Training tastes : a relationship approach to food, taste and the senses through the lens of the Slow Food Movement

Bentia, Dana and Urry, John and Cronin, Anne (2011) Training tastes : a relationship approach to food, taste and the senses through the lens of the Slow Food Movement. PhD thesis, Sociology.

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This thesis explores the ways in which taste is mobilized as a sensory, cultural, and political force in contemporary Western societies. My explorations derive from a context in which there is a growing dissatisfaction with the quality of food and this is seen as severely impacting upon social and cultural structures and institutions and as altering people’s health, habits and ways of life. This thesis investigates in what way taste and people’s sensuous engagement with food offers insight into the nature of relations between people, food, and environs. It further examines how such relations tackle the transmogrification of food and the systems supporting it, how these surpass dichotomous views of fast and slow food, and how these redefine essential dimensions of what it is that constitutes food and eating. I show that taste, rather than being a static attribute which determines people’s choices and status, is an active process of exploring, learning, and knowing. The analysis of relations between people, food and the senses is grounded in ethnographic research pursued with the Slow Food Movement in Britain. This international organization, originating in Italy, advocates that the education of taste is imperative and people need to develop and deepen their knowledge about food by eating produce which is produced, sourced, sold and prepared in sustainable and equitable ways. The thesis discusses discursive and embodied ways of engaging with food and proposes approaching the formation and training of taste in terms of patterns of perceptual experience. In highlighting food tasting as a sensory practice, I introduce the notion of sensory pageantry and evaluate several tensions and contestations around speedier and slower modalities of experiencing taste. Thus, I demonstrate that training techniques of remembering, repeating, rebalancing and fine-tuning hone taste into a skill and mode of knowing. This thesis argues that taste is relational and multi-sensuous. Methodologically, this thesis takes an interdisciplinary perspective and draws on arguments, concepts and theories from anthropology and sociology, cultural geography and ecological psychology. Furthermore, this thesis introduces storytelling as a way of ‘capturing’ the evanescent and fleeting character of taste.

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Thesis (PhD)
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20 Jul 2015 15:24
Last Modified:
18 Jul 2024 00:17