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“A Table of Plenty.” Representations of Food and Social Order in Caribbean Writing: Some Early Accounts, Caryl Phillips’s Cambridge, and Andrea Levy’s The Long Song

Lawson Welsh, Sarah (2013) “A Table of Plenty.” Representations of Food and Social Order in Caribbean Writing: Some Early Accounts, Caryl Phillips’s Cambridge, and Andrea Levy’s The Long Song. EnterText (10). pp. 73-89.

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Abstract

The Caribbean is in many ways, as Richard Wilk has shown in his 2006 study of food and globalisation in a Belizean context, the perfect example of the mixing of ethnicities, cultures,and culinary practices as well as a region with one of the longest histories of global connectedness and globalizing processes in relation to food. However, there have been surprisingly very few studies of the relationship between food and culture in a Caribbean context. This article builds and extends upon Wilk’s important work on food status and respectability in Belize (2006, 2008) by considering the textual representation of food, food patterns, and foodways in some earlier—and crucially, in some wider—Caribbean contexts. The main focus is on the relationship between food and social order in a Caribbean plantation context and, in particular, on responses to food and social hierarchies of food status (e.g. between indigenous, naturalised or imported foods), as they are explored and mediated in a number of Caribbean and diasporic Caribbean texts from, or set in, the colonial plantation period. A related focus is the shift from food practices which perform a version of the culinary
nation, constructing national identity, whether Caribbean or expatriate European, and the establishment of a more creolised identity through food. The paper acknowledges that
foodways (the eating habits and culinary practices of a region, people, or era as well as the socio-cultural constructions and practices related to food) and food practices have been richly represented in and through Caribbean writing since the earliest colonial period (earlier if we include oral tradition and food practices) and across a number of different genres: plantation
accounts, memoirs, fiction, poetry, essays, recipes [oral and written], and cookery writing. As such, the paper considers attitudes to food cultures and social order in a range of written sources: early traveller and planter’s accounts and two more recent literary texts: Caryl Phillips’s Cambridge (1991) and Andrea Levy’s The Long Song (2010). The latter, as historiographic metafictions, not only draw upon some of the early sources in some interesting
ways, but stage and re-present, in a more self-consciously ambivalent way, early attitudes to food and social order in a Caribbean context.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Special Issue on Caribbean Literature and Culture: "Opening Out the Way(s) to the Future"
Status: Published
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
School/Department: School of Performance & Media Production
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/10

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