Notes from the bookshelf 2: The Sociology of Food: Eating, Diet and Culture

Hi everyone! This post is going to be a review of another book I’ve recently read – after my last overly long review of three books I decided to spare your time and only review one book at a  time – unless there is a solid reason to group books together. This one is more on the academic side and engaged with theoretical stuff around food, eating and culture rather than the practicalities of the organization of our modern food supply. So the book is called “The Sociology of Food: Eating, Diet and Culture” and was written in 1992 by a powerful academic trio of Stephen Mennel, Anne Murcott and Ameke H. van Otterloo, whose works you have or will certainly come across if you are a foodie-sociologist. The book starts with a short overview of what has been written on the sociology of food and describes some major sociological approaches to the subject – this will not provide much detail, but is a useful introduction into functionalist, structuralist and developmentalist approaches to the study of food and their most prominent theorists. Authors stress that food as an object of sociological inquiry has largely escaped the attention of “great minds”  and only received a modest consideration alongside other aspects of life deemed more “important” and “appropriate” for scientific investigation (while reading this I could not help but think how greatly this has changed – food and eating has become one of the major streams of not just sociological but also environmental, economic, political, anthropological studies).  The book is divided into 15 chapters each dealing with a different aspect of the sociology of food and eating, ranging from the evolution of culinary traditions among various nations, immigrant cuisines and more general food consumption patterns worldwide to nutritional issues, food in relation to health and even eating disorders.  The vast array of topics covered does not leave much room for detailed consideration – instead, each sub-theme is depicted against a larger context of food and people’s relationship with it and sketches some earlier research and thinking that has been devoted to this or that particular issue. My personal opinion is that this is what this book is really useful for – if you are interested in a certain food-related topic that is part of this book’s focus, the book will guide you through some major milestones in the development of this issue as well as available research on it  and can provide very useful references and suggestions for further reading (although to a certain time point as the book is now quite dated – for more recent works on the subject you’ll have to look somewhere else).

All in all, I found the book easy to read, informative in terms of some general points on some very particular subjects.


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