We continue with our summer blog series “Perspectives from Anthropology of Food” with this post from Gastronomy student Rebecca Nystrom. This series presents work written by the students in the summer Anthropology of Food class (ML 641) in which they reflect on current issues, discuss assignments they have worked on, or address topics of particular interest to them.
by Rebecca Nystrom
With Father’s Day only days away I’m sure many Americans are wondering what meal to prepare in order to encapsulate their appreciation for their special guy. Food is of course important to any holiday or large event but taking a step back from concerning ourselves over recipes, have you ever considered why? Food serves as a vehicle of expression, whether to a particular ethnic group, religious sect, or nationality. While these truths remain while feasting, commensal eating adds another layer of complexity. Commensal eating can serve to strengthen familiar or communal ties through various forms of cultural culinary expression bonding participants to particular culture. “This communal consumption therefore renders food a metaphor of we—the social group and often people as a whole” (Tierney and Ohnuki-Tierney 2012, 12). Communal eating additionally can serve to distinguish or create boundaries between socio-economic, cultural, or religious lines through the serving of unfamiliar items or meals that break a participant’s food rules or taboos. Who sits next to whom, the order of serving, the amount of food given, and the items served, can all denote aspects about family structure or larger cultural institutions (Nell 2015).
For this Father’s Day my family is preparing a surf and turf of steak and swordfish with grilled vegetables. My Dad loves to grill and eat outdoors, so we try to create a meal using the grill every Father’s Day. So while you scramble to find the perfect recipe for the father or husband in your life, pause to consider the importance of eating together and what this states about you as a family.
Nell, Cornelia A. 2015. Commensality and Sharing in an Andean Community in Bolivia. In Commensality: From Everyday Food to Feast, ed. Susanne Kerner, Cynthia Chou, and Morten Warmind, 165-176. New York: Bloomsbury.
Tierney, R. Kenji, and Emiko Ohnuki-Tierney. 2012. Anthropology of Food. In Oxford Handbook of Food History, ed. Jeffrey M. Pilcher, 117-134. New York: Oxford University Press.