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Cultural Analysis



Abstract

Nowadays, an eating establishment can develop into a culturally significant place since more guests visit such places to gain a new culinary experience. Fine dining is currently becoming a social event in the whole Los Angeles. One can notice there are many food bloggers, critics, celebrity chefs, and gourmets. Visit to a restaurant became a tradition. Nonetheless, it is vital to examine an ideological aspect of the following occasion because every eater seems to be victimized by a dogmatic system.

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Introduction

It is generally agreed that people live in a democratic society, thus everyone is free to choose, decide, and to resolve. However, one rarely has a critical view on the surrounding and the actual state of events. Personality is often influenced, guided and coordinated by the outward force such as government, foreign countries, mass media, religious leaders, society, etc. In order to understand the way the world affects the humanity, it is important to consider the notion of ideology. It is basically defined as “representation of the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence” (Althusser 100). Obviously, one’s mind creates a subjective image of the objective reality.

There are several types of ideology such as religious, ethical, political, legal, and many others (Althusser 100). This common process of nourishment may be ideological. Food finds its expression in culture, sociology, politics, history, ecology and other fields of the human life. For example, one can better understand the traditions and customs of another community by studying its national cuisine. Due to their organic origin, the products reveal the secrets of environment and agriculture. The foodstuff can also define the relationships of people with regard to the public and governmental issues (Levkoe 587).

Unfortunately, with the promotion of material values, nutrition became a dangerous tool for skilful marketing specialists. Being treated as a consumer rather than a civilian, a person becomes a victim of traders’ manipulations. Bright illustration of constant materialization and industrialization is the advance of fast food restaurants. They attract their visitors by offering always available and speedy service at low prices. The guests often neglect the obvious disadvantages of such establishments, namely junk constituents, saturated fat, doubtful origination, and quality (Guthman 45). While large companies prosper, many people suffer from obesity and food addictions. The massive madness over fast food is certainly profitable for its producers. In order to trigger the process of “McDonaldization”, restaurateurs apply various selling techniques. Regardless of the diverse methods of inducement, they are usually connected by unique ideology.

Food ideology is generally described as a number of eating convictions imposed by politics, religion, or community. The suggested institutions assure that in case of preserving necessary conditions, the human will feel better and healthier (Albala 8). Moreover, they impose normative views of the world. It means that they dictate behavioral patterns and define standards of living for a certain social group. However, the normative values are opposed to humanism. The latter is based on a number of personal beliefs, convictions, and assumptions. The individual’s philosophy of life usually contains both aspects of worldview (Lindeman and Sirelius 176). Nonetheless, to follow humanistic values, several food justice movements were organized. Primarily, the activists strive for protection of consumers’ rights, human and environmental health. They also want to control the quality of goods production and distribution, food policy, etc. (Levkoe 588) Thus, it is crucial for every individual to acknowledge the influence of eating ideology. In particular, one should examine the basic dogmatic elements and the way they operate in a single conceptual system.

Literature Review

There were numerous attempts to describe the notion of ideology. Among other scientists, Louis Althusser managed to identify the conception of ideological state structures. In the article “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)”, the author sets a twofold goal (Althusser 100). On the one hand, the paper strives for revealing a factitious character of ideology. On the other hand, its purpose is to explain the material expression of the discussed notion. First, the author analyzes basic theoretical works on ideology, and then he implements the obtained data into a specific case, which is Christian religious ideology. The author believes that ideology exists in its material expression (apparatus). Thus, he examines the fundamental components of the ideological system such as subjects and their interrelations. The suggested conceptual structure is transformed into the sphere of food ideology, which forms the basis of this research paper.

The ideas of food culture and ideology were precisely explained in the textbook “Three World Cuisines: Italian, Mexican, Chinese” by Ken Albala (2). It is a manual that provides detailed information on culture, history, traditions, and technological inventions of Italy, Mexico, and China. Originally intended for students, the book aims to describe basic notions of three most powerful gastronomies, to encourage readers to analyze culinary changes in progress and to formulate theoretical foundation. The author applies the comparative and regional approaches to his research. The data is obtained from cookbooks and recipes of three nationalities. The usefulness of Albala’s inquiry to this investigation is its introductory part. The foreword provides interesting facts about food ideology. The edition is restricted to culinary customs of three nations. Nonetheless, the examination of other cookeries will be possible. The text will not form the basis for this paper; however, it serves a good supplementary to a general guideline.

Marjaana Lindeman and Minna Sirelius conducted a scientifically relevant research. The experts published a study of food choice motives and ideologies (Lindeman and Sirelius 175). Their primary goal is to compare received results with Tomkins’ theory. The evidence is obtained from questionnaires completed by more than one hundred individuals. The focus group of the research comprises primarily students. The investigation is important due to its discovery, where the worldview of a human is reflected in his food choices. However, the survey is limited to current cultural ideologies. Therefore, gastronomic concepts of earlier centuries open new possibilities for the research. The article enriches this paper with valuable material about food ideologies and their place in one’s life.

