Food, Drink and Identity in Europe

By Thomas M. Wilson | Go to book overview

JOURNEYS THROUGH 'INGESTIBLE TOPOGRAPHY':
SOCIALIZING THE 'SITUATED EATER' IN FRANCE1

Wendy L.H. Leynse


Abstract

While place-based food habits play an important role in many parts of
Europe, this article argues that knowledge of food origins and pro-
duction methods is especially important to many French consumers,
and that children are often socialized to value 'place' in their eating
habits from a young age. Although the socialization process takes
many forms, this analysis provides an ethnographic case study of one
particular mode of learning about food habits and place which I refer
to as 'journeys through ingestible topography.' During ethnographic
fieldwork in the Loire Valley, I observed French children along
with their parents and teachers as they made several of these 'jour-
neys,' in which they gained a sense of place by moving through geo-
graphic spaces, meeting food producers, obtaining first-hand knowl-
edge of food production, and anchoring their memories with on-site
tastings. In this process, they were socialized to become informed and
'situated' eaters situating, or constructing, their identities in terms of
place.

Whereas French food habits have long highlighted local production, regional dishes (Csergo 1996), and geographic specificities (Braudel 1986; Trubeck 2005), the reasons for this have varied over time as

1 Material for this article is based on my ethnographic fieldwork on child socializa-
tion and food habits in France (dissertation in progress). Research was made possible
by a Bourse Chateaubriand from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a Gregory
Uscher Research Grant from the French chapter of the American Institute of Wine
and Food.

-129-

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