the system of food

“When he buys an item of food, consumes it, or serves it, modern man does not manipulate a simple object in a purely transitive fashion; this item of food sums up and trasnmits a situation; it constitutes an information; it signifies. That is to say that it is not just an indicator of a set of more or less conscious motivations, but that it is a real sign, perhaps the functional unit of a system of communication. By this I mean not only the elements of display in food, such as foods involved in rites of hospitality, for all food serves as a sign among the members of a given society.”

Read the rest of (well, most of – it’s a google book preview) Roland Barthes’ essay “Towards Psychosociology of Contemporary Food Consumption” here (and don’t be put off by the dour title, its Barthes at his joyful, playful self, considering consumption of sugar in America, wine in France and considering food as a system of communication, just like he did in The System of Fashion).

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