Professor Shahani Discusses Breaking Bread in Coronavirus Era

Friday, May 29, 2020
Photo of loaf of bread and knife on cutting board

CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS -- Gitanjali Shahani is professor of English at San Francisco State University. She is author of “Tasting Difference: Food, Race and Cultural Encounters in Early Modern Literature” (2020). She wrote this piece for Cambridge University Press’ blog.

“Indeed, the end of the year could leave us with radically altered foodscapes even in the most affluent parts of the world. The tiny immigrant eateries of the Mission District in San Francisco have all but disappeared,” Shahani wrote. “The last time my family stopped by for Indian takeout, the owner teared up in a farewell of sorts, unsure if he could afford to pay his staff much longer. It is hard to imagine the vibrant commensal rituals of dining together, in the cozy proximity necessitated by San Francisco’s real estate, returning to any version of what we knew and loved.

“Our work in food studies, whether as historians, anthropologists or literary critics, will no doubt, take on more urgency in the wake of this crisis. The food ephemera of the digital world, the food rituals of a quarantined world, the food stories of the hungry, the sick and the grieving, will have to be chronicled and archived in ways that fully and forcefully convey the ennui, the dread, the loneliness and the anxiety of a time when we could no longer break bread together.”