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The Taste for Civilization: Food, Politics, and Civil Society Paperback – October 6, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Deftly bringing together political theory, feminist analysis, and cultural studies, Flammang uses the familiar world of our private lives and everyday practices with food to interrogate the public life of American democracy and civil society. Thoughtful and creative." Anna Sampaio, coeditor of Transnational Latina/o Communities: Politics, Processes, and Cultures

Book Description

This book explores the idea that table activities--the mealtime rituals of food preparation, serving, and dining--lay the foundation for a proper education on the value of civility, the importance of the common good, and what it means to be a good citizen. The arts of conversation and diplomatic speech are learned and practiced at tables, and a political history of food practices recasts thoughtfulness and generosity as virtues that enhance civil society and democracy. In our industrialized and profit-centered culture, however, foodwork is devalued and civility is eroding.

 

Looking at the field of American civility, Janet A. Flammang addresses the gendered responsibilities for foodwork's civilizing functions and argues that any formulation of "civil society" must consider food practices and the household. To allow space for practicing civility, generosity, and thoughtfulness through everyday foodwork, Americans must challenge the norms of unbridled consumerism, work-life balance, and domesticity and caregiving. Connecting political theory with the quotidian activities of the dinner table, Flammang discusses practical ideas from the "delicious revolution" and Slow Food movement to illustrate how civic activities are linked to foodwork, and she points to farmers' markets and gardens in communities, schools, and jails as sites for strengthening civil society and degendering foodwork.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; 1st Edition edition (October 6, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252076737
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252076732
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,004,248 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Story Circle Book Reviews on November 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
In this wide-ranging discussion of the influence of the dining table in American civil and cultural life, political scientist Janet A. Flammang explores the complex relationships between cooking, eating, serving food, and sharing mealtimes--important rituals of a civil society that are in danger of erosion in contemporary industrialized society.

The Taste for Civilization is divided into five sections. Part One offers a close look at gendered (and devalued) foodwork and the difficulty of making time for it in most modern American families. Part Two surveys the importance of table conversation, table manners, and table rituals, all of which bind families and communities in important patterns of sharing, learning, and belonging. Part Three, "Food for Thought," explores the link between mind/body and the importance of bridging the two, while Part Four looks at Alice Waters' "delicious revolution" and the Slow Food movement, which restore the taste for food and food practices to their proper place, separate from the commoditization of food. Part Five emphasizes the importance of community food rituals and community markets in the development of new food practices.

Throughout, Flammang emphasizes the social significance of foodwork and foodways (particularly regional and community foodways), and the role of women in this important aspect of civil society. On a daily basis, she says, participation in our food culture can "bring out the best in people by prompting them to think about the common good and larger purposes." It is in the household and the family that this important socializing function takes place and it has traditionally been the responsibility of women. But this vital task should belong to the whole family, she says.
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An intriguing thesis that unfortunately reads like a dissertation draft in need of structural reorganization and copyediting. At times, page after page is a rehearsal of research and insights by other scholars, whose original works are more interesting than their regurgitation by Flamming. At other times, individual paragraphs read like a series of non-sequitor sentences strung together in search of a topic. For a much better read along the same lines, stick to Rituals of the Table by Margaret Visser. Perhaps the bibliography is the book's highlight--too bad it's such a slog to get to it.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Z on February 11, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book made more aware of what goes on in the food industry. I recommend it for anyone who really wants to know what processes and politics go into food before reaching your table.
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