Remembrance of Repasts: An Anthropology of Food and Memory

Series: Materializing Culture (v. 14)

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Prousts famous madeleine captures the power of food to evoke some of our deepest memories. Why does food hold such power? What does the growing commodification and globalization of food mean for our capacity to store the past in our meals in the smell of olive oil or the taste of a fresh-cut fig? This book offers a theoretical account of the interrelationship of culture, food and memory. Sutton challenges and expands anthropology's current focus on issues of embodiment, memory and material culture, especially in relation to transnational migration and the flow of culture across borders and boundaries. The Greek island of Kalymnos in the eastern Aegean, where Islanders claim to remember meals long past -- both humble and spectacular provides the main setting for these issues, as well as comparative materials drawn from England and the United States. Despite the growing interest in anthropological accounts of food and in the cultural construction of memory, the intersection of food with memory has not been accorded sustained examination. Cultural practices of feasting and fasting, global flows of food as both gifts and commodities, the rise of processed food and the relationship of orally transmitted recipes to the vast market in speciality cookbooks tie traditional anthropological mainstays such as ritual, exchange and death to more current concerns with structure and history, cognition and the anthropology of the senses. Arguing for the crucial role of a simultaneous consideration of food and memory, this book significantly advances our understanding of cultural processes and reformulates current theoretical preoccupations.