The City as Comedy: Society and Representation in Athenian Drama

By Gregory W. Dobrov | Go to book overview

JOHN WILKINS


Comic Cuisine Food and Eating in the Comic Polis

I

The production and consumption of food is of major importance for the comic polis. This is partly because the comic polis reflects the agricultural production, import of commodities, and consumption of foods that sustained the polis of Athens. At the same time, in many of the surviving plays of Aristophanes the good order that is achieved at the end of the play is celebrated with the consumption of foods in a context of social or religious ritual. Consideration of the place of food in Greek comedy is timely: recent work on food in other cultures offers valuable approaches. Douglas and Powers and Powers have shown the overwhelming importance of symbolic significances in foods in both native and immigrant communities in the United States, especially in the context of social and religious ritual. 1 Powers and Powers discuss the cultural incomprehension between the native American for whom the hunting of the buffalo over the plains was an act that embraced the physical and metaphysical worlds--gods, ancestors, and landscape all gave meaning to the hunt--and the federal government, which supposed that the animals formerly hunted by native Americans could be replaced by meat on the hoof, delivered to a corral at the head of the railroad. For the native American, corralled cattle standing in their own excrement were not an equivalent of the buffalo of the plains. Complexities within a single cultural system are suggested for China by Chang who notes "the Chinese are probably among the peoples of the world most preoccupied with eating. . . . There has been an attempt to see Chinese poverty as a culinary

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