Mintz 2, Mintz 3, and National Cuisine

Mintz uses chapter seven to establish what a cuisine is and whether, or in what circumstances, national cuisines exist. His main argument is that national cuisines are only useful constructs when compared to each other and composed of regional cuisines found within the relavent national borders. He also talks about how different societies view food and how different societies stratify food across classes. This leads into a discussion of huate cuisine and it’s relation to regional and national cuisines. Mintz also examines what circumstance led to the differences between cuisine and haute cuisine, particularly in China.

In chapter eight, the question is posed to Mintz whether or not America has a national cuisine and what bearing that has on whether we have a national culture. In accordance with his earlier argument, Mintz asserts that America does not have a cuisine. However, this does not mean America has no culture. In fact, the reasons Mintz cites for America’s lack of cuisine, the country’s size, age, and the cultural and ethnic diversity of the citizens, all contribute to the American culture. However, many regional cuisines have become diluted and homogenized in America because of the population’s trend towards restaurant and prepared food.

In National Cuisine, the author argues against how Mintz defined cuisine. By collecting historical references and extracting data from those sources, Ray argues for a different definition of cuisine and that American cuisine does exist. He states that the concept of American cuisine was not discussed until the 1850s, and at that point American cuisine was compared to French cuisine. The second part of Ray’s conclusion seems to be based on an equivalence between French and American cuisine. He argues that if French cuisine exists, so must American cuisine, and French cuisine does exist within his more narrow definition of a cuisine. However, he does not directly contradict Mintz on whether American cuisine exists because Mintz’s definition of cuisine does includes neither French nor American cuisine.

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