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Cultivating Food Justice

Race, Class, and Sustainability

edited by Alison Hope Alkon and Julian Agyeman

Documents how racial and social inequalities are built into our food system, and how communities are creating environmentally sustainable and socially just alternatives.

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Curried Cultures

Globalization, Food, and South Asia

Krishnendu Ray

Although South Asian cookery and gastronomy has transformed contemporary urban foodscape all over the world, social scientists have paid scant attention to this phenomenon. Curried Cultures–a wide-ranging collection of essays–explores the relationship between globalization and South Asia through food, covering the cuisine of the colonial period to the contemporary era, investigating its material and symbolic meanings. Curried Cultures challenges disciplinary boundaries in considering South Asian gastronomy by assuming a proximity to dishes and diets that is often missing when food is a lens to investigate other topics. The book’s established scholarly contributors examine food to comment on a range of cultural activities as they argue that the practice of cooking and eating matter as an important way of knowing the world and acting on it.

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Daughters and Granddaughters of Farmworkers

Emerging from the Long Shadow of Farm Labor

Barbara Wells

In Daughters and Granddaughters of Farmworkers, Barbara Wells examines the work and family lives of Mexican American women in a community near the U.S.-Mexican border in California’s Imperial County. Decades earlier, their Mexican parents and grandparents had made the momentous decision to migrate to the United States as farmworkers. This book explores how that decision has worked out for these second- and third-generation Mexican Americans.Wells provides stories of the struggles, triumphs, and everyday experiences of these women. She analyzes their narratives on a broad canvas that includes the social structures that create the barriers, constraints, and opportunities that have shaped their lives. The women have constructed far more settled lives than the immigrant generation that followed the crops, but many struggle to provide adequately for their families.These women aspire to achieve the middle-class lives of the American Dream. But upward mobility is an elusive goal. The realities of life in a rural, agricultural border community strictly limit social mobility for these descendants of immigrant farm laborers. Reliance on family networks is a vital strategy for meeting the economic challenges they encounter. Wells illustrates clearly the ways in which the “long shadow” of farm work continues to permeate the lives and prospects of these women and their families.

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Defining Culinary Authority

The Transformation of Cooking in France, 1650-1830

Jennifer J. Davis

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, French cooks began to claim central roles in defining and enforcing taste, as well as in educating their diners to changing standards. Tracing the transformation of culinary trades in France during the Revolutionary era, Jennifer J. Davis argues that the work of cultivating sensibility in food was not simply an elite matter; it was essential to the livelihood of thousands of men and women. Combining rigorous archival research with social history and cultural studies, Davis analyzes the development of cooking aesthetics and practices by examining the propagation of taste, the training of cooks, and the policing of the culinary marketplace in the name of safety and good taste. French cooks formed their profession through a series of debates intimately connected to broader Enlightenment controversies over education, cuisine, law, science, and service. Though cooks assumed prominence within the culinary public sphere, the unique literary genre of gastronomy replaced the Old Regime guild police in the wake of the French Revolution as individual diners began to rethink cooks’ authority. The question of who wielded culinary influence—and thus shaped standards of taste—continued to reverberate throughout society into the early nineteenth century. This remarkable study illustrates how culinary discourse affected French national identity within the country and around the globe, where elite cuisine bears the imprint of the country’s techniques and labor organization.

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Devouring Cultures

Perspectives on Food, Power, and Identity from the Zombie Apocalypse to Downton Abbey

Devouring Cultures brings together contributors from a wide range of disciplines including media studies, rhetoric, gender studies, philosophy, anthropology, literary criticism, film criticism, race theory, history, and linguistics to examine the ways food signifies both culture and identity.

These scholars look for answers to intriguing questions: What does our choice of dining house say about our social class? Can restaurants teach us about a culture? How does food operate in Downton Abbey? How does food consumption in zombie apocalypse films and apocalyptic literature relate to contemporary food-chain crises and food nostalgia? What aspects of racial conflict, assimilation, and empowerment may be represented in restaurant culture and food choice?

Restaurants, from their historical development to their modern role as surrogate kitchen, are studied as markers of gender, race, and social class, and also as forums for the exhibition of tensions or spaces where culture is learned through the language of food. Food, as it is portrayed in literature, movies, and television, is illuminated as a platform for cultural assimilation, a way for the oppressed to find agency, or even a marker for the end of a civilization.

The essays in Devouring Cultures—despite having a rich mix of approaches—are united by each writer’s deep exploration of how our choices about what we eat, where we eat, and with whom we eat are linked to identity and meaning.

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Dinner Roles

American Women and Culinary Culture

Who cooks dinner in American homes? It's no surprise that “Mom” remains the overwhelming answer. Cooking and all it entails, from grocery shopping to chopping vegetables to clearing the table, is to this day primarily a woman's responsibility. How this relationship between women and food developed through the twentieth century and why it has endured are the questions Sherrie Inness seeks to answer in Dinner Roles: American Women and Culinary Culture.

