Words to live by

“If you are gracious, you have won the game.”

Stevie Nicks

fem. proper name, literally “favor, grace;”

late 12c., “God’s favor or help,” from Old French grace “pardon, divine grace, mercy; favor, thanks; elegance, virtue” (12c.), from Latin gratia “favor, esteem, regard; pleasing quality, good will, gratitude” (source of Italian grazia, Spanish gracia), from gratus “pleasing, agreeable,” from PIE root *gwere- “to favor” (cf. Sanskrit grnati “sings, praises, announces,” Lithuanian giriu “to praise, celebrate,” Avestan gar- “to praise”).

Sense of “virtue” is early 14c., that of “beauty of form or movement, pleasing quality” is mid-14c. In classical sense, “one of the three sister goddesses (Latin Gratiæ, Greek Kharites), bestowers of beauty and charm,” it is first recorded in English 1579 in Spenser. The short prayer that is said before or after a meal (early 13c.; until 16c. usually graces) has a sense of “gratitude.”

c.1200, “to thank,” from Old French gracier, from grace (see grace (n.)). Meaning “to show favor” (mid-15c.) led to that of “to lend or add grace to something” (1580s, e.g. grace us with your presence), which is the root of the musical sense in grace notes (1650s). Related: Graced; gracing.

Source: http://etymonline.com/?term=grace

Trip Report

A few months ago I posted a personal post and received really positive and supportive feedback. So today I thought I would do another one, but this time it’s happy.

Over Easter, my partner Tom and I took a very quick trip to Northern Wales to get some last minute/last chance winter climbing in. Here is the trip report that he wrote up. Not much about food really. We did make a nice stir fry in the bunk house, however.

Hope you enjoy it!

Easter Climbing in Snowdonia – Trip Report

29-30 March 2013 – Tom & Jess

Cwm Idwal at sunriseIt was decided the night before we left that we’d make the most of the seemingly never-ending icy conditions in Britain this year, and planned to drive up to North Wales and Snowdonia National Park.
It being the Easter weekend, we were somewhat surprised when the second bunkhouse we spoke to (Gwern Gof Uchaf, between Llyn Ogwen and Tryfan) had spaces for us over the weekend. It wasn’t till we arrived that we realised that the bunk house was half full of walkers and cyclists – the real winter climbers were all camping just outside the bunkhouse in a foot of snow, to harden up.

Friday 30th
So we arose from our luxurious bunks at 5:45 and made our way over to Cwm Idwal, for which I had printed a sketchy guide of the area downloaded the day before.

It was at this point that the guidebook let us down (I had neglected to add any kind of topo!). Thankfully, there were already a few other early bird climbers who pointed out the major routes that were in good condition – which happened to be most of them. Being novices, we mistook South Gully (IV 5) for Idwal Stream (II 2), and headed to the base of the route expecting a warm up. Probably for the best then, there were already a couple gearing up for the Gully, so we ended up on Chicane Gully (III 3), its initial steep pitch having caught our eyes from the walk in.

Chicane turned out to be a beauty of a route, with two pitches of good ice, a slightly bold snow gully, and a final romp up a short ice feature. We took a long time doing the route in swing leads, in part due to dropping and retrieving some gear off the first pitch, and in part due to my ‘winter nerves’ on the lead. Jess calmly led her first grade III ice pitch, no noise at all. Topping out in time for lunch, we enjoyed a bagel in the sunshine – who’d have though that it’d been in N. Wales all along?

On the way back down the hill, we left our bags and ropes and had a wee explore of the renowned Devil’s Kitchen, which was an absolute wonderland of icicles and hoarfrost. The waterfall at the back was a well-formed 30ft ice pitch on the right, and frosted yet running waterfall to the left.

On the way down we were captivated for an hour or so by a ballsy chap climbing The Curtain, which had formed as a slanting pillar you could wrap your arms around. We were unsure it would hold him, and so decided to stick around for the show, for better or worse!

By this time we were both getting cold, so we decided to find a route we could tackle without ropes. Introductory Gully (II) turned out to be the best option. A popular scramble in the summer, this long icy slab offered a good 100m of climbing, before spitting us out on the top of the Idwal slabs.

On the walk out, we spoke to a number of other climbers. It was definitely a crowded day, but the sunshine and good conditions seemed to leave everyone in a great mood.

