Metaphoric Determinants of Food and Identity

Authored by: Kendall J. Eskine

The Routledge Handbook of Food Ethics

Print publication date:  July  2016
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138809130
eBook ISBN: 9781315745503
Adobe ISBN: 9781317595502

10.4324/9781315745503.ch3

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Abstract

It would seem that our relationship with food ought to be simple. After all, what is food if not a nutritive base, energizing the bits and pieces comprising bodies of all sorts? But this is hardly the case. In many ways, the representational nature of food extends well beyond its capacity for sustenance and projects itself onto some of our most abstract domains, ranging from identity formation to foreign diplomacy. We even conceptualize and describe people in terms of food metaphors: he’s spicy, she’s sweet, the congressman showed unsavory behavior, the sales clerk had a bitter attitude, and so on. Are these mere linguistic conventions, or do our sensory and perceptual experiences with food meaningfully animate how we understand others? In what follows I will first explore how food finds homes in such curious places in human culture and craft something of a tasting menu to survey the extant empirical research. Second, I will explore a potential mechanism for these effects by drawing from contemporary theories in conceptual metaphor.

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