Food, Drink and Identity: Cooking, Eating and Drinking in Europe since the Middle Ages

Food, Drink and Identity: Cooking, Eating and Drinking in Europe since the Middle Ages

Food, Drink and Identity: Cooking, Eating and Drinking in Europe since the Middle Ages

Food, Drink and Identity: Cooking, Eating and Drinking in Europe since the Middle Ages


Food and drink have provided fascinating insights into cultural patterns in consumer societies. There is an intimate relationship between food and identity but processes of identity formation through food are far from clear. This book adds a new perspective to the existing body of scholarship by addressing pivotal questions: is food central or marginal to identity construction? Does food equally matter for all group(ing)s? Why would, in peoples experience, food become especially important at one moment, or, on the contrary, lose its significance?The origin of food habits is also interrogated. Contributors investigate how, when, why and by whom cooking, eating and drinking were used as a means of distinction. Leading historians and sociologists look at concepts of authenticity, adjustment, invention and import, as well as food signs and codes, and why they have been accepted or rejected. They examine a wide range of periods and topics: the elderly, alcohol and identity in Early Modern Europe; food riots and national identity; noble families, eating and drinking in eighteenth-century Spain; consumption and the working class in the nineteenth century; commensality; the meaning of Champagne in Belle-Epoque France; the narrative of food in Norway; wine and bread in French Algeria; food and identity in post-war Germany.This intriguing book brings together new, comparative insights and research that allow a better understanding of processes of integration and segregation, the role of food in the construction of identity, and the relationship between old and new food habits.


The idea of this book emerged during the bi-annual colloquium of the International Committee of Research into European Food History, Aberdeen 1997, where the participants frequently savoured salmon and visited an old whisky distillery, allegedly two culinary signs of Scottishness. Would food and drink have served as identity markers in other places and times too? Ten food researchers, with widely varying interests and traditions, tackle this question enthusiastically by writing original chapters for this book, which leads the reader from the fourteenth to the twentieth centuries, and from Norway to Spain.

This book exists because of the efforts of many people. First, I wish to thank the authors who dealt obstinately with many comments and suggestions, made by both the editor and an anonymous referee. Second, I wish to thank the anonymous referee for the attentive and critical reading of the manuscript, which proved to be very useful. Third, Frank Winter corrected the English of the non-native speakers: it is an enjoyable experience to work with someone who does much more than merely correcting texts. Finally, I wish to thank Berg Publishers for the patience and support, and in particular Maike Bohn and Kathryn Earle.

It is unusual for an editor to dedicate a volume which does not just cover his or her work alone. However, the making of this book was closely interwoven with a long difficult time for me and my family. Reading chapters interfered with visits to doctors and therapists due to the illness and convalescence of my younger daughter. Her admirable strength, together with the wonderful support of my elder daughter, made work and life (again) possible for my wife and me. Hence, it is to Sarah and Cassandra that I wish to dedicate this book.

Peter Scholliers Brussels . . .

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