Stoveside Potterings and Other Transformations: on Cooking Representations of Culinary Culture

The paper introduces a conceptual vocabulary by means of which to frame commodities as placed cultural artefacts. Following Schroeder and Zwick (2004), it positions culture as text and representations of culture as situated inscriptions. It draws on Williamson’s (1978, p.99) notion of ‘synchronic structures’ to explore the play of power and desire in cultural artefacts and their place in constituting social relations (Miller, 1987). A turn to commodity cookbooks provides a context within which to evaluate the potential of the interpretive framework to enrich our understanding of the motivated character of representations within consumer culture. The paper argues that the verbal narratives and visual content of cookbooks can be read as skillfully constructed instantiations of cultural forms and as boundary markers and components of cultural codes (Baudrillard, 1996, p.16). They can also be read as reference points towards subject positions always already infusing the manufacturing work of a representational economy of ‘signs and spaces’ (Lash & Urry, 1994). So, rather than being understood simply as reactions to changing social and economic relations and market opportunities, we argue that cookbooks should be understood as artefacts of cultural life and work in the making. It finds that representations of contemporary culinary culture invoke ideas of exoticism, privacy and escapism in staging persuasive accounts of how social relations can be ‘cooked’ in pursuit of consumerist choices around identity, status and lifestyle. It reveals that, although such commodities as cookbooks may work towards the homogenization of styles of living, bricolage gives rise to ways of resisting this which can themselves become commodities at work. In this sense commodity cookbooks can be said to do transformative work.


Paul Hewer and Douglas Brownlie (2005) ,"Stoveside Potterings and Other Transformations: on Cooking Representations of Culinary Culture", in E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 7, eds. Karin M. Ekstrom and Helene Brembeck, Goteborg, Sweden : Association for Consumer Research.


Paul Hewer, Stirling University
Douglas Brownlie, Stirling University


E - European Advances in Consumer Research Volume 7 | 2005

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