Cover Image
close this bookResearch Methods in Nutritional Anthropology (United Nations University, 1989, 201 p.)
close this folder5. Cultural patterning and group-shared rules in the study of food intake
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentMethods for studying cultural rules for food use
View the documentResearch techniques
View the documentSocial units
View the documentFood choices: a process of many phases
View the documentLevels and units of analysis
Open this folder and view contentsA comprehensive interview approach to food patterning
View the documentConclusion

Food choices: a process of many phases

Group and individual culinary behaviours are affected by a number of extrinsic and intrinsic factors:

  1. Mode of production and processes of food distribution, and other factors that affect food availability.
  2. Distance and time involved in getting to and from a food supply, cost of foodstuffs, and other factors affecting accessibility.
  3. Gathering, shopping, storage, exchange, and other patterned pathways for provisioning.
  4. Technology of food storage and preparation, including fuel and cooking facilities.
  5. Preparation decisions keyed to menu planning and cooking activities for specific food events.
  6. Socio-cultural patterning of food events themselves in terms of consumption, e.g. the presentation of food, protocols for serving, and rules for allocation of food, in terms of quality and quantity.
  7. Patterns of ingestion, or individual etiquette and behaviour during the act of eating or leaving food after it is served.

This paper is primarily concerned with the cultural rules pertaining to the last three factors, which are most directly influenced by the way people think about the organization of food intake. The other aspects are addressed in this volume in Messer's paper on the determinants of food intake (see chapter 1). Decisions and activities related to food acquisition involve gathering, harvesting, marketing, systems of food exchange and gift-giving, and other "pathways" by which households acquire food.

The concept of pathways of household food acquisition has been developed by Kathleen DeWalt (1979). In this aspect of the food choice process both structural factors (economic resources, time, and location of the food supply) and cultural preferences and norms interact. The cultural models that inform supermarket shopping decisions are also different from those involved in meal planning or the centrally controlled organization of food intake within a household.

Important for understanding topics of major interest in this paper, which addresses the influence of culture on the planning of meals or menu negotiation, the nature of meals, and the acts of ingestion, are long-term observations within the household context and study of peergroup influence on the focal female food-preparer. This approach is necessary for understanding not only such patterning, but also its social maintenance and its interaction with situational constraints, such as the task-allocation systems identified by Messer in her time allocation analyses (see chapter 4).