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The Sociology Analysis Of Food And Food Ways

1816 words - 7 pages

Sociology is the study of society and people. Food and food ways are often elements associated with particular societies and therefore, studying such a topic can offer valuable insight into the ways of that society and the people who live in it. Although eating is a vital part of survival, with whom, how and where we eat are not. Studying such ways can illustrate and represent the identity of a person or group. The nature of people and their beliefs can be indicated when analysing their food habits. Who individuals eat with is a particularly revealing factor into gaining an understanding of their identity, culture and society (Scholliers P 2001). For this reason commensality is a term frequently used in sociological research concerning food and food ways.

Commensality can be defined as the notion of eating with others. It is the act of two or more people consuming a meal together (Pearsall J 1999). The purpose of commensality is much more than that of allowing survival. It pushes beyond this and becomes a practice of socialisation. Anthropologist Martin Sahlins suggested that not only does it provide opportunities for people to integrate socially, but that it can be the starting factor and maintaining factor in which enables relationships to form and develop. For example, he found that at the beginning of relationship formation commensality tends to involve the sharing of drinks and snacks. As relationships develop the meals become more complex. He claimed that the traditional cooked dinner of meats and vegetables is one mainly shared among families and rarely with friends (Lupton 1996). This suggests that commensality is often used as an expression of closeness and the extent of such closeness can be discovered by looking at the types of food shared. Sharing meals is thus very significant as it can stand as the representation and statement of social relationships. However, there are many kinds of social relationships and because of this, there are different types of commensality and each is important and offers significance in its own right.

An example of commensality which the majority of people experience first happens within the household among immediate family. Sitting around one table at dinner time as a family became a societal norm during the 1800s. Since then everyday commensality among families has continued to be portrayed as an ideology, especially through the media (Lupton 1996). Such implication influences the attitudes of those in society. This is reflected in a study conducted in Scotland. Findings were that there was a general agreement in that a good meal was prepared by parents, served to children and eaten together around one table (Blaxter M & Paterson E 1983). Although family commensality may be enacted as an obligation to fulfil society’s expectations, its experiencers still have much to gain from it. The effects in which these gains have on a person’s life means that family commensality is a happening of great...

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