Accepted paper:

'Bad' butter and 'marvellous' margarine? Changing foodways in everyday eating practices in Western, Central and South-Eastern Europe

Authors:

Marketa Slavkova (Czech Academy of Sciences)

Paper short abstract:

Eating is not merely the matter of survival, it also 'tells many stories' about the organisation of social life. This presentation uses the example of margarine and butter to elaborate on newly emerged industrial cuisine that increasingly seems to dominate contemporary European foodways.

Paper long abstract:

In the 'realm of things,' food has a unique position. Its primarily function is the nourishment of the body, therefore, assurance of the survival (see Counihan 1999, Farquar 2006, Lupton 1996). Yet, eating is not merely the matter of survival, it also 'tells many stories' about organisation of social life. Edibles are helpful to understand how social distinctions are established and reproduced (see Bourdieu, 1984). Studies of 'social life of things', food in particular, have also proven to be a fruitful when theorising complex social phenomena and impacts of macrostructural forces on local communities (e.g. Collingham 2006, 2012; Miller 2005; Mintz, 1985). This presentation uses the example of margarine and butter to point out specific tendencies that increasingly seems to dominate contemporary European foodways. Interestingly, margarine emerged in second half of 19th century as a result of a competition proposed by emperor Louis Napoleon III of France in order to invent a cheap substitute for butter to feed the army and the poor. Using this example, I aim to show various discourses behind the spread of relatively newly emerged industrial cuisine and suggest that contemporary food politics, which is characterised by industrial production and put into motion by capitalism, can be analysed as a site of Foucaultian 'bio-power' (see Dreyfus and Rabinow, 1982). It is precisely in this sense, that the 'grandmother's culinary advice' can become a meaningful site of resistance and even the matter of life and death in times of hunger and overall material scarcity.

panel Food001
Culinary heritage as an island of well-being (Panel of SIEF working groups 'Historical approaches in cultural analysis' and 'Food research')