Blog Post #2

Mintz #2 explores the term “cuisine” and what people usually associate the word with versus what it really is. Mintz says that the term “cuisine” means both “kitchen” and “cooking.” She talks about how in the United States the term is used to describe ethnic foods like French, Chinese, or Thai. She questions if it even makes sense to have national cuisines because some people like Jean-Francois Revel think that the only real cuisines are regional due to distinctiveness of the local ingredients. Mintz agrees, saying that a chef can make a menu that reflects that of a nation, but the foods of a country do not make a cuisine on their own. When described from the perspective of someone who cares about food, cuisines do not reflect a country, but instead the foods of a place. She also talks about how food tends to vary within social classes in may places, and how especially in America this seems to be true. You can tell what class someone is in based off of the types of foods they eat and ingredients they use. Here she points out haute cuisine and grande cuisine as being used as an attribute to class. According to Mintz, haute cuisine is a sort of “refinement of the aggregate foods, styles, and dishes of a collection of regions, and represents more than one region.
In Mintz #3, she discusses how a comment she made during a class lecture about Americans having no cuisine was not received well by the students. This led into the question of why having a cuisine is important to people. Though America is extremely diverse, and has a wide variety of foods, Mintz says this does not equal to having a cuisine. The process of Americanization of immigrants also means people were and are encouraged to blend in and change their ways of life, including their foodways. Mintz says that pressure to be the same, especially toward children, may feed into the increase of homogeneity in American food habits. Another factor in the States is the commercialization of regional foods that will continuously get less and less close to the original food. Mintz suspects that commercialization like this has been so effective in America due to the lack of a standard cuisine. In turn, the distinctiveness of regional cuisines becomes diluted and “nationalized.” American food habits are also regulated by class, region, and ethnic differences. Another big point in this reading is what habits of Americans and what they consume compared to other places. Americans tend to eat out or at fast food more, eat prepacked or frozen meals that require little to no effort, and consume a lot of sugar and fats. American consumption of things like this have steadily rose and also correlate with the increase in body weight of American men and women. Another prevalent characteristic of American eating habits is the tendency to snack, and therefore disrupt “normal” eating times. The convenience of certain foods and the appearance that people do not have enough time to properly eat, and Mintz asserts that convenience food would not be as successful if Americans cared more about how and what they eat daily. She says this fact is very important, as it implies that Americans lack a cuisine and will probably never have one.
The third reading describes the use of the word “restaurant,” which there is now an abundance of. Ray writes that by the nineteenth century, there is a large interest in cooking and gastronomy. This interest, Ray says, has to do with two things. The first is literature, which, according to the author, goes hand in hand with the history of public eateries. Discussions in literature about restaurants were seen as part of the general discussion surrounding culture. Ray also talks about what set apart restaurants from coffee places and taverns. It has to do with the increase in segregation by wealth, with wealthy New Yorkers beginning to move their homes away from places associated with work, such as coffeehouses. The advertisement of restaurants was not commonplace, and their popularity continued to increase with the concept of “fine dining.” Though even today many families cannot afford to eat out at restaurants, going out to eat is not uncommon, and there are people who do it many times a week or more.

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