Saturday 31st

The Screen, IV, 4  Photo - climbmountains.wordpress.comAfter some discussion with other climbers and the kind staff at Joe Browns (where we picked up a guidebook), we decided on heading back to the same area of Cwm Idwal, as there was still a number of routes for us to try, and a short walk in that we now knew. Up at 5:30, we were approaching the routes before 7 – but we had been beaten to South Gully again! We quickly dashed around the corner to the base of The Screen, before the six climbers heading up the hill also beat us to it.

The Screen (IV 4) is a 4m-wide icefall route, which works up vertically for 15m through giant conglomerated icicles, before winding under a glassy chandelier to a mixed gully. This route was certainly my most testing winter route to date, I was pumped out and struggling to get a screw in, 2m above a sling wrapped around an icicle, and 5m above my last good gear.

Eventually, the screw bit, my forearms stopped screaming at me, and I finished the route. My first grade IV, and one I’ll remember. Of course, Jess had no trouble at all seconding the steep pitch, and arrived at the belay with no qualms.

We were stoked to have finished our first route by 9am today, and headed straight over to the Idwal Stream, for a brilliant long solo up to the saddle of the mountain, and some coffee.

That's me in Devil's KitchenOur final route of the day was the South Gully, which had caught our eye the day before when we confused it with the stream.  This four-pitch route was in great nick, and offered a lot of steep ice to test our mettle on. After a slow nervy start up the first pitch, Jess raced up the second to the base of the long third pitch seen in the photo. The climbers ahead of us were just topping out, making an aerobic looking couple of moves out from under an icy umbrella. The pitch turned out to be brilliant, and my length meant avoiding the wacky shapes that the previous group were using – I bit my axe sideways into a solid icy flake and trusted a low pull on it, bringing my right pick high over the umbrella; a high foot, and up to a good rest with obvious screw-holes and safety.

Once again, Jess arrived at the belay with ease and a smile – she’ll be leading it next time then.

That’s all for our trip. Short, but we tried to pack it in. Catch you next season Wales.


Oh Canada :(

A friend just sent me a blog post by Stephan Leahy called Blame Canada Part 4: What is Happening to Canada?”.

In the article Mr. Leahy makes reference to a quote from Joanna Kerr (ActionAid): “Wherever I travel in Africa people ask me, ‘what happened to Canada?”

It’s been a while since I have lived in Canada (coming up to 6 years) but I still identify as Canadian, pay taxes in Canada and thank my lucky stars for Canadian research agencies. However, attending international meetings since the Conservatives came into power (this is going back to UNFCCC COP 12 in 2006 ), being Canadian has been nothing but embarrassing.

Candian youth with the Minister for the Environment at  UNFCCC COP 16, Nairobi, Kenya.
Canadian youth with the Minister for the Environment at UNFCCC COP 16, Nairobi, Kenya. The start of 7 years of painful international negotiations.

I am most familiar with the negotiations at the Committee on World Food Security and they have been shameful. I have reflected on it a bit here. Country delegates pass sympathetic looks when they learn I am from Canada. Moans are audible in Plenary when the Canadian negotiators take the floor. I was in a meeting once where Canada refused to accept reference to human rights in any paragraph mentioning indigenous peoples: so much for our home and native land. Their only allies on that point were China and Syria *shudder*. 

Canada has pulled out of several important international treaties and blocked constructive negotiations. It’s gone well beyond being embarrassing, it’s enraging.

Anthropology and Food Studies Event at SOAS

Just thought I would flag up a neat event I have been invited to participate in next week in London. If you are interesting in the methodological opportunities provide by anthropology, it will certainly be a lot of fun!

Annual 2013 SOAS Anthropology of Food Professionalization Event

Host: SOAS Food Studies Centre

Theme: If there is one discipline that is unafraid of complexity it is Anthropology.  In an ever changing and interconnected food system, our local and global food networks are intricately linked, all players in this system holding different perspectives.  The organizers, Jolien Benjamin and Kathleen Yung, received UnLtd Funding to devote a half day event to highlight the skills that anthropologists hold.  These skills uniquely positions them to tackle some of the major issues UK’s food and agriculture system is facing.  The event will explore and demonstrate anthropologists’ diverse roles at the research, non-profit, governmental, and business levels.

Who will be attending?  This event is to encourage more cross-sector organizational engagement that is working in or peripherally on food and agriculture related issues.  We hope to have people from the non-profit, private, and public sectors attend.

