Democracy and Distinction in the Gourmet Foodscape
Routledge – 2010 – 258 pages
Series: Cultural Spaces
This important new cultural analysis tells two stories about food. The first depicts good food as democratic. Foodies frequent ‘hole in the wall’ ethnic eateries, appreciate the pie found in working-class truck stops, and reject the snobbery of fancy French restaurants with formal table service. The second story describes how food operates as a source of status and distinction for economic and cultural elites, indirectly maintaining and reproducing social inequality. While the first storyline insists that anybody can be a foodie, the second asks foodies to look in the mirror and think about their relative social and economic privilege. By simultaneously considering both of these stories, and studying how they operate in tension, a delicious sociology of food becomes available, perfect for teaching a broad range of cultural sociology courses.
"Food is an increasingly important status marker, but little systematic attention has been given to the subject until now. Johnston and Baumann use discourse analysis blending interviews of self-defined foodies with the "food writing" in contemporary American magazines, newspapers and books. This is a heavy topic presented with style and grace. Bravo!"
—Richard A. Peterson, Vanderbilt University, USA
"In recent years the affluent classes have succeeded in appropriating regionally authentic comestibles and global cuisine as the newest markers of elite distinction and high-status snobbery. In their thoughtful book, sociologists Josee Johnston and Shyon Baumann artfully reveal the tensions and contradictions inherent in the postmodern American culinary landscape, and in our culture at large."
—David Grazian, University of Pennsylvania, USA
"Foodies offers dispassionate analysis of a passionate subculture: the people who pursue authenticity and cosmopolitanism through what they eat, where they get it, and how they talk/write/blog about it. Bringing a wealth of sociological insights to food practices, the authors also step back to allow their subjects to speak their minds. An excellent text for courses in cultural sociology or social movements."
—Wendy Griswold, Northwestern University, USA
"In the book, Johnston and Baumann rinse, chop, mix, and serve the foodie to the reader, and season it with adequate analytic tools and empirical material. The outcome is an interesting and convincing analysis of an American cultural phenomenon and a marriage between the sociology of food and the sociology of culture that can be replicated in other realms. The main strength of the book, in my opinion, is that it offers a pioneering attempt to explicate the motivations and historical trajectory of cultural omnivorousness (as it relates to the consumption of food), a phenomenon that has been thoroughly documented but rarely theorized."
—Tally Katz-Gerro, University of Haifa, Israel
1. Introduction: Gourmet Foodscapes & the Emergence of the ‘Foodie’ 2. Eating Authenticity 3. The Culinary Other: Seeking Exoticism 4. Culinary "Classlessness" 5. Public Spaces and Food Politics: Whole Foods Market and Karma Coop 6. Consuming Gourmet Culture: Talking with Foodies 7. Conclusion
Josée Johnston is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto. Her major area of research is the sociology of food. Her work ties together several research threads including globalization, political-ecology, culture and consumerism.
Shyon Baumann is associate professor of sociology at the University of Toronto. He studies the sociology of culture, the arts, and the media. He is the author of Hollywood Highbrow: From Entertainment to Art, and is currently studying the production and content of television advertising.