Book Review Of Jack Goody's "Food And Love: A Cultural History Of East And West"

1311 words - 5 pages

While I was pondering over the tactical approach I should adopt to write this report on Goody’s attempt to incorporate the anthropology of food into his writings, I was met with a pleasant surprise when I received my subscription of TIME magazine in the mail. In bold letters, the cover of the newest issue of TIME (June 25 – July 2, 2007) reads, “We Are What We Eat”.Indeed, as Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin’s infamous saying goes, “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are”. Food is a fundamental human necessity, essential to the sustenance of the human body. At the same time, food may be associated with pleasure, passion, even luxury. Food is also essential to the social body. Who eats what, who eats with whom, and whose appetites are satisfied and whose denied, are all profoundly social dynamics through which identities, relationships, and hierarchies are created and reproduced. As such, it has drawn much attention from the anthropological circle with the anthropology of food becoming a legitimate specialization.Here, an esteemed anthropologist attempts to look into a comparative study of East and West with a partial focus on what, why, where and how people eat.British anthropologist and historian Jack Goody (1919 – ), Emeritus William Wyse Professor of Social Anthropology at St. James College of the University of Cambridge in the UK, is acknowledged as one of the most versatile intellectuals of contemporary times, especially in his contribution to clarifying the distorted view that the West has of East-West differences. Famous for his fieldwork carried out in Gonja (northern Ghana) and a series of studies in West Africa that resulted from it in the 1950s and early 1960s, Goody used his knowledge of Africa to contrast the culture of that continent with that of Eurasia, an area which, as he explains, developed in a different direction after the rise of cities and writing caused by the Bronze Age “revolution”. In his more recent publications, Goody has broadened his comparisons to embrace food and flowers, such as in Cooking,Cuisine and Class: A Study in Comparative Sociology (1982), The Culture of Flowers (1993), and, the case in point, Love and Food (1999).In Food and Love, Goody extends his pursuits into the sphere of culture. Opening with a sustained discussion of the lexicon of such debates in the thought of classic theories such as that of Marxism (Marx’s general scheme of development), as well as contemporary historical and sociological notions of modernization, Goody goes on to survey phenomena as diverse and fascinating as the uniqueness of the European family, the development of romantic love, the evolution of national and regional cuisine's, the globalization of Chinese food, and the histories of various taboos on certain types of food and drink, at all times effortlessly ranging from Europe to Asia and to Africa.In a final bracing section challenging dominant relativist...

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