Charles Z. Levkoe offered new ways to decrease negative effects of food ideology in the article “Learning Democracy through Food Justice Movements” (587). It is dedicated to the problem of participation in food justice movements. Social activities are significant for establishing democracy, which guarantees protection of human rights and ensures food security. The immediate goal of the paper is to analyze gastronomic activism as space for learning. The data is gathered from the experience of the Stop Community Food Centre by means of examination. The weakness of Levkoe’s research consists of a single movement in the respective study (the Stop Community Food Centre). However, the author concludes that small changes cause big societal transformations, which can serve as the basis for the next investigation. The text adds to the general information in introductory and final sections of this paper.

Another work is also devoted to the issues of food activities. However, it is a contrastive evaluation of two completely opposite gastronomic streams, namely fast food and organic nutrition. Julie Guthman, defines peculiarities of both cuisines in her article in order to characterize their differences (45). The purpose of the paper is double. Firstly, the author aims at providing a concise survey of organic evolution. Secondly, her task is to reveal contradictions between industrialized and natural nourishment. To reach the set goals, Guthman uses comparative and contrastive methods. The suggested topic is suitable for this research since it uncovers vital features of organic food, which are inherent in fine dining. The main limitation of the article is demonstration of culinary progress through the example of “yuppie chow”. Thus, the obtained data can serve a substantial source for further investigation. Although the following study does not occupy a chief part of this paper, it provides complementary information.

Methodology

This paper predominantly grounds on the observational research. It is a case study of a dinner at a restaurant. The author carefully recorded all impressions and findings. The researcher visited an eating establishment, where she estimated the outside view of the building, its interior, service, prices, flavor of food, and general atmosphere. After the necessary information was gathered, the data was arranged by means of analysis. The qualitative research enabled to define the ideological structure and types. Moreover, the methodology of the paper includes observation, case study, analysis, and qualitative examination.

Data Analysis

Although the majority of people consider they are independent and self-determining, it is urgent to analyze the issue of ideology in everyday actions. When one goes to work, watches a movie, travels, eats or prepares breakfast, he does not acknowledge that a usual ritual could be implicitly planed by other persons. It is more appropriate to interpret this conception by tracing a specific example. It is possible to examine a current cultural event through a visit to a restaurant. The only proposal to visit the eating establishment has dogmatic signs since it is a usual place for two beloved to celebrate anniversary. According to Luis Althusser’s assumption, ideology exists in a material form (101). It is expressed through practices and rituals. Thus, the formal procedure in the eating establishment is arriving at the location, sitting at the table, studying the menu, making an order, dining, paying the bill, thanking, and saying goodbye to the staff. The examined experience at a restaurant followed the same scheme. The only deviation was that the exterior of the building did not correspond to the expectations. The people were disappointed because the mental concept did not coincide with the physical picture.

In addition to the programmed scenario, ideology can be analyzed according to its organization. Luis Althusser suggests a duplicate structure of ideology in his article. The four key constituents are the following (Althusser 140):

  1. Subjects of the ideology;
  2. Domination of the superior Subject;
  3. The conjoint acceptance of subjects and Subject (the participants’ recognition of each other and of themselves).
  4. The unanimous persuasion that the respective performance is successful and that the situation will not worsen if everyone behaves accordingly.

If applied to an illustrated situation, namely a visit to the restaurant, the scheme will have the following components:

  1. Guests of the restaurant (food bloggers, critics, celebrity chefs, and gourmets);
  2. Worship to a fine dining (people come there to get a new eating experience);
  3. The visitors recognize themselves as members of one group (restaurant guests);
  4. The people present the prescribed scenario of fine dining as accomplished.

Every ideology is necessarily based on its subjects as immediate participants of the process. The subjects are the individuals, who follow the main ideas of the ideology and actively participate in the regular practices (Althusser 103). They are inseparable elements of the general apparatus. For example, during the visit to Providence, there were two main participants of the event. In addition, there were many other people, who can be also referred to as the subjects of ideology.

All guests of the restaurant confirmed the conception of fine dining. They believed that the procedure of nourishment should be held in a well-designed place with special covers and relaxing atmosphere. In addition to the eating process, there must be a good service offering delicious dishes by a professional chef. This is a general assumption typical for the supporters of fine dining. Moreover, there is a scenario, which is also maintained by the visitors of the restaurant as the subjects of ideology.

In addition, it is necessary to explain how the subjects of ideology identify each other. This will be demonstrated through the example of dinner at Providence. When two people entered the building, they started to observe it inside. It appeared that they were the only couple at the age of 20. Most people who came to dine seemed to be married aged mid-30s or 40s. The only common thing for the visitors was that all of them were in pairs. There were not any celebrations. Actually, there were not more than two persons sitting at one table. In such a way, the couple under investigation contrasted and compared the real audience of that evening. On the one hand, they defined the differences that distinguished each of them as a unique personality. On the other hand, they found several similarities that assembled the visitors into a single unit. The other guests made the same evaluations.

