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Babel and the food culture

In his book Babel Food, Italian anthropologist and author La Cecla refers to the concept of Babel to describe how mass media and globalization have shaped today’s confused, at times spectacularized concept of food. Just think about the meanders of different dishes and cuisines one can nowadays find in any big city in the world. It seems like food is more and more becoming something of a glamorous product of mass consumption: you can have a sushi in Bologna just as easily as an Argentinian steak in Singapore or a kebab in Washington.

Don’t get this the wrong way though: there’s nothing bad in the curiosity of getting to know food and nourishing traditions of remote ethnicities. However what we’re witnessing here is a different phenomenon, where food has lost its original context and is seen and marketed rather as a commodity than as the outcome of centuries of traditions and rituals of a population.

This Babel now represents a menace to food in its most essential and original meaning: a relation between men and Earth, rural and urban world, and the sense of conviviality that goes with it. We’re facing a sort of contradiction: on the one hand, in the last few decades, much has been done to implement food labelling, to improve the transparency of the food chain, to reduce the over exploitation of resources and to protect small producers. Nevertheless, many of these positive values have in many cases turned into trends, slogans and driven behaviors and ended up becoming new marketing instruments in the hands of big companies and food chains. The author feels that these food concepts have ultimately been conveyed and blended together in what has become a food kulture.

With this ironic term La Cecla intends to highlight the overstated and supeficial role that modern culture has attributed to food (just think about the many tv shows where chefs elevate their creations to something like a piece of art, or the ocean of pictures and selfies of dishes posted by users online, or even restaurants claiming to offer the most exotic ). Once food steals the spotlight, it loses its primary essence of conviviality and simplicity as well as its real cultural connotation.

By Bruno

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