Greg de St. Maurice
- Research Associate, Department of Anthropology
Greg de St. Maurice received his PhD in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Pittsburgh in 2015. His key research interests include globalization, taste, “place” and place brands, culinary heritage and local foodways, and Japan. He is a Research Associate at the University of Pittsburgh and a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Ryukoku University’s Faculty of Agriculture and its Center for Research on Food Palatability. The focus of his recent research is the dynamism of local foodways and agricultural systems in the context of the most recent phase of globalization. Current projects address the use of science by contemporary Japanese chefs, the valuation of “undelicious” edible plants, and changes in Japanese domestic and regional foodways since 1975.
Place Brands for Food and Agricultural Products
Dr. de St. Maurice’s dissertation from the University of Pittsburgh examined the contemporary significance of place brands for food and agricultural products. Kyoto, branded as Japan’s cultural capital and consistently ranked as one of Japan’s top place brands in consumer surveys, served as the fieldsite for his ethnographic case study. His research shows how networks of farmers, chefs, local government officials, and consumers use the Kyoto brand to engage with globalization. In his dissertation, he demonstrates how place today is more than a locale, a setting, and a “sense of place”—it can also operate as a brand. His research argues that local place brands can support comparatively inclusive and welcoming forms of localism that are culturally and economically productive.
The Use of Science by Contemporary Japanese Chefs
For this current project that interrogates the role of the contemporary chef as a kind of scientist, Dr. de St. Maurice is conducting ongoing participant observation at the meetings of the Japan Society for Innovative Cuisine as well as interviews with researchers and chefs. The Japanese Cuisine Laboratory, a project organized by the Kyoto-based Japanese Culinary Academy, seeks to "further scientific understanding of Japanese cuisine" via monthly meetings featuring culinary experiments, analysis, and discussion amongst chefs and scientific researchers. Preliminary findings, presented at the American Anthropological Association’s 2015 annual meetings, indicate that through this laboratory and the projects that have emerged from it, chefs acquire a modern, global vocabulary for explaining traditional cooking methods, and are able to clearly discern innovative ways of altering traditional recipes to suit contemporary times.
A researcher taking notes during a session of the Japanese Cuisine Laboratory on the theme of bittnerness.
The Valuation of “Less Delicious” Edible Plants
Dr. de St. Maurice is also pursuing research on heirloom vegetable varieties and distinct local food customs in Japan. For the 2014 American Anthropological Association’s annual meetings, he co-organized a panel about crops that societies value even as they are considered less delicious than other varieties. He presented preliminary findings on the reasons that Kyoto’s Shishigatani squash (a local heirloom variety) is locally important in spite of being “undelicious.” With his co-organizer, Dr. Theresa Miller of the Smithsonian Institution, he is organizing a special issue of the journal Food, Culture, and Society as an outgrowth of this panel.
The Shishigatani squash, a “Kyoto vegetable” variety, at Anraku Temple’s annual Shishigatani squash “mass.”
Changes to Japanese Domestic and Regional Foodways Since 1975
His research at Ryukoku University concerns changes to Japanese home cooking and regional cuisine over the past forty years. Given that Japan has occupied the top rank for life expectancy over past decades and that foodways are thought to contribute significantly to this achievement, Japanese officials and researchers are keen to better understand the domestic and regional foodways of the past and their impact on human health. Many dietary researchers point to 1975 as the year in which the average Japanese person ate an ideal balance of fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Dr. de St. Maurice is conducting historical and ethnographic research into the 1975 diet, examining geographic, class, and urban / rural variations. This research probes the sociocultural and political economic context that made this diet possible and considers what Japanese society could do to adapt 1975 dietary patterns in a manner that would fit contemporary needs, values, and realities.