A symbol: A sit-down meal, especially in the evening, can symbolize and create feelings of
"family." Holiday foods are essential markers of holiday meals and celebrations.
A product: In 21st century Canada, where people grow food themselves much less than
before, food is almost always a product or a commodity–something webuy from a store or
restaurant. It is not something we can normally access for free, such as tap water. (Think
about why—after all, we need both food and water to survive. More about this later in the
A ritual object: Food can be a symbol during religious ceremonies or rituals. For example,
horseradish is a symbol of the suffering of Israelite slaves in Egypt in the Jewish Passover
Seder meal (see Figure 1.1). Food can also be involved in more everyday rituals, such as
the giving of a gift to the host/ess (e.g., a bottle of wine, chocolates) when one is invited to
his or her home.
An identity badge: An upper middle-class Torontonian might eat foods from various ethno-
cultural backgrounds to indicate (perhaps unconsciously) that she is "knowledgeable" or
"hip." A teenager might eat fast food to fit in with his peers.
An object of emotions: We might feel guilty after eating what we think are unhealthy or
fattening foods. We might also seek comfort or nostalgia in foods we ate as kids. Boredom,
loneliness, and a myriad of other emotions may trigger a desire for food.
A political tool: Eating organic or local food, or boycotting certain products, may be a way
people hope to improve the food system. Activists might stage hunger strikes.
subsidies for farmers. The more of a crop a farmer produced, the more financial support he
or she would receive.
For this reason, contemporary Food Studies is a field that draws on many different disciplines (it
ismultidisciplinary). Some scholars in Food Studies also combine the insights and theories of more than
one discipline into particular research projects (i.e., to do interdisciplinary work).
Further, Food Studies scholars often share insights and collaborate with community food activists. Food
Studies conferences (e.g., the yearly conference of the Canadian Association for Food Studies, or CAFS)
try to break down the traditional barriers between the community and academia by bringing people from
both areas together to share ideas. This relates to thecritical approach of Food Studies. Many people come
to the field because they see problems in the food system that they want to change, like social inequality or
environmental degradation. (Perhaps these are issues that brought you to this course?) Breaking down
academic/community barriers is part of that critical movement toward changes
Food systems page 5
Food studies pg 7
Discursive consciousness refers to the ideas people have about their own actions and
decisions — ideas that people are conscious of and can fairly easily articulate (express or talk
about). One way to remember this term is to think about the word discourse, which
sometimes refers to conversation.
Practical consciousness refers to intuitive or unconscious ideas that drive decisions and
actions that people aren’t necessarily able to express or explain. These ideas are so
embedded in our habits or ways of thinking that we usually aren’t aware of them. Practical
consciousness ties in well with the idea of cultural schemas, which we talked about earlier in
this module. Cultural schemas are part of what makes up our practical consciousness. Week 2
Culture refers to things like knowledge, language, values, customs, and material objects that
circulate in a group or society. Culture is consciously passed on from one generation to the
next through parenting and education. It is also unconsciously absorbed and reproduced
through things like everyday practices, conversations, actions, popular culture, and the
When you think of culture, you might think of someone’s ethnicity or background. This can
have a definitive influence of food choices. But as you read in the Johnston and Cappeliez
chapter for today, a less-obvious and often unconscious influence on all of us is capitalist
A store in which there is only one brand available of each item.
A system where you pay a certain amount for a weekly basket of vegetables, but you
don’t know ahead of time how many or what kind of vegetables you will g