Tag Archives: Foodies

Understanding the food preferences of people of low socioeconomic status

Although much is known about how affluent ‘‘foodies’’ use food as a marker of status and distinction, what are the food tastes of people with a lower socioeconomic status?

In a new article in the Journal of Consumer Culture, Shyon Baumann, Michelle Szabo and I investigate this question. We analyze interview data from 254 individuals from 105 families across Canada to explore the cultural repertoires that guide low-socioeconomic-status consumer tastes in food. We asked respondents across socioeconomic status groups which foods they prefer, and for what reasons.

We argue that low socioeconomic- status respondents show aesthetic preferences that operate according to four cultural repertoires. These repertoires are notably different from people with a high socioeconomic status who practice “cultural omnivorousness” (i.e. eating a wide range of high-status and low-status foods). Our respondents display tastes for foods from corporate brands, familiar ‘‘ethnic’’ foods, and foods they perceive as healthy.

Even though low-socioeconomic-status taste preferences in food are shaped by everyday economic constraints – what Bourdieu called ‘‘tastes of necessity’’ – we show how cultural repertoires guiding low-socioeconomic-status tastes relate to both material circumstances and broader socio-temporal contexts. Our findings shed light on the underlying meanings and justifications behind food ideals among people with low socioeconomic status.

Journal article by Merin Oleschuk on foodies of colour

merin01Merin Oleschuk, one of the PhD candidates I’m supervising, just published a brilliant article in Cultural Sociology called “Foodies of color: Authenticity and exoticism in omnivorous food culture.” Her article focuses on the framing of particular foods as ‘authentic’ and/or ‘exotic,’ and how foodies of colour in Toronto reproduce, adjust to, and resist ethnoracial inequalities in gourmet food culture. Check out this write-up on the story behind Merin’s research.