Wednesday, May 16, 2007

On Taste and Class

I had a student write a fascinating thesis this semester on taste. On the one hand, taste is a direct sensory experience, on the other hand it is mediated by a huge number of environmental and biographical factors, some of which are class related. Think of the words we use to describe food such as rich and decadent. Food is certainly a class indicator: think iceberg lettuce vs. radicchio, white bread vs. whole grain, local organic vs. canned vegetables.

But while what we eat is in part defined by socio-economic status, there's an odd thing about food. Where you see class aspiration attached to other class indicators, it's not so with food. You see many working and middle class folks trying to acquire the clothing, cars, jewelry and other trappings of wealth; yet when you mention the "fancy food" to these same folks there is absolute revulsion.

Is there something different about food?