Food and the Internet

Proceedings of the 20 th International Ethnological Food Research Conference, Department of Folklore and Ethnology, Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Łodź, Poland, 3–6 September 2014

by Violetta Krawczyk-Wasilewska (Volume editor) Patricia Lysaght (Volume editor)
©2015 Edited Collection 275 Pages


Discourses about food, especially on social media, affect the dietary choices of many people on a daily basis all over the world. In recognition of this phenomenon, the selection of 25 ethnological essays in this volume explores the effects of the digital age on post-modern food culture. It examines the influence of the Internet as a provider of a seemingly limitless flow of information and discourse about food sources, production, distribution and consumption. It also analyses the attitudes towards food in the context of ecological, environmental, ethical, health, and everyday lifestyle issues – at local, regional and global levels.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Editors
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Opening Lecture
  • SIEF International Ethnological Food Research Group: Genesis, Aims and Progress: Patricia Lysaght
  • Part I: The Internet as Local, National and Global Cookbook and Culinary Research Tool
  • A Global Food Tale in the Age of the Internet: Violetta Krawczyk-Wasilewska
  • The Role of Internet Recipes in Cooking: Silke Bartsch, Christine Brombach and Gertrud Winkler
  • The Comeback of Homemade Foods and the Role of the Web. The Case of Non-Alcoholic Fermented Beverages: Aristea Baschali and Antonia-Leda Matalas
  • When Old Meets New. The Demonstration of Traditional Slovene Dishes and Locally Produced Food on the Internet: Maja Godina Golija
  • Mushrooms: Polish Traditions and Modern Practices. Online Examples: Aleksandra Krupa-Ławrynowicz
  • Part II: Food, Marketing, and the Internet
  • The Online Promotion of Irish Food as a Tourist Attraction: Déirdre D’Auria and Patricia Lysaght
  • Virtual Food Representations. An Analysis of “Local Food” Discourse in Quebec: Manon Boulianne and Claudia Laviolette
  • Communication of Food Information by Means of the Internet in Contemporary Japan: Naoto Minami
  • The Use of Proverbs in the Promotion of Food on the Internet: Fionnuala Carson Williams
  • Novelty with a Traditional Twist: Food Co-Operatives as Short Food Chains in the Global Network: Ewa Kopczyńska
  • A Local Food Product and the Ethno-Future: The Online Case of Polish Mountaineers’ Regional Cheese “Oscypek”: Anna Mlekodaj
  • Part III: The Internet and Food Values: Ethics, Aesthetics, Environment, Health and Lifestyle
  • Slow Food: Scotland: Una A. Robertson
  • Should the Mediterranean Diet be Viewed as a Fully-Fledged Public Discourse, or as Part of a Wider Food and Wellness Narrative? An Internet-Based Study: Ivanche Dimitrievski, Philippos Papadopoulos and Rodica Arpasanu
  • Seasonal Food in a Virtual Basket – A Campaign for Environmental Sustainability: Yrsa Lindqvist
  • Picture Me Perfect: The Aesthetics of Food in Online Photographs: Astra Spalvēna
  • “Cabane à Sucre” on the Internet: Rafał Pilarek
  • Part IV: Food, Gender, Identity and the Internet
  • When Men go to the Kitchen: Food and Gender in Brazilian Websites: Rogéria Campos de Almeida Dutra
  • Gastronomy and Social Networks: Heritage and Food Blogging in Catalonia: Laura Solanilla and F. Xavier Medina
  • Homo Gourmand and Homo Cooking: Two Main Culinary Tribes of the Internet Era: Magdalena Tomaszewska – Bolałek
  • Part V: Food Blogging as a New Genre
  • Cooking Know-How: Virtual and Personal Transmission of Skills. A Hungarian Example: Anikó Báti
  • Food Blogs in Relation to Culinary Tradition. A Polish Example: Katarzyna Orszulak-Dudkowska
  • Food – Blogging – Identity: Free Expression or Lifetime Project?: Klaudyna Hebda
  • Part VI: Food: Ancient and Medieval in the Light of Internet Source
  • Ancient and Byzantine Food and the Internet: Zofia Rzeźnicka
  • A Database of Medieval Plant Names: Johanna Maria van Winter
  • List of Contributors


This volume presents a selection of the papers delivered during the 20th SIEF Conference of the International Ethnological Food Research Group. This jubilee meeting was titled Food and The Internet, and ran from 3 to 6 September 2014, in Łódź, Poland.

The meeting commemorated the 6th International Ethnological Food Research Conference held in Poland in 1985, as well as the 50th anniversary of Société Internationale d’Ethnologie et de Folklore. The conference was chaired by Professor Dr. Violetta Krawczyk-Wasilewska – a member of SIEF since its inaugural congress in Paris in 1971 – on behalf of the host institution, the Department of Ethnology and Folklore, Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Łódź.

The aim of the conference was to discuss the phenomenon of food culture in the age of globalisation and the spread of computer technology. The digital revolution has opened up a new cultural sphere and new modes and styles of communication from person to person and between people and institutions. Nowadays, post-modern and web-entangled humans use the Internet to overcome the boundaries of their local and inherited traditions. One result of this is that contemporary food culture, in many western and westernised countries, is influenced by trans-cultural food knowledge, global marketing and advertising, new behavioral patterns, eating habits, and ways with food. The benefits of this brave new digital world are still unavailable to most of the world’s population, but coverage is increasing rapidly.

