Consuming Authenticities is all about how history, as well as different categories of time and temporality, can be mobilised in making particular cultural products seem “authentic” – the “real” thing. The project grew out of a conversation about the workings of authenticity at a workshop designed to develop new projects that related to the AHRC’s major research theme Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past. As a historian of alcohol, I had been thinking for some time about recurring associations between “tradition” and particular alcoholic drinks or drinking places, and a tendency to view drinking practices of the past with a large measure of nostalgia. The Care for the Future workshop seemed like a great venue in which to think more deeply about the role of history and temporal categories like “origins”, “traditions” and “timelessness” in making these kind of associations meaningful.
The outcome of the conversation was a project that focused on case studies of particular foods and drinks from different parts of the world: pulque (an alcoholic drink from Central Mexico), acarajé (a street snack from Brazil, pictured below), flaounes (celebration Easter pies from Cyprus) and Welsh craft cider. Overall, we’re aiming to unpick the power dynamic that is invoked in the process of deeming a product “authentic” -and often authentically “other”- by analysing the changing meanings of different foods and drinks across time and space. As key products through which authenticity can be materially and symbolically consumed by everyone, foods and drinks provide a particularly interesting lens through which to explore these issues.
As an all-round food-o-phile, obsessive reader of cookbooks and experimental (in the I-don’t-really-know-what-I’m-doing sense) cook, I think food and drink are also really easy areas of research to get excited about!
The blog will feature regular updates and reflections about the project from myself, and the rest of the team: Emma-Jayne Abbots (Trinity St David), Anna Charalambidou (Middlesex University), Ana Martins (University of Exeter) and Hazel Thomas (Peoples Collection Wales. In the meantime, to find out more about the project, have a look at our website. Or you can follow us on Twitter. Thanks for reading!