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Cookbook choice a matter of self-identity

Tonner, A. (2008) Cookbook choice a matter of self-identity. In: British Sociology Association Conference 2008, 2008-03-28 - 2008-03-30. (Unpublished)

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Cookbooks have long been recognised as more than instructional texts rather as a literary genre with narratives beyond the functional. This paper discusses the influences which guide choices of cookbook and cookery writer for a group of thirtysomethings with particular attention to the role that their narratives of self-identity play within this choice. In the sociology of consumption the role of self and identity is a recurring one particularly among those who view consumption as an act of integration between external objects and self, often through a process of personalisation. Whether food consumption can take on such significance is well debated but cook books in common with other forms of literature, this paper contends, become well used and take on increased symbolism for their owners. Cookbooks have a heterogeneity of style from the instructional owner manual style of Larousse through to the lifestyle led work of Oliver and Slater so that they can embody not only representations of contemporary culinary culture but also extend far beyond the kitchen to create aspirational cultural narratives. Utilising narrative analysis of semi-structured interviews this paper explores the narrative construction of self, drawn in part from attitudes towards food and cooking, outwardly manifest through choices of cookbook in order to add to understanding of symbolic consumption practice.