Monday, 3 July 2017

Cooking as a ritual: Cuisine and culture in the globalized 21st Century World

The symposium was held on June 29th, 2017 from 9.00-17.30 at the Laboratoire des services of Institute Paul Bocuse. There were 8 oral presentations and 2 poster presentations in this symposium. I will not talk about the poster since it was in French and I don’t understand any single word . The aim of this symposium will thus be to question the evolution of cooking perceived as a ritual in a globalised world. The oral presentations were as follows:

  1. A keynote speech by Jakob Klein opened the symposium. Jakob Klein is Lecturer in Social Anthropology and Chair of the SOAS Food Studies Centre. His current research concerns the transformation of regional cuisines and local speciality foods in China, with a focus on Yunnan Province (2013, '“There is no such thing as Dian cuisine!” Food and local identity in urban Southwest China.', Food and History 11). He is particularly interested in exploring how the transregional and transnational movements of foods, tourists, technologies, hygiene regulations, and ideas of heritage are impacting on producers and consumers of Chinese ‘local’ foods. He recently co-edited The Handbook of Food and Anthropology (with J.L. Watson, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2016). He explained about the basic structure of Chinese food that consists of cooked grain staple (fan), side dish (cai), and small eats/snacks (xiaochi). He talked about the massification of cuisine culture especially based on potato. At the beginning, a potato is considered as a side dish, but the massification makes potato become inherent in some regions. He also explained that meal has a transformative effect. It is not only “you are what you eat”, but also “you are how you eat”. Thus it is important to have a family meal since it is the moment where we can transfer the family value, culture, etc to the young generation. 
    Jakob Klein
  2. Olivier Givre from Université Lumière Lyon II – EVS UMR 5600 presented about Ritual and food: Kurban in the Balkans, or “praying while eating”. He explained about different interpretation of Kurban in a different culture, especially in Balkan region. How Kurban term has been generalised to many feasts and occasions, and not really related anymore to religious views. 
    Olivier Givre
  3. Fèten Ridène Raissi from ESAC Gammarth - Université de Carthage –Tunisie presented The Preservation of the Culinary Heritage through its Cinematographic Counterpart: Case Study of Illustrations of the Tunisian Culinary Rituals in Several Fiction Films. Due to some problems, she could not attend the symposium, but the organiser made her presentation possible through Skype. She showed some movie clips in Tunisia where they show the food culture in a different stage of life, since the birth, the first tooth of a baby, circumcision, wedding, and death. 
    Feten Ridene Raissi

  4. Emmanuelle Turquet from Papilles Créatives presented Cooking therapy: explore your cooking practices and rituals and get insights into your personality. She presented about how cooking can show your personality and how it builds your family personality. Cooking is not only “why you are doing this way” but more to “what they mean to you”. Cooking Therapy is a personal journey for the general public who have difficulties in cooking/eating, especially for people who have anorexia, drug addict, people at a retirement house to explore creativity, build self-confidence and for personal development. The method basically trains people to cook without a recipe and just be who they are. She presented in French, but the power point was in English.
    Emmanuelle Turquet
  5. Laurence Ossipow from Haute Ecole Spécialisée de Suisse Occidentale presented Ritualizing cooking practices? An anthropological approach of cooking workshops offered to people in difficulty in Geneva. She also presented in French and I was quite tired struggled to focus after lunch. What I understood, she explained about her research on how to make the Geneve people cook again in their home. 
    Laurence Ossipow
  6. Students from the course “Anthropology, Science and Society” (Licence 3rd year, Université Lumière Lyon II), Julie and Elena, showed their exploration in video format about open kitchen and “the taste of home, abroad”. The video showed the opinion of the last year student and the chef of IPB about an open kitchen. The second video showed two stories on a plate: a Bulgarian cake and Gnocchi and show that with food, you can communicate a lot of things. 
  7. Kaisa Torkkeli from Faculty of Educational Sciences - University of Helsinki presented “Cooking as a performance in a family with children”. She started with an intrigue question of “ who needs the recipe? Do people even cook anymore?”. She researched about what is going on during cooking in a family with children as a practice because a practice is a nexus of doing and saying. She recorded herself when she cooked for her family with a camera on the eye level, and then she coded what is going on during cooking. What people define cooking depends on the practitioner (the host of the practice) when the cooking process start and finish. Should it be from convenience food or prepare from the scratch. 
    Kaisa Torkkeli
  8. Amandine Rochedy, Anne Dupuy from Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, CERTOP - UMR CNRS 5044 presented Rituals and routines: what lies behind parents cooking practices regarding toddler’s food. She presented in French and I am looking forward to get her power point in English. 

In general, the symposium showed that cooking is one of the most interesting characteristics of one culture. It gathers indeed material aspects (ingredients, tools, places) and symbolic values (representation, type of meals) that are often shared by social groups while varying a lot at a global point of view. From this perspective, cooking can be considered as ritual. The Cook has indeed to respect codes and rules (regarding places, technics and materials) that are linked to specific representation, to create a product that eater(s) will believe can be eaten – that’s to say incorporated, physically and symbolically. However, food – and de facto cooking is deeply impacted by the increase of global exchanges that characterise globalisation: acculturation of new products (food and appliances), sharing of recipes, modification of food patterns. As people do not cook as long as people in the previous time due to the convenience products, I hope that the culture and the skill itself will not be disappeared by the time because in my personal opinion, cooking for the family is a condensed and compact process of transferring not only nutrition for family but also culture, value and it builds family bonding that is priceless and irreplaceable by the convenience product.