By exploring a wide range of popular media from the first half of the twentieth century, including cookbooks, women's magazines, and advertisements, Dinner Roles sheds light on the network of sources that helped perpetuate the notion that cooking is women's work. Cookbooks and advertisements provided valuable information about the ideals that American society upheld. A woman who could prepare the perfect Jell-O mold, whip up a cake with her new electric mixer, and still maintain a spotless kitchen and a sunny disposition was the envy of other housewives across the nation.

Inness begins her exploration not with women but with men-those individuals often missing from the kitchen who were taught their own set of culinary values. She continues with the study of juvenile cookbooks, which provided children with their first cooking lessons. Chapters on the rise of electronic appliances, ethnic foods, and the 1950s housewife all add to our greater understanding of women's evolving roles in American culinary culture.

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Dirt, Sweat, and Diesel

A Family Farm in the Twenty-first Century

Steven L. Hilty

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Discriminating Taste

How Class Anxiety Created the American Food Revolution

S. Margot Finn

For the past four decades, increasing numbers of Americans have started paying greater attention to the food they eat, buying organic vegetables, drinking fine wines, and seeking out exotic cuisines. Yet they are often equally passionate about the items they refuse to eat: processed foods, generic brands, high-carb meals. While they may care deeply about issues like nutrition and sustainable agriculture, these discriminating diners also seek to differentiate themselves from the unrefined eater, the common person who lives on junk food.

Discriminating Taste argues that the rise of gourmet, ethnic, diet, and organic foods must be understood in tandem with the ever-widening income inequality gap. Offering an illuminating historical perspective on our current food trends, S. Margot Finn draws numerous parallels with the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century, an era infamous for its class divisions, when gourmet dinners, international cuisines, slimming diets, and pure foods first became fads.

Examining a diverse set of cultural touchstones ranging from Ratatouille to The Biggest Loser, Finn identifies the key ways that “good food” has become conflated with high status. She also considers how these taste hierarchies serve as a distraction, leading middle-class professionals to focus on small acts of glamorous and virtuous consumption while ignoring their class’s larger economic stagnation. A provocative look at the ideology of contemporary food culture, Discriminating Taste teaches us to question the maxim that you are what you eat.

 

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Divided Spirits

Tequila, Mezcal, and the Politics of Production

Sarah Bowen

Divided Spirits tells the stories of tequila and mezcal, two of Mexico’s most iconic products. In doing so, the book illustrates how neoliberalism influences the production, branding, and regulation of local foods and drinks. It also challenges the strategy of relying on “alternative” markets to protect food cultures and rural livelihoods.

In recent years, as consumers increasingly demand to connect with the people and places that produce their food, the concept of terroir—the taste of place—has become more and more prominent. Tequila and mezcal are both protected by denominations of origin (DOs), legal designations that aim to guarantee a product’s authenticity based on its link to terroir. Advocates argue that the DOs expand market opportunities, protect cultural heritage, and ensure the reputation of Mexico’s national spirits. Yet this book shows how the institutions that are supposed to guard “the legacy of all Mexicans” often fail those who are most in need of protection: the small producers, agave farmers, and other workers who have been making tequila and mezcal for generations. The consequences—for the quality and taste of tequila and mezcal, and for communities throughout Mexico—are stark.

Divided Spirits suggests that we must move beyond market-based models if we want to safeguard local products and the people who make them. Instead, we need systems of production, consumption, and oversight that are more democratic, more inclusive, and more participatory. Lasting change is unlikely without the involvement of the state and a sustained commitment to addressing inequality and supporting rural development.

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Duncan Hines

How a Traveling Salesman Became the Most Trusted Name in Food

Louis Hatchett. foreword by Michael and Jane Stern

Duncan Hines (1880--1959) may be best known for the cake mixes, baked goods, and bread products that bear his name, but most people forget that he was a real person and not just a fictitious figure invented for the brand. America's pioneer restaurant critic, Hines discovered his passion while working as a traveling salesman during the 1920s and 1930s -- a time when food standards were poorly enforced and safety was a constant concern. He traveled across America discovering restaurants and offering his recommendations to readers in his best-selling compilation Adventures in Good Eating (1935). The success of this work and of his subsequent publications led Hines to manufacture the extremely popular food products that we still enjoy today.

In Duncan Hines, author Louis Hatchett explores the story of the man, from his humble beginnings in Bowling Green, Kentucky, to his lucrative licensing deal with Proctor & Gamble. Following the successful debut of his restaurant guide, Hines published his first cookbook, Adventures in Good Cooking (1939), at the age of 59 and followed it with The Dessert Book (1955). These culinary classics included recipes from many of the establishments he visited on his travels, favorites handed down through his family for generations, and new dishes that contained unusual ingredients for the era. Many of the recipes served as inspiration for mixes that eventually became available under the Duncan Hines brand.

This authoritative biography is a comprehensive account of the life and legacy of a savvy businessman, American icon, and an often-overlooked culinary pioneer whose love of good food led to his name becoming a grocery shelf favorite. Hatchett offers insightful commentary into the man behind the cake mix boxes and how he paved the way for many others like him.

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