Food, Drink and Identity in Europe

By Thomas M. Wilson | Go to book overview

THE QUEST FOR QUALITY:
FOOD AND THE NOTION OF 'TRUST'
IN THE GERS AREA IN FRANCE

Karen Montagne


Abstract

Although globalisation and improvements in the agro-industry offer
the majority of French consumers increasingly diversified food
choices, it seems that this abundance, linked to the notion of a 'food
crisis', gives rise to distrust and fear among eaters. In order to master
those fears, many people work out an evaluation system for different
products which results in a definition of quality different from that of
European norms. This chapter is based on ethnographic study in the
South West of France, in the rural departement of the Gers, well-
known for its gastronomy and the quality of its products. Unlike
many urban people, part of the population in this departement select
where to buy food based on various representations which local peo-
ple have of 'quality products'; the discrimination system they adopt is
founded upon the family network, social relationships beyond the
family, and the notion of 'terroir'. This chapter illustrates the different
modes and places of food supplying among a rural population, and
situates these actions within wider contexts of the consumption prac-
tices and aspirations of what may be the growing majority of French
consumers.

Since the 'mad cow crisis', we have witnessed the multiplication of new ways for consumers to identify a certain quality in products. The first cases of contamination were observed in 1985 in Great Britain, and as early as 1988, use of animal origin flours to feed cows was already identified as a cause of the disease. However, the critical phase for the econ

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