Foodways

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In social science foodways are the cultural, social and economic practices relating to the production and consumption of food. Foodways often refers to the intersection of food in culture, traditions, and history.[1]

Definition[edit]

Merriam Webster defines Foodways as "the eating habits and culinary practices of a people, region, or historical period"

Social Science[edit]

Anthropologists, folklorists, sociologists, historians, and food scholars often use the term foodways to describe the study of why we eat what we eat and what it means. The term, therefore, looks at food consumption on a deeper than concrete level and is inclusive of yet goes beyond sustenance, recipes and/or taste. Thus, according to Harris, Lyon and McLaughlin: “…everything about eating including what we consume, how we acquire it, who prepares it and who’s at the table – is a form of communication rich with meaning. Our attitudes, practices and rituals around food are a window onto our most basic beliefs about the world and ourselves.” [2]

Topics like social inclusion and exclusion, power, and sense making are explored under the umbrella term foodways. Further, the ways in which food shapes and is shaped by social organization are essential to examination of foodways. Since consumption of food is socially constructed, cultural study is also incorporated in the term.

Anthropologist Mary Douglas, explains: “A very modest life of subsistence contrasts with our own use of goods, in for example, the use of food. How would we be able to say all of the things we want to say, even just to the members of our families, about different kinds of events and occasions and possibilities if we did not make any difference between breakfast and lunch and dinner and if we made no difference between Sunday and weekends, and never had a different kind of meal when friends came in, and if Christmas Day had also to be celebrated with the same kind of food?” [3]

While in fields like anthropology, the production, procurement, preparation, presentation and consumption of foods have always been regarded as central in the study of cultures[4] the use of the term foodways in popular culture is used as an oriented way of looking at food practices. In this sense, the term is a consumer culture expression that encompasses, in popularly understandable and debatable formats, contemporaneous social practices related to foods as well as nutritional and culinary aspects of foods.

Regional aspects[edit]

The term foodways can be employed when referencing the "ways of food" of a region or location. For example, the website Michigan Foodways is devoted to "exhibitions and public programs focused on Michigan's unique contributions to the national culinary tapestry".

The Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut published the book Saltwater Foodways, focusing on the foods of New Englanders. Examining the population's behavior as seafaring people and when ashore.

The Southern Foodways Alliance explores the foodways of the American South via oral history projects, films, sharing of recipes, and promoting teaching of foods and cultures of the region. Their website also links to the University of Mississippi.[5]

The Foodways Section of the American Folklore Society and the Department of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University release an annual publication called Digest: An Interdisciplinary Study of Food and Foodways. In addition to scholarly articles, this annual compendium offers reports of works in progress on foodways. These include photo essays, course syllabi, and announcements. Also found here are reviews of books, periodicals, conferences, exhibits, festivals, museums, and films.

Immigrant foodways are also featured prominently in America. For example, The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, located in Southeastern Massachusetts which has a very large immigrant population from Cape Verde, Cape Verdean Foodways are described via recipes from these southern Atlantic islands.

Colonial Williamsburg has a foodways staff dedicated to studying and recreating the foodways and practices of historical Williamsburg's upper class. "The foodways team prepares dishes served to the colony's upper class because so much historical information about their culinary life is available, said Frank Clark, foodways supervisor and Colonial Williamsburg's first journeyman cook. Historians know far less about food practices of people further down the social scale, but cookbooks, documents, kitchen inventories, and archaeological research provide a detailed picture about how the governor and the gentry dined." [6]

Scholarly approaches[edit]

In contrast to the anthropological treatments of food, the term foodways aims at a highly cross-disciplinary approach to food and nutrition. For example, the refereed journal Food and Foodways, published by Taylor & Francis, is "devoted to publishing original scholarly articles on the history and culture of human nourishment. By reflecting on the role food plays in human relations, this unique journal explores the powerful but often subtle ways in which food has shaped, and shapes, our lives socially, economically, politically, mentally, nutritionally, and morally. Because food is a pervasive social phenomenon, it cannot be approached by any one discipline".[7]

In consumer culture research, contemporary and postmodern foodways are topics of interest. In an article in the journal Consumption Markets & Culture, from Taylor & Francis publications, Douglas Brownlie, Paul Hewer, and Suzanne Horne explore culinary consumptionscapes through a study of contemporary cookbooks, with chic recipes often turning intensely into a kind of "gastroporn", creating a "simulacrum of desire" as well as a "simulacrum of satisfaction."

Historical studies of foodways help scientists, anthropologists, and scholars gain insight into past cultures. Springer Publishing has released 'Pre-Columbian Foodways,' a book by John Staller and Michael Carrasco, which studies and examines 'the symbolic complexity of food and its preparation, as well as the social importance of feasting in contemporary and historical societies.' [8] Books like this help further the study of foodways and increase public awareness.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Darnton, Julia. "Foodways: When food meets culture and history". Michigan State University Extension. Retrieved 5 March 2013. 
  2. ^ Harris, Lyon and McLaughlin, 2005, pp. VIII-IX
  3. ^ 1992, p. 23
  4. ^ Lévi-Strauss 1966
  5. ^ http://www.southernfoodways.com/ Southern Foodways Alliance
  6. ^ http://www.history.org/foundation/journal/autumn04/food.cfm
  7. ^ http://www.researchgate.net/journal/0740-9710_Food_and_Foodways
  8. ^ http://www.springer.com/social+sciences/anthropology+%26+archaeology/book/978-1-4419-0470-6

Sources[edit]

  • Brownlie, Douglas, Paul Hewer, and Suzanne Horne (2005), “Culinary Tourism: An Exploratory Reading of Contemporary Representations of Cooking,” Consumption, Markets and Culture 8, (March), 7-26.
  • Douglas, Mary (1992), :Why Do People Want Goods?” in eds. Shaun Hargreaves and Agus Ross, Understanding the Enterprise Culture, Edinburgh University Press, 19-31.
  • Harris, Patricia, David Lyon and Sue McLaughlin (2005), The Meaning of Food, CT: The Globe Pequot Press.

External links[edit]