When traditions become innovations and innovations become traditions in everyday food pedagogies

Author/s: Helen Benny

Edition: Volume 52, Number 3, November 2012

Summary: This paper explores the way learning to cook remains important for the maintenance of ‘ethnic’ food traditions and how sharing food knowledge plays a role in intercultural exchanges. Ethnographic data from an ongoing study in Melbourne is presented to highlight how, in everyday practices, both tradition and innovation are involved in learning experiences related to cooking. Using an everyday multiculturalism perspective, the study was designed to investigate the resilience of ethnic food cultures in the face of increasing industrialisation in global food systems. In this paper, I focus in particular on the interplay between tradition and innovation in everyday settings by drawing closely on three women’s accounts of cooking and learning.The women remain attached to the food traditions they learned by observing and taking part in daily routines of meal preparation and they stress that many of these practices need to be preserved. At the same time, their accounts reveal how everyday settings can be considered as ‘pedagogical spaces’ where opportunities for innovation arise and new knowledge about food and cooking can be acquired. Families, schools, travel, workplaces and neighbourhood networks emerged as sites where traditional food knowledge can be shared and new skills developed. The paper contributes to our understanding of food pedagogies by highlighting the dynamic relationship between tradition and innovation in everyday, mundane encounters and exchanges in multicultural societies.

Keywords: food sharing, ethnic food traditions, culture, food pedagogy, adult learning

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This article is part of AJAL, Volume 52_3. The entire volume is available in .pdf for purchase here.

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