“Local Foods/Local Cookbooks: Can Local Food Cookbooks Live Up to the Local Food Movement?”
At first look, the recent spate of local food cookbooks proudly declare their dedication to simplicity, honesty, connection with land and community, return to tradition, and the pleasure such a homecoming brings. However, they too are susceptible to the oversimplifications that social scientists studying local food often critique. As a result, these nationally-marketed cookbooks run the risk of co-opting local food’s politics in place, to the result of commodity sales and the reinforcement of privilege and social injustice. In this paper, I consider several examples of local food cookbooks, their implicit and explicit claims, and the degree to which they deliver on these claims. I find the weakness of these books is at least in part attributable to their presentation as cookbooks, which social scientists have shown play an active role in the construction and reification of social norms. As commodities that facilitate vicarious culinary tourism, uphold traditional class dynamics, and wave the flag of American patriotism, recently published local food cookbooks defeat the goals of specificity and engagement that the social movement aims to achieve. This contradiction between efforts of the local food producers featured in the books, many of whom are active in the local food movement, and the political work achieved by the standardizing and message-bearing action of the texts is problematic and serves to illustrate the need for further critical discussion about the variety of definitions and modes of thought at work in the use of “local food” in popular and political culture.
Chera, Madeline. 2010. “Local Foods/Local Cookbooks: Can Local Food Cookbooks Live Up to the Local Food Movement?” Indiana Food Review, no. 1. Formerly hosted at http://www.indianafoodreview.com/archives/issue-1/the-ideologies-of-local-food-cookbooks.
Now visible at my academia.edu page.