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Consuming Identity - The Role of Food in Redefining the South

Consuming Identity

The Role of Food in Redefining the South

By Ashli Quesinberry Stokes & Wendy Atkins-Sayre
Series: Race, Rhetoric, and Media Series

Paperback : 9781496820204, 242 pages, 15 b&w illustrations, September 2018
Hardcover : 9781496809186, 242 pages, 15 b&w illustrations, November 2016

How food serves as a rhetorical catalyst for discussion in a culture that loves to eat, share, and talk


Southerners love to talk food, quickly revealing likes and dislikes, regional preferences, and their own delicious stories. Because the topic often crosses lines of race, class, gender, and region, food supplies a common fuel to launch discussion. Consuming Identity sifts through the self-definitions, allegiances, and bonds made possible and strengthened through the theme of southern foodways. The book focuses on the role food plays in building identities, accounting for the messages food sends about who we are, how we see ourselves, and how we see others. While many volumes examine southern food, this one is the first to focus on food’s rhetorical qualities and the effect that it can have on culture.

The volume examines southern food stories that speak to the identity of the region, explain how food helps to build identities, and explore how it enables cultural exchange. Food acts rhetorically, with what we choose to eat and serve sending distinct messages. It also serves a vital identity-building function, factoring heavily into our memories, narratives, and understanding of who we are. Finally, because food and the tales surrounding it are so important to southerners, the rhetoric of food offers a significant and meaningful way to open up dialogue in the region. By sharing and celebrating both foodways and the food itself, southerners are able to revel in shared histories and traditions. In this way individuals find a common language despite the divisions of race and class that continue to plague the South. The rich subject of southern fare serves up a significant starting point for understanding the powerful rhetorical potential of all food.


"An ambitious attempt to reveal the utility of understanding food and food practices as a form of rhetoric and the corresponding analytical tools a rhetorical analysis imparts. Consuming Identity makes a novel contribution to the ever-expanding interdisciplinary field of food studies that scholars from a range of disciplinary backgrounds will find enlightening."

- Emma McDonell, Food, Culture & Society

"This engaging contribution to the growing body of work in critical southern food studies takes readers on a tour of iconic southern eating establishments, offering vicarious tastes of regional foods alongside illuminating rhetorical analysis. The authors demonstrate that food can be used to tell powerful stories about who we are and who we wish we could be. This scholarly take on southern food and identity construction is served alongside hearty portions of optimism. The authors offer a compelling vision for regional progress, speculating that communion around the table might help heal past wounds and build a more equitable future."

- Jennifer Jensen Wallach, author or editor of seven books including most recently The Routledge History of American Foodways

"Consuming Identity is unquestionably optimistic in its view of southern food’s potential to inject new, more inclusive narratives into the stories that constitute southern identity on the individual and collective level. . . . From white tablecloth restaurants to no-frills barbecue joints, curators of eating experiences have ample tools to animate guests to embrace a common southern identity that unifies rather than divides."

- Jenna Mason, Southern Foodways Alliance