Against the Odds: The Survival of Traditional Food Knowledge in a Rural Alberta Community
Keywords:canning, cooking, gardening, deskilling, rural Alberta, social practice theory, traditional food knowledge
The globalization and industrialization of the agri-food system has been linked to declining knowledge and skills in the general population related to growing, preserving and cooking food. In rural communities, loss of this knowledge and associated culture and traditions has been further exacerbated by depopulation due to outmigration and the subsequent erosion of social and physical infrastructure. Counter to this trend of food deskilling, however, are the efforts of individuals who are actively working to maintain and perpetuate traditional food practices. The purpose of this research was to understand what factors motivate and enable the preservation of gardening, cooking and canning skills among a group of women and their children in a small rural community in Alberta. Qualitative research methods were used to gather relevant data, which were analyzed using a social practice theoretical lens. Findings from this study revealed four conditions influencing the continuation of these social practices among the research participants: the experience and history of scarcity; normative expectations; a close connection to family; and, development of a community of practice. This study illustrates the relevance of a social practice framework for examining food knowledge and skills, and points to the potential of this approach for understanding and promoting pro-environmental behaviour and sustainable consumption in the food system.
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