This second issue of AU’s undergraduate e-journal Food, Media, and Culture explores representations of food in TV shows, films, cookbooks, and on websites. This issue questions how media reflect, disseminate, and resist hegemonic ideas of gender, ethnicity, and understandings of self. These essays show that as we eat food, it not only nourishes us, but also demonstrates our place in the world, as gendered, racialized, and classed beings. Together, the images and narratives on cooking, eating, and sharing food teach us about its various meanings. Reading these representations reveals the cultural values of the groups that produced them and lets us explore how popular culture disciplines people into subjectivity on a daily basis.
Articles featured in this issue were written by students in the upper-level American Studies course “Food, Media, Culture,” taught at AU in Fall 2011. The course investigated mediated food experiences from food memoirs to internet cooking shows. Participants conceived their own research projects, the best of which you will find here.
Katharina Vester and Loren Miller (editors)
Anina Heimann’s paper, “Overt Masculinity in Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour,” explores masculinity in Bourdain’s narrative, A Cook’s Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisines. In the text, the chef recounts his world travels and experiences with cuisines in a humorous, yet crass manner. Heimann shows how Bourdain expresses his masculinity throughout his travels by using profanity, sexual innuendo, and graphic descriptions of violence. She argues that he demonstrates his masculinity in this manner because cooking has historically been a feminine domain. Even though professional cooking is an established masculine realm, a man earning his living by cooking still endangers his masculinity. Bourdain therefore uses established forms of masculine performance and in exaggerating them confirms heterosexual norms.
In “Food Behind Bars: The Real Iron Chef,” Sarah Kristen Rouhan analyzes the meaning behind The Convict Cookbook and the prison ritual of in-cell cooking. Rouhan posits that in-cell cooking, which is illuminated in the cookbook of prison recipes, provides a way for inmates to maintain a sense of self in an institution that tries to strip away all individuality. In addition to cooking, she sees the act of creating a cookbook as validating the inmates’ skills and self-worth and providing a form of rehabilitation to prepare them to re-enter society.
“Weight Watchers through Time” by Nicole Orphanides examines cookbooks from the popular diet program Weight Watchers over the past 40 years. Orphanides’ investigation reveals how the diet program and its cookbooks have reflected changes in popular American ideology regarding gender, race, and class over time. The essay concludes that Weight Watchers cookbooks have moved from exclusive gendered, racialized, and economic texts to be more inclusive reflecting the country’s 21st century norms.
Sharon Shin surveys the multiple meanings behind food in film in her paper, “Ingesting the Cultural Other: Food and Ethnicity in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”
Shin views food as marking ethnicity and difference in this love story between a Greek-American woman and an Anglo-American man, But sees also it as a way to explore other cultures. She reads the presence of food, its consumption, and its preparation as a metaphor to condense the two groups’ class and ethnic barriers and stereotypes.
Food, Media, and Culture
An undergraduate e-journal of the American Studies Program at American University. Edited by