Word of Mouth: What We Talk about When We Talk about Food

By Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
Dining on the Edge

Like cooks and chefs, diners today find themselves in an exhilarating world of inventive dishes, exciting new ways of thinking about food, and unusual modes of dining. No more than cooking or chefing is dining what it was even a half century ago. Largely responsible for many of these myriad changes at table is the loosening of the forms that structured dining in the past. “Informalization” marks a democratization that exemplifies contemporary aspirations. By modifying the dynamics of dining and redefining the relationship between consumer and chef, informalization alters the meaning of the meal no less than the setting.

Once confined to carefully defined and delimited occasions, such as breakfast and picnics, the relaxed attitude and absence of obvious ceremony that now impinge on dining across the board bring new publics into the culinary equation. Not even the loftiest of restaurants is exempt from the need to cater to culinary preferences that would not have been noticed, say, thirty years ago.

On the whole, the twenty-first-century food world disdains, disregards, and largely dispenses with many of the forms that once made dining— whether at home or outside—both a distinctive experience and a regulated one. Meals were scripted and governed by an array of rules, conventions, and norms, both explicit and implicit. More often today, diners sit down at table with no script at all. The rise of culinary individualism, the loss of the

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Word of Mouth: What We Talk about When We Talk about Food
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • California Studies in Food and Culture ii
  • Title Page vii
  • Contents xi
  • Prologue xiii
  • Part I - From Talk to Text 1
  • Chapter One - Thinking about Food 3
  • Chapter Two - The Perils and Pleasures of Consumption 33
  • Chapter Three - Texts Take over 50
  • Part II - New Cooks, New Chefs 77
  • Chapter Four - Iconic Cooks 79
  • Chapter Five - Chefs and Chefing 113
  • Part III - The Culinary Landscape in the Twenty-First Century 139
  • Chapter Six - Dining on the Edge 141
  • Chapter Seven - Haute Food 170
  • Epilogue 197
  • Acknowledgments 205
  • Notes 207
  • References 251
  • Films 265
  • Index 267
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