The fourth part of the recommended construction is devoted to the relationships inside the grouping. The successful implementation of the plan depends on the behavior of the members of organization. In most cases, this system works properly since the subjects of ideology reliably perform their duties. Nevertheless, certain exceptions happen due to “the bad subjects” who ignore the general rules of the ideological body (Althusser 140). Regarding the dinner at a restaurant, the guests completed the suggested procedure correspondingly. There were no deviations from the main course of the event. Everybody thought that it was a regular activity. No one considered himself as a component of the unique conceptual structure.

While discussing the notion of eating ideology, it is important to distinguish between normative (enforced by the society) and humanistic (personal) views. In their research, M. Lindemann and M. Sirelius differentiate three major types of food ideology, namely ecological (including universalism, motivation, political views, and nature issues), health (discovering tradition and security), and pleasure (examining sensory perception and hedonism) (179). Relying on the obtained results, the scientists refer ecological and pleasure ideologies to the field of humanistic values. Consequently, health ideology is related to normative guidelines.

The following three categories of ideology will be studies through the example of a visit to Providence. When planning the evening, the couple did not consider the environmental issues. The restaurant served dishes for omnivorous eaters: Uni Egg (Santa Barbara sea urchin hiding beneath soft scrambled eggs), Wild East Coast Fluke, Liberty Farms Duck Breast, Wild Alaskan Halibut, and many others. Since the visitors are not vegetarians, they have chosen diverse meals.

Although they ignored the ecological question, they paid much attention to health matters. First, one of the partners selected a fine dining establishment in order to taste fresh and nourishing food. Providence presented wholesome courses: prawns with spring greens and fennel; sea scallop with coconut, curry, lime and mint; salmon with chanterelles and almonds, etc. All the items were arranged in several serving lists. The restaurant provided three kinds of tasting menu that one could try. The first variant included four appetizers, main course, and dessert. The second one consisted of four appetizers, a main course, and four desserts. The last menu was the largest and contained thirteen courses. Consequently, in such a case, the eating process might take three and a half hours. The couple preferred the second option which was the nine-course menu. They might have taken menu number one. It was smaller and could prevent surfeit. Generally, the visitors stuck to the health ideology. The case with the quantity of the consumed food may be considered an exception from the general rule.

The greatest surprise of the event was a perceptual one. In fact, the dishes on the menu impressed one’s sight at the beginning and then senses of smell and taste. Thus, the main courses were delicately named that excited one’s curiosity. Each of them was delicious and unique. It differed greatly from one’s regular food and had an exquisite flavor. It is worth noting, pleasure ideology was the most vivid among all others.

Results

The results of the research revealed that ideology exists at the level of routine actions. For example, the situation of fine dining can be studied from the perspective of a dogmatic structure. In such a case, the main components of the ideology are the visitors of the restaurant, devotion to gastronomy, recognition as members of one group and the realization of a given scheme. If the subjects work appropriately, ideology will continue to exist. Moreover, the participants of this system have their own values (humanistic) and those forced by another unit (normative). During the fine dining, the brightest types of ideologies were health and pleasure. The dogma of normal nourishment is usually imposed by the community, while satisfaction from the eating process belongs to the personal sensations. Finally, the guests of the restaurant pretended not to pay attention to the environmental problems that day. In general, the investigation confirmed the hypothesis about material expression of ideology.

Discussion

Obeying to ideology restricts one’s worldview to certain clich?s. It presupposes the limitation of freedom, actions as well as decisions and thoughts. Many people solve the food justice movements. The meal activism will help to establish democracy, to influence culinary policy as well as acquire useful knowledge and the skills. Currently, the primary intention of the partakers is to make traders recognize diners as citizens. Thus, the sellers should stop treating people solely as the customers (Levkoe 588). The members of such movements also strive for ensuring security. It involves the possibility to consume equal quantities of the decontaminated, wholesome, and ethnically adapted food. In addition to the significant goals, people engaged in social activities and gain valuable experience. Both individual and collective learning raise the public awareness (Levkoe 594). Hence, participants of the gastronomic streams join their efforts in order to work for the common success.

Conclusion

The abovementioned arguments prove that the issue of ideology is an urgent topic nowadays. It is obvious when it acquires the characteristics of a religious or political ideology. However, it is also important to differentiate dogma at the level of everyday activities. According to the presented data, a common feature of fine dining appeared ideological. Nonetheless, the research offers an effective solution to a defined problem such as taking part in food justice movements. If a person realizes that he is a part of the ideological apparatus, he will be soon able to change his worldview and become free.

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