Mike Leigh's 1991 film Life is Sweet depicts a restaurateur called Aubrey, nervously awaiting the opening of his bistro, the Regret Rien. In an attempt to impress a waitress with his savoir-faire, Aubrey runs through his first night menu, an offal-rich list that includes hors d'ooeuvres of tripe soufflé and saveloy on a bed of lychees. The waitress reacts with horror ('Oh, not brains!') and Aubrey's prospective clientele agree: no one shows up for the opening.
Aubrey's comical menu is, of course, a satire on contemporary food trends. There has indeed been something of an offal boom in recent years, exemplified by London's St John restaurant which features such delights as bone marrow salad and crispy pigs' tails (Henderson, 2000). Equally, there has been a vogue for combining ingredients from different parts of the world in new, and not always appetising, ways. If Aubrey's idea of fusion cooking is a peculiarly distasteful one ('tongues in a rhubarb hollandaise; liver in lager'), it is also one recognizable in newspaper restaurant reviews. This chapter will also attempt to fuse diverse ingredients, though the result is not, we hope, a tripe soufflé. The stew we propose to produce by the end of the chapter is a brief and provisional history of what we will term 'food-cultural studies'. To achieve this we focus on a particular moment in the formation of what has come to be known, generally critically, as 'British' Cultural Studies (see, for example, Turner, 1990; Clarke, 1991; Schwarz, 1994). At a key point in its development a polarization of 'culturalist' and 'structuralist' methods was partially and temporarily resolved through the adaptation of Gramscian hegemonic theory. Analysis of this moment allows us to return to 'the fundamental issue for any kind of cultural study' (Tudor, 1999:17), namely the complex relationship between power structures of various kinds and human agency. A hegemonic approach is used to suggest one way in which 'dominant' ideologies and the aspirations of subordinate groups might be usefully articulated together. The three sections therefore offer