Gastronomy: a phenomenon of cultural expressionism and an aesthetic for living
Hegarty, Joseph O'Mahony, G. Barry
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The culture of a society is manifest in a variety of ways, in its art, language and literature, music, and in all forms of religious and secular ritual. Cultural expression, however, whilst being a powerful factor in the definition and development of the human species, is not always vital in the utilitarian sense. Rather, it can be regarded as a group of activities usually referred to as “art for living”, which provides substance, meaning, continuity and value to living in a particular social grouping. This paper argues that gastronomy, the selection, preparation, presentation and participation with culinary and gastronomic aspects of food, falls squarely into this category of ‘fine art activity’ since most societies seek to differentiate their food preparation into either the purely utilitarian or the highly developed and stylised methods of presentation and participation which, in many instances, are not designed for consumption merely, but also for status, ritualistic and aesthetic purposes.