Darra Goldstein


The Visual Culture of Food



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In literature, food often serves important descriptive and narrative functions. It can introduce and typify characters, set scenes, create dramatic resolutions. Yet it can also be used as a metaphor to point to something larger than the story at hand. Even though the uses of food may appear straightforward, they are rarely simple. Because food carries multiple meanings, it is an effective mode of communication, a role especially apparent in visual, as opposed to written, representations. Whether in fine art, photography, or other media, images reflect the larger culture(s) in which they were produced. This talk will consider representations of food in art, advertising, and material culture to explore how the imagery of food signifies and promotes both individual and societal needs and desires. It will also explore the various narratives underlying the imagery, based on our responses to it.



Darra Goldstein is Francis Christopher Oakley Third Century Professor of Russian at Williams College and Founding Editor of Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture. She has published numerous books and articles on culture, art, and cuisine and organized exhibitions including Feeding Desire: Design and the Tools of the Table, at the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. She is the author of four cookbooks: A Taste of Russia, The Georgian Feast (1994 IACP Julia Child Cookbook of the Year), The Winter Vegetarian, and Baking Boot Camp at the CIA. Goldstein has consulted for the Council of Europe on the use of food as a means to promote tolerance and diversity, and under her editorship Culinary Cultures of Europe: Identity, Diversity and Dialogue was published in 2005. She has also consulted for the Russian Tea Room and Firebird restaurants in New York and served on the Board of Directors of the IACP. She is currently Food Editor of Russian Life magazine and series editor of California Studies in Food and Culture (University of California Press).