Eating Out: Social Differentiation, Consumption, and Pleasure

Eating Out: Social Differentiation, Consumption, and Pleasure

Eating Out: Social Differentiation, Consumption, and Pleasure

Eating Out: Social Differentiation, Consumption, and Pleasure

Synopsis

Eating Out is a fascinating study of the consumption of food outside the home. Through surveys and intensive interviews carried out in England in the 1990s, the authors have collected a wealth of information into people's attitudes toward, and expectations of, eating out as a form of entertainment and an expression of taste and status. This book will be a valuable resource to academics, advanced students and practitioners in the sociology of consumption, cultural studies, tourism and hospitality, home economics, marketing and to the general reader.

Excerpt

There has been an explosion of social scientific interest in food in the last decade. Nutritionists, social policy advisors, anthropologists, agricultural economists and historians have always studied food habits, though for different reasons. However, before the 1990s general social scientific interest in the practical, social and cultural aspects of food was minimal. For a sociologist, the field consisted of a stuttering debate on the nature of the proper meal and its role in domestic organisation (e.g. Douglas, 1975; Douglas and Nicod, 1974; Murcott, 1983a and 1983b; Charles and Kerr, 1988), a few occasional essays on exceptional behaviour like vegetarianism, health food shopping and children's sweets (Twigg, 1983; Atkinson, 1980; and James, 1990, respectively), and Mennell's (1985) major, largely neglected, historical comparison of the development of food habits in Britain and France. This situation had changed markedly by the time of writing, with the publication of a series of literature surveys and textbooks (e.g. Beardsworth and Kiel, 1997; Bell and Valentine, 1997; Mennell et al., 1992; Wood, 1995) and of research monographs and essays (Caplan, 1997; Fine et al., 1996; Lupton, 1996; Marshall, 1995; Murcott, 1998; Warde, 1997).

One indicator of the growth of interest in food was the Economic and Social Research Council's programme 'The Nation's Diet: the social science of food choice', which began in 1992. We undertook one of the sixteen projects. We designed a survey and undertook semi-structured interviews in order to analyse the contemporary patterns and the symbolic associations of eating out and to relate those patterns to social and demographic characteristics of households. We reasoned that eating out has serious implications for any comprehensive understanding of the nation's diet. Eating out, for instance, throws into sharp relief narrow concerns with food as merely a means of subsistence, for eating out seems to be expanding as a form of entertainment and a means to display taste, status and distinction. Also significant is the willingness of people to swap their private domestic food provisioning arrangements for commercial or communal alternatives. Upon that issue hangs the future of both one of . . .

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