This paper serves as an exploration of eating preferences and behaviors and how that correlates with an individual’s identity. Specifically, I am interested in examining why we eat what we do. For example, do I eat desert after every meal because I think it tastes good, because I am a woman, or is it simply because I have the financial means to? It is possible that all of these factors are at play when it comes to my food preferences. Individual identity, and socially constructed identities such as gender and social class are all closely connected to the food that we eat, and the ways in which we obtain that food. In this paper I will use the works of many theorists, as well as two films A Matter of Taste and The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover to argue that we eat what we eat because we perceive the food we consume to be a reflection of who we are and where we are situated in the social hierarchy of our society. It is important to note that as members of society our tastes, or consumer preferences, are for the most part conditioned by social factors. Our tastes and distastes are largely learned from observing and reproducing the food preferences and consumption behaviors of those that surround us such as our peers, members of a shared culture or social class. French epicure Brillat-Savarin theorizes that we are what we eat, but likewise we are also what we don’t eat (Belasco 1). Our identity is reflected by all of the choices that we make in life, but largely by what we choose to consume or not. Depending on which groups we identify with (man or woman, wealthy, working or poor) we are socially conditioned to have different tastes.
Although the subject of food has recently received a great deal of attention in academia, it has yet to be studied at a rate that signifies its importance. In the past there have been shortages of studies that thoroughly examine this subject matter, and for the most part those that exist have focused on just a few topics, which fail to illustrate the many roles that food and tastes play in civilization.
Philosopher Carolyn Korsmeyer attempts to explain the lack of attention surrounding food studies stating that both “taste and eating are tied to the necessities of existence and are thus classified as lower functions… operating on a primitive, near instinctual level” (qtd. in Belasco 2). Due to their status as lower functions researchers question whether there is really a need to study something so innate, so mundane and even “animalistic” as food consumption. In many households food has been largely underappreciated and in society as a whole its importance has yet to be realized. Because food is such a basic component of our every day existence it has failed to stimulate enough curiosity to be widely studied.
However, studying food, consumption and production, is essential to understanding the differences in consumer preferences that exist between men and women, members of different social classes as well as...