Speakers at event (Please also find the schedule of the day attached):

Laura Sayre (Opening speaker):  Laura is an American scholar and writer based in France, where she is a research fellow with the Département Sciences pour l’Action et le Développement within the Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique. Her core research interests relate to the production and transmission of agricultural knowledge, the nature and causes of agricultural change, and the role and representation of agriculture within wider social and cultural fields. To understand these themes, she uses the methods of history, ethnography and textual analysis.

Patrick Mulvany (Panel discussion): Patrick is the Chair of the UK Food Group. The UK Food Group (UKFG) is the leading UK network for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working on global food and agriculture issues. To this end the UKFG seeks to promote sustainable and equitable food security policies; to balance corporate power by providing a public interest perspective to issues affecting global food security; and to strengthen the capacity of civil society to contribute effectively to international consultations on food security.  He has also worked as the Senior Policy Adviser for Practical Action for many years and has extensive experience from issues related to food sovereignty to more ecological forms of food production.

Representative from Sustain (Panel discussion):  Sustain is a charity organization thatadvocates for food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, enrich society and culture and promote equity.  Sustain represents around 100 national public interest organisations working at international, national, regional and local level.

Jessica Duncan (Panel discussion): is a PhD researcher at the Centre for Food Policy, City University London. Her research examines the reformed UN Committee on World Food Security and assesses its capacity to achieve the renewed mandate in the context of a shifting architecture of global food security governance. Alongside this research, she works as the Global Coordinator for Alliance Building for the Indian NGO MARAG. This work includes supporting a global network of women pastoralists and researching the changing relationship between pastoralists women in the Indian state of Gujarat to their livestock and the land, with a focus on land tenure, food security, sedentarization and food governance.  Jessica also works in the Department of Food Systems, Culture and Society at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), where she teaches courses on research methods, food governance, and contemporary issues in food studies, and supervises research projects.  She recently co- coordinated a panel at the Global Studies Association with Josh Brem-Wilson, Annette Desmarais and Hannah Wittman about researching with food social movements.

Date: March 14, 2013

Time: 1-7pm

Where: St. Luke’s Community Centre, 90 Central St., EC1V 8AJ – in Loft Room (located at the Central Street Cookery School started by a SOAS Anthropology of Food alumni, Sofia Larriana Craxton)

Cost: Free!

Aim of the Event:  Jolien Benjamin and I (Kathleen Yung), co-organizers of this event, are both alumni of the MA Anthropology of Food programme at SOAS, through this event we would like to form strong linkages between current students and alumni, and people working in various food/agriculture related fields that may be of interest to our students/alumni.  The event is organized so people will have different ways of networking through a dynamic mix of speakers, small group discussions, panel discussions, Anthropology of Food Project showcase – Dragon’s Den style, and a ‘speed-dating’ portion between professionals and students/alumni.

UnLtd awarded the funding for this event and their main aim is to promote projects and entrepreneurs that work towards positive social change in the UK.  As the co-organizers, we strongly believe that through the practical application of anthropology, there can be great contributions made to the current food and agriculture sectors.  So come and find out how!

Please RSVP by Monday, March 4th by emailing Jolien at jolienbenjamin83 (a) gmail.com

We look forward to welcoming you to this event and please do contact us if you have any questions.

Contemplating life: the good, the bad, and the stuff that just doesn’t make sense

I am going to do something I haven´t really done in the two years or so that I have been blogging here at Food Governance: I am going to get personal.

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that for a variety of reasons I have been a bit distracted and have not been able to dedicate any time to blogging. Some of the stuff keeping me busy has been really interesting and enriching. I have continued working with colleagues in India to support pastoralist women and we have put a lot of effort into designing a programme to support knowledge exchange and capacity building between pastoralist communities in India, Mongolia and Nepal.

I have been working with a consortium of academics from across Europe to develop a 5-year research project looking at authenticity of food products. I have been applying for post-docs (urg, that’s an arduous process) and looking at other post-PhD options. I have been developing new papers and conference presentations and continuing work on my thesis. I have also been teaching an excellent cohort of students in the Master’s Programme in the Department of Food Systems, Culture and Society at the UOC in Barcelona.

As part of a personal commitment to use less plastic, buy less, and avoid chemicals, I have made a new year’s resolution to use only home-made and natural beauty and health products, which means I have had to learn how to make soap and moisturizer. It’s been a fun distraction and has meant that I have a supply of homemade gifts to pass out to friends. I also smell like lavender and coconut oil which is never a negative, if you ask me. I have also not shampooed my hair in over a month, which is less than ideal, if I am being honest. It’s really not a good look.

