Food is Food Blog

What is not dinner is dirt- from the archives

Sometimes what you think you are going to read is not what you end up reading. My various trolls through the literature had identified the 1995 textbook “Food Choice and the Consumer”, edited by David W. Marshall, and specifically Rolland Munro’s chapter “The Disposal of the Meal”. The meat and potatoes part of me thinks that I am going to read something that directly addresses his thoughts on food disposal. In the end this chapter prances about food disposal, presenting various philosophical filagrees, but, to use a cheap metaphor, not a satisfying meal.

Munro tries to move away from food disposal being related as a direct outcome of production and consumption of meals. “To simply distribute examples of disposal between the physical focus of production and the symbolic emphasis of consumption would only polarize a theme of disposal and perpetuate its obviation”. (p. 315). Consumption has more to do with social inclusion, affiliation and ultimately culture. Culture has more to do with the “economist’s sum of revealed preferences” (p.315) and the link between it and consumption is identify making.

Disposal is exclusion and can be looked at from the perspectives of with whom you eat a meal, the physical act of consuming a meal and the physical act of disposal. “What is not dinner is dirt.” (p. 317) and a way must be found to exclude this.

Maybe the point is that it is food’s inherent disposability that governs our choices and actions. Consider “The fridge is a device to preserve difference and defer disposal, over fish it fails.” (p. 318) and “…one is left to wonder if there may be something about the very ‘disposability’ of food that lends itself to a making of identity. “ (p. 323). From this vantage point disposal is not so much an outcome as an implied part of the process of production and consumption but part of our culture and identity. He considers that disposal is not a simple path, from “a” to “b” but part of some larger continuous process.

In the end I am left unsatisfied. I wanted some concrete ideas on why people discard food but was presented with cerebral meanderings that are quite possibly beyond my comprehension or are just plain meaningless.

Munro, R. In. Marshall, D. editor (1995). The disposal of the meal. Food choice and the consumer., p. 313-325.

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