Big Night. Ratatouille. Julie and Julia. Besides their commercial success, what these films share is that they are all about food, prepared in the kitchen, served at the table, and offered to audiences for visual and emotional consumption. Cooking and eating have acquired unprecedented visibility in American cinema.
Laura Lindenfeld and The New School Faculty Fabio Parasecoli discuss their book Feasting Our Eyes: Food Films and Cultural Identity in the USand the emerging genre of the food film from the early 1990s to the present. In their engagement with liberal themes—ideological pluralism, ethnic and racial acceptance, gender equality, and class flexibility—at face value these food films seem to approach culture and identity through a critical and forward-looking lens. Beneath the surface, instead, the films undermine these progressive efforts by reasserting conventional approaches to nation, gender, race, sexuality, and social status. As part of mainstream media, food films enable dominant U.S. culture to celebrate its supposed commitment to difference while positioning women and people of color as objects of consumption. Food films help to draw lines between who does and does not belong to mainstream society.