HEG thesis by Kelly Donati

04 Apr 2016

Kelly is a lecturer in gastronomy at William Angliss Institute and previously taught part-time in the Gastronomy program at the University of Adelaide where she completed her Master's degree in 2002. She participated in the ICSA (International Culinary Summer Abroad) program at Le Cordon Bleu Paris in 1997. She is also a freelance food writer and a doctoral candidate at the University of Melbourne. She is former president of Slow Food Victoria and continues to work closely with Slow Food Melbourne.

The Problem of Pleasure: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on the Morality and Ethics of Eating Well

Food represents both the most mundane and profound aspects of everyday life.
We all need to eat to survive, and yet what constitutes “eating well” differs radically across gender, class, religion, culture, geography and personal preferences. Jewish or Christian, vegetarian or omnivorous, fast food or local and seasonal, not enough or too much—these are just some of the social boundaries that separate “us” and “them”. The marking out of social and cultural boundaries are also deeply wrapped up in the moral and ethical principles by which we eat and live because, as anthropologist Heather Paxson notes, ‘eating well—adequately, appropriately—holds not only the promise of being well (healthy) but also being good (moral).’ (2013, p. 4). If we are indeed what we eat, then our very selves are marked out in the act of consumption.

Ancient Greek dietetics, medieval health handbooks, culinary encyclopaedias and dictionaries, cookbooks, contemporary cooking shows and popular food media represent two millennia of gastronomic discourse. Though different in form and function, they reflect a range of anxieties and tensions surrounding the relationship between health and pleasure. This thesis explores the problematic nature of gustatory pleasure in the west and examines the different and often contradictory ways in which ethics and morality have been negotiated through gastronomy over time. I argue that contemporary gastronomic discourse remains haunted by the moral concerns of the past surrounding pleasure, even as it attempts to answer questions about an uncertain future.

‘Pleasure is the only thing worth having a theory about.’
Lord Henry Wotton in The Picture of Dorian Gray
(Wilde, 1890, p. 71)

Institut des Hautes Etudes du Goût, de la Gastronomie et des des Arts de la Table

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