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More than the Madeleine: Food in Memory and Ima

Claude Levi-Strauss posited that food has to be "good to think" before it is "good to eat." That contemplative moment of judgement compels us both to remember and to imagine, making the two processes an integral part of eating. Memory tells us what is safe (or not!) to eat, provides us with our culinary traditions, and is the source of our cravings. Imagination helps us to determine what to do when confronted with new substances that we have yet to classify as edible, desirable, nutritious, or delicious. Without imagination and adaptation our foodways would be predictable, boring, and static. While memory has to do with past experiences, the abiding, the familiar, and one's own cultural groups, imagination is about the future, the possible, the alien, the little known, and the other. Yet this culinary dichotomy is not so clear-cut: new foods are often made palatable by using familiar ingredients and techniques, as with sushi rolls filled with corned beef or cream cheese, for example. And not only are our memories imperfect, but they cannot account for change, whether newly developed preferences or foods that do not match up to our sensuously rich memories of them. Other foods, meanwhile, are forgotten or fail to stimulate the imagination.

This edited volume interrogates the process of our engagement with food through memory and imagination, be it in anticipation or remembrance of a meal. We wish to include work from a wide variety of disciplines that spans the globe and touches upon different periods in human history.

Potential themes may include:

Cultural constructions of collective food memories, nostalgic dishes, or imagined cuisines as tied to religion, nation, or class.
The use of memory or imagination in food advertising, literature, or art
The use of memory or imagination by chefs, on menus, or in kitchen/restaurant designs
Food scientists' approach to recreating flavors, inventing new tastes, etc.
Phenomenological perspectives on taste, the senses, and memory or imagination
Ways in which memory is disrupted, fragmented, or reimagined
Forgetting foods and culinary traditions
The reinterpretation / reimagination that occurs as foods circulate through time and space
Processes (historical, social, biophysical) whereby foods become edible / inedible, palatable / disgusting

We have interest from a well-respected publisher who has asked for a full proposal.

Please send 250-300 word abstract and 150 word bio to Dr. Beth Forrest and Dr. Greg de St. Maurice by July 15, 2017. Full manuscripts for accepted papers will be due in early spring 2018.


Dr. Greg de St. Maurice
Postdoctoral Fellow
Culinaria Research Center, University of Toronto
Air Liquide Research Fellow, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales

Dr. Beth Forrest
Professor of Liberal Arts and Food Studies
Culinary Institute of America

Posted: April 27, 2017
Tagged: Calls for Papers