Gourmet Cooking

April 28, 1971

Report Outline
Culinary Revolution in America
History of Cooking as a Fine Art
New Trends in Food Preparation

Culinary Revolution in America

An unprecedented interest in food, cooking and the refinement of the palate has been one of America's cultural surprises of the past decade. The popularity of gourmet cooking and exotic foods is reflected on grocery shelves and restaurant menus from coast to coast. Plain traditional fare, when found at all, is likely to bear a fancy name if the restaurant has any pretensions. Specialty shops and supermarkets are filled with frozen delicacies and imported items. Hundreds of cookbooks, newspaper recipes, television programs and special classes are devoted to improving the standards of cooking in the American home. In the gigantic food industry, the sales emphasis is no longer on nourishment but on the pleasure to be derived from food. All of this could well be described as a culinary revolution.

Claude Levi-Strauss, the anthropologist, has shown that cooking reflects the structure of a society. It is not surprising, then, that a culture which has made time-saving a virtue in itself has also produced frozen foods, fast-food franchises, prepared convenience foods like TV dinners, “instant” recipes, “ready to cook” packages and “heat and serve” items. The new trend toward gourmet cooking can be viewed as a rebellion by one segment of the population against an eating-on-the-go society. This rebellion has been made possible by a combination of affluence and leisure time.

It, in turn, has given rise to a new subculture on the part of the young who bake their own bread, prepare their own yogurt and make a ceremony out of eating and cooking. The very nature of the new-generation cooking is a protest against food technology with its emphasis on portion control, “gourmet dishes” ready-prepared in plastic bags and the abundant use of synthetics. Time magazine observed that the United States “shows signs of becoming stratified along culinary as well as philosophical and political lines.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
General Social Trends