Food and Cultural Studies

By Bob Ashley; Joanne Hollows et al. | Go to book overview

10

Food writing

Representation is a central issue within cultural studies. As John Fiske suggests, 'all representations must have a politics', and it is the task of cultural studies to interrogate the nature of these politics (1989:191). As we argued in Chapter 4, cultural studies has identified a 'cultural circuit' through which any analysis of cultural forms and practices must pass. We have already demonstrated the significance of processes of consumption and identity to this circuit. Here we concern ourselves with practices of signification. Over the course of the next two chapters, we will be concerned with the manner in which food is represented in two textual forms: in the following chapter, television representations of cooking; and in this chapter, food in print.

The most comprehensive analysis of food writing appears in the work of Stephen Mennell. Mennell draws a distinction between two forms of food writing: gastronomic literature and cookery books (Mennell, 1996). While he associates the latter category principally with domesticity, and therefore with the feminine, he conceives of the former as an expression of a developing public sphere, and therefore as masculine. In what follows, we organize our discussion around these two categories, and address the representational politics which they generate. Following Mennell, we see questions of gender as being central to the textual politics of food writing, but we also identify politics of class and nationality as significant.


Cookery books

It is thought that the first cookery book to be printed was Kuchenmeisterey, first published in 1485 in Nuremberg. The innovation soon took off. For example, the first cookbook to be published in France, Le Viandier, loosely based on a fourteenth-century manuscript, 'was reprinted twenty-three times by thirteen different publishers in Paris, Lyons, and Toulouse' between 1486 and 1615 (Hyman and Hyman, 1999:394). As Mennell

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