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Eating Together

Eating Together: Food, Friendship, and Inequality

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Eating Together
    Book Description:

    An insightful map of the landscape of social meals, Eating Together: Food, Friendship, and Inequality argues that the ways in which Americans eat together play a central role in social life in the United States. Delving into a wide range of research, Alice P. Julier analyzes etiquette and entertaining books from the past century and conducts interviews and observations of dozens of hosts and guests at dinner parties, potlucks, and buffets. She finds that when people invite friends, neighbors, or family members to share meals within their households, social inequalities involving race, economics, and gender reveal themselves in interesting ways: relationships are defined, boundaries of intimacy or distance are set, and people find themselves either excluded or included.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09488-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. 1. Feeding Friends and Others
    (pp. 1-21)

    When my partner and I began living on our own, our house was a place where friends visited often, especially during evenings or weekend days. I believed that people felt welcome because good food that they liked was readily available. Somewhat consciously I thought that if there was some appropriate meal handy, then our home would be a comfortable base, a place where my circle of friends centered. Creating meals became a way to draw people to where I lived, to interact socially, bringing together friends from across the various social groups we knew, from work colleagues to college friends...

  5. 2. From Formality to Comfort: The Discourse of Meals and Manners
    (pp. 22-53)

    The two approaches to meals described above seem like the extreme ends of a continuum from formal and structured to informal and haphazard, from upper-class urban white culture to working-class rural black culture. Although the ensuing narratives about these two meals reveals a more complex distribution of affect, reciprocity, and taste, what unites them is that both rely on an acquired storehouse of knowledge about food, meals, and interactions.

    When people share meals, they rely on social knowledge about what to do and how to do it. Their events work from “cultural templates,” to use Warde and Martens’ term, even...

  6. 3. Dinner Parties in America
    (pp. 54-103)

    In 1990, the writer Susan Orlean traveled the United States looking at what people do on Saturday night. She found people who cruised in their cars, played in cocktail lounge bands, polka-danced, ate in restaurants, and watched television with friends. Orlean figured that hosting a dinner party would be a quintessential Saturday night activity, so she sought out people from wealthy New York social circles. This is what she found:

    There are many people in the world for whom giving a party would be an unnerving prospect, but Mrs. Thomas Kempner is not among them. [She] is not just a...

  7. 4. Sweetening the Pot: The Shifting Social Landscape of Sociable Meals
    (pp. 104-145)

    It was often difficult to categorize people’s activities, even when labels like “dinner party” and “potluck” exist. Unless the occasion clearly fit a specific template, most notably as a dinner party or a potluck, people did not use any overarching terms to describe them. Although I was relying on people’s own narratives of event, in their telling, they had trouble coming up with labels themselves. Because I was interested in letting people define terms, I generally did not push them to categorize events unless the conversation warranted it (for example, if comparing one event to another, or if they labeled...

  8. 5. Potlucks
    (pp. 146-184)

    Observing the Mill River “Old versus Young” potluck barbecue was one of the experiences that prompted me to write this book. For five or six years my spouse played pickup basketball at a local park every Sunday morning. Like most regular pickup games, there were informal but enforced rules about when the games occurred, who got to play, and what protocol for type of play. Although it was like any other pickup game I’d ever watched, it was clear that every court has its own tacit protocols. I began observing because of an interest in the ways in which people...

  9. 6. Artfulness, Solidarity, and Intimacy
    (pp. 185-208)

    In the 2008 election, the Obama campaign’s use of grassroots organizing techniques combined with technology like text messaging and regular emails was a notable and rather successful feature in mobilizing voters. One technique was an old familiar one—neighborhood house parties, where people gathered to discuss issues and swing voters—but they were promoted via the internet. As I followed the campaign, I was intrigued by the possibilities in these house parties—to what extent would they be mixed in terms of race, class, and gender? Would people stick to their own neighborhoods or would they be welcoming to others?...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 209-218)
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 219-232)
  12. Index
    (pp. 233-238)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 239-244)