JHI Circle of Fellows Spotlight—Jaclyn Rohel

April 27, 2022 by Sonja Johnston

Jaclyn Rohel earned her Ph.D. in Food Studies at New York University in 2018. She is the Reviews Editor of the journal Gastronomica. Jaclyn is JHI's 2021-2022 Community Engaged Humanities Research Fellow.

JHI: What are your main research interests?

JR: I’m a scholar of Food Studies, an interdisciplinary field in the humanities and social sciences. My research focuses on public culture and the marketplace in diverse cities. Over the last several years I have increasingly pursued an applied research approach. That is, as a community-engaged scholar, I try to find ways to put my research to work to create opportunities for social impact beyond the university.

JHI: What research project(s) are you working on now at the JHI and why did you choose it?

JR: This year I am working on several projects that, together, explore pleasure as a site of hospitality – care and welcoming – in city foodways. Broadly, my more theoretical work in cultural studies looks at how certain edible items attain culinary value while others may come to be contested. Under what conditions does a food become a tool of hospitality used to cement social connection? By contrast, how and why are some comestibles denied culinary value? This is largely a question about classification that brings together global histories as well as practices in everyday life, and it has implications for public culture, policy, and food access. My community-engaged research - which I am undertaking in collaboration with colleagues at U of T’s Culinaria Research Centre and the Feeding City Lab - focuses on sites of provisioning in Toronto to support more equitable, inclusive, and resilient foodways. We just recently had a couple of events on university-community collaborations -- stay tuned to the JHI’s Youtube page if you’re interested in learning more!

JHI: What experiences are you hoping for at the JHI?

JR: Our annual theme this year is pleasure. The potential to study this topic from the perspective of Food Studies seems obvious, but for my own work this year I want to shift the frame away from consumption to explore the meanings of pleasure within food systems more broadly. So, I am really interested in deepening my analytical framework by engaging with the theme in other contexts and disciplines. Every week I look forward to the Circle of Fellows meeting with my JHI colleagues, because I am continually learning from them.

JHI: Share something you read/watched/listened to recently that you enjoyed/were inspired by.

JR: It’s hard to choose just one. I’m the Reviews Editor at Gastronomica, so I have a running list of all the fascinating new books and films on food. I recently did an interview for Gastronomica with Kim Walker and Mark Nesbitt, authors of Just the Tonic: A Natural History of Tonic Water. This is a fun, accessible and highly informative book on the intersections of medicine, pleasure, and commoditization in global food history, published by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. It’s also a beautiful book, with lots of visual storytelling drawn from the Kew’s image collection.

JHI: What is a fun fact about you?

JR: I like to cook (when I can find the time!). The first recipe I ever learned was schnitzel. I have fond memories of making it with my family when I was three or four years old; I haven’t had it in years, but I still clearly recall the well-worn look of our trusty frying pan. These days, my most indispensable kitchen tools are really just a good knife, a citrus reamer, and a healthy dose of humility.