A tectonic shift has occurred in the gastronomic field in France, upsetting the cultural imagination. In a European country captivated by a high-stakes power struggle between chefs and restaurants in the culinary field, the mass marketing of factory-processed industrial cuisine and fast foods has created shock waves in French society, culture, and the economy.
In this insightful book, French Gastronomy and the Magic of Americanism, Rick Fantasia examines how national identity and the dynamics of cultural meaning-making within gastronomy have changed during a crucial period of transformation, from the 1970s through the 1990s. He illuminates the tensions and surprising points of cooperation between the skill, expertise, tradition, artistry, and authenticity of grand chefs and the industrial practices of food production, preparation, and distribution.
Fantasia examines the institutions and beliefs that have reinforced notions of French cultural supremacy—such as the rise and reverence of local cuisine—as well as the factors that subvert those notions, such as when famous French chefs lend their names to processed, frozen, and pre-packaged foods available at the supermarket. Ultimately, French Gastronomy and the Magic of Americanism shows what happens to a cultural field, like French gastronomy, when the logic and power of the economic field imposes itself upon it.
“ In this deeply-researched and impressive book, Rick Fantasia sheds new light on the world of French gastronomy, to analyze how this field (and France, by extension) maintains its symbolic capital while adapting to new conditions. Drawing heavily on Bourdieu, the author succeeds in making original contributions to the sociology of evaluation. This captivating and erudite study will be of interest to all social scientists and to other readers who wish to understand the magical hold of both ‘terroir’ and industrial camembert on our imagination. It should be read broadly.”
—Michèle Lamont, Harvard University and author of Money, Morals, and Manners: The Culture of the French and the American Upper-Middle Class
“ Rick Fantasia has produced a remarkable history of French haute cuisine: how it rose and grew, how it survived alongside the expansion of industrial production, and then how the grand chefs used their symbolic capital to exploit the exotic appeal of American fast food. Inspired by the genius of Pierre Bourdieu, French Gastronomy and the Magic of Americanism reveals the intertwining of material and cultural fields behind a transformation of national identity.”
—Michael Burawoy, University of California, Berkeley and author of Symbolic Violence: Conversations with Bourdieu
"Fantasia’s examination of French gastronomy highlights how French foodways are a cultural battleground as they attempt to hold strong to the traditions that made the nation’s food scene famous with the emergence of Americanism that has impacted the prevalence of these culinary traditions.... (He) offers an updated understanding of the cultural fields dominating French culture, specifically the flow of economic and symbolic capital between restricted French markets and open American representations of mass markets.... Fantasia’s work on the invasion of French gastronomy by American business practices and lifestyles offers insight into how this trend may continue across nation states and the continued applicability of Bourdieu’s work for understanding how forms of capital flow across evolving fields." — Social Forces
"For food scholars who are fascinated by the mysterious pull of French haute cuisine and gastronomy, Fantasia’s meticulous analysis provides a well-researched and absorbing read.... His book thus emerges as a useful tool for introducing and teaching field analysis to students in the field of food.... For anyone who has ever wondered about the mutual fascination and below-the-surface competition between French and American cultures, not just in the realm of food but beyond, this book provides interesting insights into that relationship. Indeed, Fantasia’s demonstration of the interdependence of these cultural forces, and the recognition that the artisanal, terroir-driven and the industrial, standardized cultural objects possess some 'magic,' is compelling and credible."
— Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies
"French Gastronomy and the Magic of Americanism is a remarkable work on cultural sociology. It enhances our understanding of the forces behind the emergence of cultural fields as well as the social conditions that support their continuous reinvention.... Fantasia’s book is filled with fascinating stories and well-researched empirical cases.... (I)t provides key insights into how the contours of cultural fields are created and maintained and also on how these fields’ boundaries are constantly being changed by social actions."
— Contemporary Sociology
"(A) a rich inquiry into modern-day paradoxes emanating from the long venerated association of France with cuisine. Fantasia uses rich historical data to unite theories of social action and evaluation within and across an evolving cultural field.... In sum, this book ambitiously asks us to rethink the nature of the cultural field of French gastronomy and leaves ample room for interested scholars to build upon its contribution in the future."
— Cultural Sociology
"Fantasia’s incisive analyses of industrial processes and marketing techniques, accompanied by detailed social maps of the gastronomic field, are of particular note. The study culminates in an overview of the ways that haute cuisine has adapted to an evolving gastronomic field, with lively portraits of chefs.... Thoroughly documented and expertly written, Fantasia’s book demystifies the 'magical' hold that American business practices have had on a France torn between its traditions and its desire to modernize."≈
"(Fantasia's) detailed analysis of the social practices, relations, and organization within and between different sectors of the French gastronomic field is an enormous contribution to our understanding of French cuisine, Americanization, and applications of Bourdieusian social theory."
"This book by Rick Fantasia is remarkably well constructed...it could serve as a resource for researchers and professors interested in the creation and development of gastronomy and its perception in the face of different individual, cultural, economic and industrial actors."."
—Dalhousie French Studies
"A thought-provoking examination of the interpenetration, not opposition, of haute cuisine and the mass-market industry.… This book, ironic rather than tragic, is about paradoxes involving an entente between the carefully defined and protected image of gastronomy and the American-inspired sectors of agribusiness, supermarkets, and frozen food…. French Gastronomy is revealing at every turn and tells a curious and convincing story of philosophical and historical import."— The Journal of Modern History
Politics, History, and Social Change