The Taste of Place

This book starts off by introducing the idea of terroir and gout du terroir which she defines as the taste of place. She also introduces the French emphasis on the connection between the taste of wine and food and their origins. She moves onto the culture of taste and discusses how meaningful eating and drinking are throughout the world. Trubek notes how taste is different between foods as a mere sustenance and food as part of life in terms of sociality, spirituality, aesthetics and more. The idea of what foods taste good differs among nations, cultures, regions, and people. She brings up the idea (which we have touched on earlier in class) that social and economic class determines what type of foods are good. She defines the idea of counter cuisine as the response to a fully industrialized food system.

The first chapter, place matters, talks about how in France, depending on the place, food and drink are supposed to possess certain qualities. The place makes the taste unique, specifically with wine. French taste makers and taste producers shaped how people view wine and food. Grapes for wine have been Frances largest agricultural product and vignerons were the first group to propose a link between place and quality. Onto the idea that class determines how people eat, there was a pattern developed throughout Western Europe that shows wealthy people were able to get ingredients all over the world while rural peasants and urban laborers could only get it from locally available foods. She introduces the idea that there are two different culinary approaches. One is class (cuisine bourgeoise) and location (cuisine regionale). There are also four major cooking styles. Haute cuisine (which we have talked about), domain of chefs, regional cooking, and impromptu cooking. She talks about how agriculture was a large section of French economy well into the 20th century. She moves onto talk about how people don’t have as much an emphasis on food anymore and that they need to be taught how to taste and develop sense of discernment. Lastly, tastes are mapped out onto the geography of France as regional specialties.

In chapter five, she moves onto to food in Vermont. She notes that early colonists wanted a primary agrarian worldview which has promoted the agriculture there. There is also an emphasis on dairy farming and homesteading. An important organization is the Vermont Fresh Network (VFN) which provides local markets to farmers. They emphasize importance of eating the landscape and connecting farmers and chefs. They want to build new markets for agricultural products. She notes the idea of cuisine tourism. She notes a difference between the U.S. and France regarding the idea that cooking and eating from neighbors is as important and contributes to the social good.

Lastly in chapter six, she notes how eating local foods can allow for a wider range of possibilities for people. The taste of place is influenced by geography, but it is not confined to a specific location in the world. She goes on to talk about terroir again. She says it is either a form of nostalgia for a sense of identification with a region that has been lost due to urbanization or a way to create a brand for products to capitalize of nostalgia. There is a more global articulation of terroir in slow food (a nonprofit which promotes great tastes of a region) that has transformed into a more euro-nationalist definition.

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