Ma Yihang, PhD candidate, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Postmodern Eating was published in 2004. Author Liao Binghui links his transnational and cross-cultural eating experience of many years to his longtime interest in postmodern and postcolonial theory and cultural phenomena, his theoretical, speculative, and critical writings revealing a unique scholarly perspective on food and eating. The book encompasses six major themes: “The transformation from pre-modern, early modern, modern, to postmodern dietary concepts;” “postmodern food and beverage philosophy;” “recipes, spices, and culinary arts tourism;” “ethnicity and pluralistic diets;” “nostalgia for cooking of the past;” and “the eroticization of food.” In developing these six themes, Liao looks at the historical role food has played at different stages of civilization, also exploring the cultural codes and values systems that lie behind diet. Furthermore, Liao illustrates how diet reveals different cultures’ heterogeneity and homogeneity, discussing the ways in which food reveals the conflicts, interactions, and compromises between elements of diversity and uniformity in today’s globalized society.
For example, the blending and confluence of foods, eating habits, flavors, and dining spaces in contemporary dietary culture conceal cultural, ethnic, and class interaction and struggle. According to Liao’s interpretation, food is like a text, traveling between and being translated into various regions and cultures – it has to pass through a process of absorption and reabsorption, digestion and modification. In undergoing this process, a food’s original “purity” may perhaps be regretfully diluted, but the potential for mixing, hybridization, and transformation will be expedited.
This so-called “uplifting” of dietary culture is not merely the pursuit of delicacy, originality, and orthodoxy; Liao’s dietary discourse places greater emphasis on the dialectical relationship of “orthodoxy” and “heterodoxy,” “dominance” and “vulnerability,” “past and present,” and “global” and “local.” In addition, Liao looks at food and the relationship between “body” and “senses,” and how dietary culture is “re-presented” by different intermediaries. These observations reveal contemporary cultural circumstances, desires, and enticements, providing insight into the interlocking relationship between appetite and other desires. Diet belongs to “culture” and “desire,” and is even more closely related to “self-identity.” Liao believes that in Taiwan’s complex political environment, dietary culture has a multitude of variables and possibilities. Liao Binghui’s Postmodern Eating is filled with brilliant discussions and observations – the author not only recalls and portrays his personal experiences with food and eating, but also offers sharp insights into and reflections on diet. Thus, the book exhibits both theoretical complexity and a deep concern for human culture.
|Related Literary Themes：||Food in Literature|