Social functions of food

  • Paul Fieldhouse


While it is true that food and the act of eating have innumerable non-biological associations and meanings, nowhere is this more evident than in the common everyday experiences of social interaction. For food is a vehicle for expressing friendship, for smoothing social intercourse, for showing concern. It is also ridden with status symbolism and is manipulated, subtly or blatantly, to demonstrate differences in social standing. There might almost be a dictum which says where two or more people gather together then let there be food and drink. Rituals and celebrations are usually centred around food; sometimes the type of food served can define the event, as with the Thanksgiving turkey or the Christmas pudding. The major transitional crises of life, the rites of passage, are marked in almost all societies by ritual or ceremonial distribution and consumption of food. Cohen (1968) hypothesizes that these important life events signify changes in socioeconomic relationships and responsibilities; as food usages commonly symbolize social relationships changes in the latter are noted symbolically by displays, exchanges and consumption of foods.


Social Function Food Sharing Food Bank Bottle Feeding Rice Cake 
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Further Reading

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Fieldhouse
    • 1
  1. 1.Manitoba Ministry of HealthCanada

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