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Foodies, Book of the Month, January 2010


Authors Josée Johnston and Shyon Baumann were recently interviewed about their book on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show! Listen to the interview.

Can anyone be a Foodie? What can Foodie culture reveal about social inequality? Foodies: Democracy And Distinction In The Gourmet Foodscape, a new and highly readable cultural analysis shows how food can both bring people together and keep them apart. Authors Josée Johnston and Shyon Baumann, both Sociology professors at the University of Toronto, explore both the democratic side of Foodie culture, as well as its socioeconomic implications.

View all Sociology Book of the Month articles.

Foodies tells two stories about food, the first showing good food as egalitarian. Foodies frequent ‘hole in the wall’ ethnic eateries, appreciate the pie found in working-class truck-stops, and reject the snobbery of fancy French restaurants with formal table-service. The second story describes how food operates as a source of status and distinction for economic and cultural elites, indirectly maintaining and reproducing social inequality.

"Food is an increasingly important status marker, but little systematic attention has been given to the subject until now,” says Richard A. Peterson, Professor of Sociology at Vanderbilt University. “Johnston and Baumann use discourse analysis blending interviews of self-defined foodies with the "food writing" in contemporary American magazines, newspapers and books. This is a heavy topic presented with style and grace.”

While the first storyline insists that anybody can be a foodie, the second story asks foodies to look in the mirror and think about their relative social and economic privilege. By simultaneously considering both of these stories, and studying how they operate in tension, Johnston and Baumann present a delicious sociology of food.

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