Monday 31 May 2010

Living Stories through Food and Agriculture

Having just returned from the The Canadian Association for Food Studies in Montreal, and heading to the analogous American meeting this week (the annual mouthful: a joint meeting of the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society (AFHVS) with the Annual meeting of the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition (SAFN)), I have had a chance to check in on a longstanding hunch. Despite the straightforward nature of food, people use it to create meaning in a way that may parallel the way people craft fiction -- perhaps particularly parallel to fictionalized autobiography.

Although the giant boom in the "my life in food" genre writing evident in blogs and a flood of farm-tell books may seem like a natural-seeming outgrowth from the recent boom in interest in what's on our plates. However, I would like to explore further how much people's exploratory efforts to create foodie experiences worthy of re-telling may, in fact, resemble something rather like fictionalizing one's life -- or at least creatively transforming it in some way. If we are what we eat, if we want to tell our stories through food tales -- and if we want these to be good stories -- how much do we fictionalize ourselves, and, further, what are the implications when we then try to live up to our fictionalized food versions of ourselves? (Think, for example, of Julie Powell from Julie and Julia, and her multiple fictionalization of herself!)

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