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Reconsidering food and friendship – collecting Michelin Stars

Tonner, Andrea (2012) Reconsidering food and friendship – collecting Michelin Stars. In: British Sociological Association Food and Society Conference, 2012-07-02 - 2012-07-04. (Unpublished)

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Friendship has become a dominant form of social relationship within postmodern society as traditional structures have been argued to diminish. Food’s role in maintaining friendship has also discussed in a range of studies which reflect upon cooking and eating as means of doing friendship. Other forms of relationships have however increasingly dominated theory development particularly those within the neo-tribal literature. This considers that groups, real or virtual, are increasing formed around particular products, brands or activities of consumption (such as food) and it is these which provide the” linking value”, which unites the members. Within this field number of related group forms are discussed: neo-tribes, brand communities and sub-cultures. The paper explores the position of traditional friendship within a neo-tribal discourse. It is based upon of depth discussions with a friendship group who share a passion for fine dining, and who actively seek extraordinary consumption experiences within ‘Michelin’ starred and other suitably rated restaurants as part of their friendships. It finds that there are many bases for traditional friendship and that a shared interest or passion is well established in consumers’ minds as one of these connections. While respondents rejected affiliation with established neo-tribes such as ‘foodies’ they were engaged in consumption activity such as pilgrimage which has been identified as important within that literature. It argues therefore that traditional friendship should be reconsidered in the light of this neo-tribal literature and its nature and position examined.