So, things were going well, and I was being semi-productive, but December and January have sent me some stark reminders of the preciousness of life and the implications of actions.

A dear friend and mentor, Ken Hatt, passed away before Christmas. He has been my main academic crutch, confidant, inspiration, and a major part of my personal support system and it has been really hard coming to terms with the fact he is no longer there to plough through the complexity of neoliberalism and historic blocs, to share a laugh and a croissant, or to give frank advice. His thinking has had such a deep influence on me and is woven through my own work. Alongside the sadness is a feeling of being blessed that he was in my life.


Beyond being an excellent academic and a dear friend, he was a supreme teacher (seriously awesome). I have been tasked with taking over teaching his class this year and I know I can never will his shoes, but I will work hard to do him justice. The passion and commitment he had for his students was second to none. I wasn´t sure what it would be like taking over his course but it has proven rather therapeutic: it’s comforting to be working through his ideas with new students. His legacy will live on.

By way of a rather crass segue, Ken always thought I was silly to rock climb. He would have preferred I stuck with yoga, or reading, maybe knitting like his wonderful wife (who did patiently try to teach me and I am pretty terrible).  This weekend, I had a harsh reminder of his concern.

Ridge walk after curved Legdes
Ridge walk

My partner and I worked through the holidays so that we could take a week off to go ice climbing in Scotland. It was my first time heading up a mountain with axes and crampons and I loved it. We had amazing weather, pretty decent snow and ice and a lot of options. We headed up Ledge Route on Ben Nevis and summited to clear skies!

Summit after curved ridge
On the summit after climbing  Curved Ridge

After Ben Nevis, we headed to Glencoe.  We wandered up Curved Ridge one day and then up and over the Dorsal Arête. On our last day, another climber joined us. We headed over to the base of Stob Dearg (Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe) and played on a frozen river near the North Buttress. Tom and I had plans to have dinner with family that night so we started heading back to the car around 14:30. As we started to abseil down over a steep, tricky, slick bit of terrain we saw a helicopter pass. We assumed it was a training mission and carried on. Once in the car, we were passed by an ambulance and saw a rather large number of cars parked with another ambulance and a police car. Another helicopter was circling the area.

We dropped off our new friend at his car and carried on. And then my phone rang: it was a friend confirming that I was ok. The news was reporting that 4 climbers were missing and at least one was a woman.  Our hearts sank. News kept coming in and 4 young climbers, with much more experience than us, had been killed in an avalanche.  I went numb and have stayed that way. So many thoughts keep rushing through my mind. I have been contemplating the very real risks associated with a sport I had just started to love. More than putting myself at risk, the fear and concern that this caused friends and family members was a heavy weight to bear. And then there is the sense of guilt for having had such a wonderful experience in the calm before this tragedy.

Speaking to some friends with far more mountain experience than I have, I have been able to start to work through the sadness and the confusion. This was a terrible accident. My heart and most sincere condolences go out to the friends and families of these young climbers.  By all accounts, the world has lost 4 bright lights. My heart and healing wishes are now directed at the young woman who was taken to hospital.

I am getting back into the grove of things now that I am back. I will start posting again on food governance soon and I thank you for allowing me to indulge in this personal post.

Send out love and light. Be patient. Be grateful.

From Food Governance to Spelt Muffins

Many people wrote me over the last month, upset that I did not  write more about what was happening at the Global Gathering for Women Pastoralists. I apologise for that but with limited internet access, limited time, sketchy power outlets, so much work and, quite frankly, so many cooler things to do, the writing took a back seat. I will be starting on the final report once the holidays are over and will be sure to post some reflections, especially as they relate to the election of the focal points to the Civil Society Mechanism.

In the mean time, back in Barcelona, and working to finish a report on food sovereignty and global governance, I came across this descriptive paragraph from the FAO Discussion Paper Towards Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land and Other Natural Resources.

Governance is the process of governing. It is the way in which society is managed and how the competing priorities and interests of different groups are reconciled. It includes the formal institutions of government but also informal arrangements. Governance is concerned with the processes by which citizens participate in decision-making, how government is accountable to its citizens and how society obliges its members to observe its rules and laws. Governance comprises the mechanisms and processes for citizens and groups to articulate their interests, mediate their differences, and exercise their legal rights and obligations. It is the rules, institutions, and practices that sets limits and provides incentives for individuals, organizations and firms.

To this definition we can also add the rules and practices that set limits and incentive for governments.

Continue reading “From Food Governance to Spelt Muffins”