Special Session Summary Consumption, Food and Taste

Patrick Hetzel, Robert Schuman University
[ to cite ]:
Patrick Hetzel (1999) ,"Special Session Summary Consumption, Food and Taste", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, eds. Eric J. Arnould and Linda M. Scott, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 330.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, 1999      Page 330



Patrick Hetzel, Robert Schuman University

While the sociology of taste in the broadest sense is a subject that has been very largely tackled by the literature since the foundation works of Pierre Bourdieu (1984), one can also observe that food consumption is still a subject which, within this generic theme, still merits some further development. It is the most intimate of all consumption. Indeed, when consuming foods, in a small way we make them our own. Our clothes and the other clothing items are in contact only with our bodies, while foodstuffs go a stage further, they are consumed and become a small part of ourselves. This is where a greater difficulty in studying food consumption arises, for it is in this area that the social and the private mix as much as one could wish. The modern eater is therefore a subject of study all the more interesting in that he is no longer led to evolve in a world of penury but of abundance (Fischler, 1990). Eating is a vital biological function which refers to the *natural+ dimension of human beings and at the same time a basic social function: it is the subject of investigation on many occasions. Its countless facets fall into at least two categories: on one hand, a facet which goes from the biological to the symbolic, and on the other, a facet which goes from the individual to the collective. Such a complex subject often requires a multidisciplinary approach. It is resolutely along this path that this special session will be directed.

This session was designed to focus on consumption, food and taste. Tis subject is explored from several different perspectives. Common to the three presentations is the conceptualization of taste, but with different perspectives under different cultural settings. We show the commonalities in the construction of taste and the cross-cultural differences. This session aims to synergy by bringing together esearchers with different theoretic perspectives, different cultural backgrounds. None of the papers examine very conspicuous or widely dominant, mainstream patterns of consumption.

he first paper by Askegaard, Jensen and Holt suggests that fat has been a central issue in the discussions of nourishment, health and eating for the last decades. Based on a series of in-depth interviews, the authors will analyze the meanings attached to the consumption of fat, and more specifically, cooking fats in Denmark and the United States. This will be done with reference to the general food culture of the respective societies and the prevailing attitudes to fat. The presentation will also discuss more fundamental differences between the idea of fat and fat consumption in the two continents.

Furthermore, Boutaud uses a semio-pragmatic approach to reveal all the subtlety and complexity of the notion of taste. Using the advertising strategies of two brands of the French food group, Danone: Maille and Amora, he puts into perspective the way in which nature and culture are linked in a relationship in which discursive strategies may move progressively towards one or other of these two poles, both emblematic of the notion of taste. This presentation will tackle 3 aspects in succession: what are the axiological foundations of taste? how should a semiosis of taste be clarified? and finally, we shall draw up the gustatory agenda of a consumer: progress and/or regression.

Hetzel has conducted an analysis of the contents of the discussions in the weekly food and wine columns of the newspaper *Le Figaro+ over 20 years and shows that the rhetoric about French Haute Cuisine has changed considerably. That the assessment criteria (and through this the elements of a sociology of taste) used by Le Figaro’s food critics in their articles are now becoming increasingly *experiential+.


Bourdieu, Pierre (1984), Leton sur la leton, Paris, Editions de minuit

Fischler, Claude (1990), L’homnivore, Paris, Odile Jacob