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Saturday, October 18, 2014


WORD OF MOUTH; what we talk about when we talk about food (University of California Press, 2014, ISBN 978-0-520-27392-4, $29.95 US hard covers) is by Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson, a sociology professor at Columbia University specializing in French cultural and cuisine studies. Here, in the social aspects of cross-cultural studies on food she delves into conversation about food, which she notes can often trump consumption. She explains the language behind culinary practices: how we talk about food says a great deal about the world and our place in it. I am reminded of a very recent New Yorker cartoon in which the man asks his wife, "Now that it's summer, should we talk incessantly about tomatoes or corn?" To master food talk in all its forms and applications she draws on documents, interviews, cookbooks, novels, comics, essays and films. The focal point is of course North America, but there is also a strong linkage with the mother cuisine of France since that is what most of the intelligentsia has been exposed to. There are end notes, a huge bibliographic section, and an index.
Audience and level of use: sociologists, food lovers, knowledgeable foodies.
Some interesting or unusual recipes/facts: In the culture of haute food, culinary individualism trumps established authority, innovation takes precedence over tradition, and experimentation has priority over formality. The ordered world of haute cuisine has rules, regulations, and reverence for the whole over the part.
The downside to this book: it is a compelling book but a scholarly read.
The upside to this book: great topic.
Quality/Price Rating: 91.


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