Foodscapes, Foodfields, and Identities in the Yucatan

Foodscapes, Foodfields, and Identities in the Yucatan

Steffan Igor Ayora-Diaz
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 332
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  • Book Info
    Foodscapes, Foodfields, and Identities in the Yucatan
    Book Description:

    The state of Yucatan has its own distinct culinary tradition, and local people are constantly thinking and talking about food. They use it as a vehicle for social relations but also to distinguish themselves from "Mexicans." This book examines the politics surrounding regional cuisine, as the author argues that Yucatecan gastronomy has been created and promoted in an effort to affirm the identity of a regional people and to oppose the hegemonic force of central Mexican cultural icons and forms. In particular, Yucatecan gastronomy counters the homogenizing drive of a national cuisine based on dominant central Mexican appetencies and defies the image of Mexican national cuisine as rooted in indigenous traditions. Drawing on post-structural and postcolonial theory, the author proposes that Yucatecan gastronomy - having successfully gained a reputation as distinct and distant from 'Mexican' cuisine - is a bifurcation from regional culinary practices. However, the author warns, this leads to a double, paradoxical situation that divides the nation: while a national cuisine attempts to silence regional cultural diversity, the fissures in the project of a homogeneous regional identity are revealed.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-334-1
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xi)
  5. [Map]
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. Introduction: Food and the Post-colonial Politics of Identity
    (pp. 1-32)

    During the late 1990s, after spending eight years away, my wife and I often stayed at an apartment near Mérida’s bullfighting ring (plaza de toros) and spent our vacations visiting friends and relatives in a couple of cities in the peninsula of Yucatán. After an initial charting of places to have breakfast, one morning we decided to visit the local franchise of a restaurant specializing in ‘Mexican food’. This restaurant is located in the Paseo Montejo, one of the elegant and expensive areas of the city. Intrigued by the listing in the menu of only one Yucatecan dish, my wife,...

  7. 1 The Story of Two Peoples: Mexican and Yucatecan Peoplehood
    (pp. 33-75)

    As this epigraph suggests, food always invokes much more than just eating. It reveals the beliefs that members of a culture have about the place in which they dwell in the cosmos. A growing literature in the social sciences and humanities has focused on the relationship between food and its cultural meaning—on the economic, social, and political aspects involved in its definition, availability, and forms of consumption (or avoidance) and thus on its power to define a group’s identity (see, e.g., P. Caplan 1997b; Counihan and Van Esterik 1997; Goody 1982). Anthropologists have long recognized the importance of food...

  8. 2 Mérida and the Contemporary Foodscape
    (pp. 76-113)

    In this chapter, I describe Mérida’s contemporary urban foodscape. I make evident that Yucatecan food must, in the present day, compete with a vast array of other cuisines (ethnic, regional, and national) that are being disseminated during the expansion of the global foodscape. A crucial consequence of the translocal transformation of the foodscape is the presence of multiple culinary forms (and their publics) in the Yucatecan territory that challenge the co-extensiveness of Yucatecan culinary culture with the regional geography. Additionally, local Yucatecans’ growing acceptance of the flavors and culinary values of other cuisines is gradually relativizing and challenging the normative...

  9. 3 The Yucatecan Culinary Field and the Naturalization of Taste
    (pp. 114-152)

    In this volume I am using ‘culinary field’ as a concept to describe and analyze an arena where ingredients, recipes, technologies, cooking techniques and procedures, and rules of etiquette are integrated into the cultural logic of everyday food production, circulation, and consumption. This field includes the discourses and textual practices that establish the connection between a style of cooking and eating and the culture that creates it.¹ I understand this field as encompassing and ecumenical, open to external influences from the translocal and global foodscape. In Yucatán, it is located in the realm of everyday domestic cooking practices and connects...

  10. 4 Cookbooks and the Gastronomic Field: From Minor to Major Codes (and Back)
    (pp. 153-200)

    In this chapter I discuss, through an examination of Yucatecan cookbooks, the part that this form of minor literature plays in the construction of the Yucatecan culinary and gastronomic fields and its ties to the production of Yucatecan identities. I argue that the gastronomic field bifurcates from the culinary field without diverging or becoming an independent cultural site. The culinary and gastronomic fields remain in close relationship, sometimes refashioning each other and sometimes incorporating changes from their association with other cuisines in the global foodscape. Both fields, however, are imagined and produced according to a code that diverges from Mexican...

  11. 5 The Gastronomic Field: Restaurants and the Institutionalization of Yucatecan Gastronomy
    (pp. 201-236)

    My goal in this chapter is to describe the strategies deployed by Yucatecan restaurateurs to institute Yucatecan gastronomy. To reiterate, I understand Yucatecan gastronomy as a field that corresponds with, and has historically bifurcated from, the regional culinary field. It is constituted through a gradual process of purification that leads to the elimination of recipes from cookbooks and of dishes from restaurant menus that writers and restaurateurs, respectively, perceive as located outside the logic of regional cuisine. Each restaurant that specializes in the production of Yucatecan food is engaged in the territorialization of Yucatecan gastronomy—a process shaped by the...

  12. Conclusion: Food and Identities in Post-national Times
    (pp. 237-245)

    Throughout this book I have shown that the relationship between food and identity in Yucatán is highly political. To speak of a single Yucatecan identity, as is often done, is to conceal the diversity of ways in which the subjective feeling of belonging has been constructed in Yucatán. Individuals who belong to different ethnic, religious, social, economic, political, and gender groups see themselves in ways that are not homogeneous or exclusive and that do not necessarily correspond to the views of Yucatecan elites on Yucatecan society and values. Besides the presumption of ontological, dichotomous identities, to write of Yucatecan identities,...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 246-277)
  14. Glossary of Recipes
    (pp. 278-281)
  15. Cookbook References
    (pp. 282-283)
  16. References
    (pp. 284-305)
  17. Index
    (pp. 306-312)