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The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Consumption and Consumer Studies by J. Michael Ryan, Daniel Thomas Cook

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Food

LAUREN T. WILLIAMS

Griffith University, Australia

JOHN GERMOV

University of Newcastle, Australia

DOI: 10.1002/9781118989463.wbeccs122

Food has existed from the beginning of life on Earth: those first organisms arising from the primordial soup needed a food source in order to grow and replicate. Food can be defined from a biological perspective as substances sourced from animals or plants that can be eaten by humans and other animals to obtain the nourishment used for body maintenance, growth, and reproduction. In the physiological sense, “consumption” is the act of ingesting food and beverages. These definitions, which stem from medical and nutritional sciences, only tell part of the story of food and eating, and tend to overlook the social factors that influence why we eat the way we do. In any given society, all that is potentially edible is not eaten – illustrating the important role culture plays in the social construction of food and food consumption.

Social anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss (1964/1969) maintained that a key feature of what makes us human is our ability to transform the “raw” (nature) into the “cooked” (human culture); that is, the preparation and consumption of food occur through human culture, which involves rules, values, and meanings that shape what is considered edible and how it should be eaten. In a similar vein, Claude Fischler (1988) describes food as a bridge between nature and culture, transforming things of nature into “food” considered fit ...

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