Word of Mouth : What We Talk About When We Talk About Food

talk food Today, more than ever, talking about food improves the eating of it. Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson argues that conversation can even trump consumption. Where many works look at the production, preparation, and consumption of food, Word of Mouth captures the language that explains culinary practices. Explanation is more than an elaboration here: how we talk about food says a great deal about the world around us and our place in it.

What does it mean, Ferguson asks, to cook and consume in a globalized culinary world subject to vertiginous change? Answers to this question demand a mastery of food talk in all its forms and applications. To prove its case, Word of Mouth draws on a broad range of cultural documents from interviews, cookbooks, and novels to comic strips, essays, and films.

Although the United States supplies the primary focus of Ferguson’s explorations, the French connection remains vital. American food culture comes of age in dialogue with French cuisine even as it strikes out on its own. In the twenty-first century, culinary modernity sets haute food against haute cuisine, creativity against convention, and the individual dish over the communal meal. Ferguson finds a new level of sophistication in what we thought that we already knew: the real pleasure in eating comes through knowing how to talk about it.

Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson is Professor in the Department of Sociology at Columbia University. After publishing on French literary identity in Literary France: The Making of a Culture, she studied the urban culture of Paris in Paris as Revolution: Reading the Nineteenth-Century City. Her work on cuisine and food started with Accounting for Taste: The Triumph of French Cuisine and has moved into an ever more comparative perspective.

Table of Contents :

Prologue: Talking About Food
Part I: From Talk to Text

1. Thinking About Food

2. The Perils and Pleasures of Consumption

3. Texts Take Over
Part II: New Cooks, New Chefs

4. Iconic Cooks

5. Chefs and Chefing
Part III: The Culinary Landscape in the Twenty-First Century

6. Dining on the Edge

7. Haute Food
Epilogue: Last Words-Ratatouille

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