Word of Mouth: What We Talk About When We Talk About Food (California Studies in Food and Culture)

Word of Mouth: What We Talk About When We Talk About Food (California Studies in Food and Culture)

Language: English

Pages: 296

ISBN: 0520273923

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Today, more than ever, talking about food improves the eating of it. Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson argues that conversation can even trump consumption. Where many works look at the production, preparation, and consumption of food, Word of Mouth captures the language that explains culinary practices. Explanation is more than an elaboration here: how we talk about food says a great deal about the world around us and our place in it. 

What does it mean, Ferguson asks, to cook and consume in a globalized culinary world subject to vertiginous change?  Answers to this question demand a mastery of food talk in all its forms and applications. To prove its case, Word of Mouth draws on a broad range of cultural documents from interviews, cookbooks, and novels to comic strips, essays, and films.

Although the United States supplies the primary focus of Ferguson's explorations, the French connection remains vital. American food culture comes of age in dialogue with French cuisine even as it strikes out on its own. In the twenty-first century, culinary modernity sets haute food against haute cuisine, creativity against convention, and the individual dish over the communal meal. Ferguson finds a new level of sophistication in what we thought that we already knew: the real pleasure in eating comes through knowing how to talk about it.

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the event sharpens our pleasure. Small wonder, then, that the true Eager Eater hungers not just for food but also for food talk. Strictly construed, of course, we are mostly talking about writing, not talk. To work its full effect on the individual and on society, to transform the individual act of eating into the social phenomenon of consumption, food talk needs texts. The written word opens worlds beyond our ken. It allows, as talk alone does not, access to others. Notwithstanding the long

to a decidedly adult pleasure. With less sugar and more cacao, this mass-market candy bids fair to vanquish the disdain of the truest chocolate devotee. The dominant theme of the new chocolate talk is the pleasure without end that chocolate brings (there is always more chocolate to be had), not to mention the benefits to health and general well-being. We are exhorted to “discover the secret world inside this box—a place of beauty, works of art, pieces of joy.” Or to choose antioxidant dark

dinner is not ready as promised and take little notice when everything arrives on schedule. The needs that determine the cook’s agenda keep cooking from existing in its own right. Then, too, and very much an extension of the ordinariness of the expected, cooking has always been women’s work. Most of the time and in most places, it still is. When men are involved, typically, cooking becomes a vocation, a profession, or a hobby—that is, a choice made at one’s leisure. A woman “simply” does her

different from what it was not all that long ago? Crucial to understanding this strikingly assertive food world is food talk. In every culture, people talk about, write about, and portray food for all sorts of reasons. Today we contend with an extraordinary array of foodstuffs brought within easy reach by a globalizing economy. We confront unmatched culinary diversity. We take note of arresting changes in food practices, which some of us work to alter further. New modes of production and

not simply a purveyor of fast food—through conversation and occasionally conflict with culinary France. For America, as for many other countries, France is not just another country; the prestige of France’s culture, cuisine included, has long made it a model—to be emulated or rejected, as the case may be. From the spectacular banquets of the seventeenth century to the show of cooking contests in the twenty-first century, French cuisine is a model to be reckoned with. CULINARY FRANCE Animals

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