresno State electrical engineering degree to opening a restaurant, and Laos' role in the Vietnam war.
According to Fresno Foodways, the goal of the site "is to present an ethnographic glimpse of the stories of immigrant, refugee, and diasporic cooks and food entrepreneurs in Fresno, CA." Those populations often face challenges like discrimination and being shut out from public investment, the site says.
The creators also said they want to provide a different kind of food coverage.
"Too often, food journalism and online food reviews treat food as utterly unmoored from any social or cultural context. But working with people and food responsibly means portraying them in context," it says.
The instructors plan to continue the project in future classes. People can suggest businesses or home cooks by emailing email@example.com.