Preface and acknowledgements

A book such as this, written by anthropologists and sociologists with first-hand experience of carrying out field-work on food practices in the British context today, would have been difficult to compile until recently. Although anthropology has a long interest in the study of food, it has relatively rarely been one in food per se. Following Lévi-Strauss’s dictum that food is ‘good to think with’, it has rather been seen as a way of understanding social and cultural processes. Furthermore, anthropology has mainly focused its attentions on ‘other’, mainly non-western societies, and only recently, with a few honourable exceptions, have ethnographers begun to carry out anthropology ‘at home’. Thus paradoxically, at the time of writing, it would be possible to compile a much more detailed account of the anthropology of food in, say, India, than it is of food in Britain.

It was for this reason that when, in 1995, I was invited to convene a day-long panel on a subject of my own choosing at the British Association for the Advancement of Science annual conference, I selected the topic of ‘Food in Britain’ from a social science viewpoint. Several of the contributors to that panel were carrying out research for a project entitled ‘Concepts of Healthy Eating’ (Caplan, Keane, Willetts and Williams), while Murcott was the Director of the ESRC Research Progamme of which that project was a part (‘The Nation’s Diet: The Social Science of Food Choice’). Other contributors had already carried on research and published on food in Britain as had Murcott herself. All of their BAAS papers are included in this collection. In addition, several new contributors joined the book project: Martens and Warde, and Reilly were also carrying out research for their own projects as part of ‘The Nation’s Diet’ programme, while three young


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Food, Health, and Identity


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