Bourgeois Consumption: Food, Space and Identity in London and Paris, 1850-1914
Bourgeois Consumption looks at how the middle classes in late nineteenth-century London and Paris used food and dining as forms of social expression and identity. This engaging treatise about how class and gender informed people’s eating habits focuses on the complex interactions between bodies, ritual and identity.
Forgoing the traditional food history territory of recipes and ingredients in favor of how people ate in different circles, Bourgeois Consumption explores the role of real and imagined meals in shaping Victorian lives. The perception of the middle classes as rigid and upright, found in the extensive pages of their etiquette books, is contrasted with a more flexible and spontaneous bourgeoisie, gleaned from the pages of their own colorful memoirs, diaries and letters, leading us on a lively journey into eating spaces, mealtimes, manners, and social interactions between diners. Further, contrasting Paris with London reveals some of the ways each city shaped its inhabitants but, more surprisingly, throws up a range of similarities that suggest the middle classes were, in fact, a transnational class.
Rachel Rich’s work will be of interest to anyone intrigued by the history of food, consumption and leisure, as well as to a broader audience curious about how the Victorian middle classes distinguished themselves through daily life and manners.