Winner of the 2018 First Book Prize from the Association for the Study of Food and Society
For the past four decades, increasing numbers of Americans have started paying greater attention to the food they eat, buying organic vegetables, drinking fine wines, and seeking out exotic cuisines. Yet they are often equally passionate about the items they refuse to eat: processed foods, generic brands, high-carb meals. While they may care deeply about issues like nutrition and sustainable agriculture, these discriminating diners also seek to differentiate themselves from the unrefined eater, the common person who lives on junk food.
Discriminating Taste argues that the rise of gourmet, ethnic, diet, and organic foods must be understood in tandem with the ever-widening income inequality gap. Offering an illuminating historical perspective on our current food trends, S. Margot Finn draws numerous parallels with the Gilded Age of the late nineteenth century, an era infamous for its class divisions, when gourmet dinners, international cuisines, slimming diets, and pure foods first became fads.
Examining a diverse set of cultural touchstones ranging from Ratatouille to The Biggest Loser, Finn identifies the key ways that “good food” has become conflated with high status. She also considers how these taste hierarchies serve as a distraction, leading middle-class professionals to focus on small acts of glamorous and virtuous consumption while ignoring their class’s larger economic stagnation. A provocative look at the ideology of contemporary food culture, Discriminating Taste teaches us to question the maxim that you are what you eat.