The Łódź meeting provided an opportunity for discussion of the global character and influence of the Internet on the state of national, regional, and local culinary cultures. Thousands of food-related websites show that the Internet is a global cookbook and a home to food bloggers and networks, and our Internet habits reveal a lot about our food preferences in daily menus. There is also an enormous number of sites devoted to, for example, the aesthetics of food display; guides to drinks, wines and table manners; food tourism and restaurant reviews; healthy diets and food movements; the technicalities of food production, preservation, and consumption; and to self-sufficiency. Last, but not least, thanks to the ongoing digitalisation of library and archive holdings, the Internet is a source and a scientific tool that enables us to study food culture, not only synchronically, but also diachronically.

The conference was attended by 50 delegates from various disciplinary backgrounds, plus 10 observers, as well as representatives of the mass media. The ← 1 | 2 → participants came from four continents (Asia, Europe, North America, and South America), representing Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Latvia, The Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Scotland, Slovenia, Spain, the United States of America, as well as Poland. The delegates were accommodated in the Conference Centre of Łódź University, where the conference sessions were held. Vibrant discussions were accompanied by shared on-site meals, as well as workshops, a bus sightseeing tour, culinary trips to sustainable farming sites, and a gala evening provided for the conference participants. In this way, the guests were able to experience Polish traditional culinary culture combined with modern gastronomy.

The Conference began on the morning of 3 September with a welcoming speech by the Conference Chair, Professor Dr. Violetta Krawczyk-Wasilewska, and an opening address by the University of Łódź Pro-Rector in Charge of Research, Professor Dr. Antoni Różalski. The opening lecture (“SIEF ethnological food research group: past, present and future”) by the President of the SIEF Ethnological Food Research Group, Professor Dr. Patricia Lysaght (Ireland) followed, together with the keynote lecture (“Rice as a foodstuff and a medication in ancient and Byzantine medical literature”) delivered by Professor Maciej Kokoszko (University of Łódź, Poland).

The conference was organized in six sessions, as follows: 1. The Internet as local, national and global cook book and culinary research tool; 2. Food, marketing, and the Internet; 3. The Internet and food values: ethics, aesthetics, environment, health and lifestyle; 4. Food, identity, gender and the Internet; 5. Food blogging as a new Internet genre; 6. Food: past and present in the light of Internet sources. A total of 30 papers and communications, enriched and supported by multimedia tools, were presented over a period of four days. The variety of theoretical and applied approaches evident in the conference lectures, showed the importance and added value of the conference theme and discourse.

Reflecting on such perspectives, our volume showcases 25 conference research reports from today’s online fieldwork laboratory. We hope that these insights will contribute to a fuller and deeper understanding of the new role of the Internet in the life of post-modern Homo irretitus, as well as in the meaningful development of world food cultures.

Łódź and Dublin, October 2014

Violetta Krawczyk-Wasilewska and Patricia Lysaght ← 2 | 3 →

Opening Lecture

← 3 | 4 → ← 4 | 5 →

Patricia Lysaght

SIEF International Ethnological Food Research Group: Genesis, Aims and Progress1

It was in 1970 that the first symposium on ethnological food research, which would influence and shape regional ethnological food studies in the succeeding decades, took place in Lund, Sweden, from the 21st to the 25th of August of that year.2 Organised by Nils-Arvid Bringéus, Professor of Nordic and Comparative Folklife Studies, the Institute of Ethnology, University of Lund, the theme of the symposium was “Ethnological Food Research – Development, Methods and Future Tasks”. An important aim of the meeting was to gain an overview of the state of ethnological food research in different parts of Europe and the USA at that time. Reports on the situation in their respective countries, solicited by the organisers, and provided by delegates from many of these areas prior to the symposium, were distributed in advance to the participants. This enabled them to get a picture of the general position of ethnological food research internationally at that time and to plan co-operation in and development of this branch of food studies for the years ahead (Valeri 1971, pp. 185). This approach is set out in a joint introductory paper entitled “Ethnologische Nahrungsforschung in Europa. Stand, Probleme, Aufgaben” (“Ethnological Food Research in Europe. Position, Problems, Tasks”) by Nils-Arvid Bringéus (Lund) and Günter Wiegelmann (1928–2008) (Münster, Germany), in a subsequent symposium volume, Ethnological Food Research in Europe and USA, edited by them (Bringéus / Wiegelmann 1971, pp. 6-13).3 Twenty-two other papers in that volume dealt with the position of research on food habits in the following countries and regions of Europe – Austria, the Baltic States, Britain, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, the Faroe Islands, Finland, ← 5 | 6 → France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland (two papers), Sweden, Switzerland (two papers), the USSR, and Yugoslavia – while another paper focused on the position of food studies in the USA.4 A further twenty-two thematic papers presented at the symposium – and grouped under the following headings – “Problems and Methods”; “Sources and their Treatment”; “Hunger and Plenty”; “Kitchen Utensils and Food Habits”; “Food Complex Studies”; “Distribution and Change” and “Individual Food Elements” – were published in Ethnologia Scandinavica 1971 (Bringéus 1971; See also Fig.1).

Fig. 1:Cover of Ethnological Scandinavica 1971. “Jacob slaughters a kid from which Rebekah prepares a dish for Isaac, Genesis 27. Painting from around 1430-40 in the old church at Risinge, Östergötland. Photo: Soren Hallgren.”


← 6 | 7 →

The scientific programme of the first symposium on ethnological food research was broadened and complemented by study visits and excursions to food-related sites in the Swedish countryside, and by a range of gustatory experiences as delegates sampled a variety of Swedish regional food specialities (Valeri 1971, p. 186). This “field” aspect remains an integral part of the international ethnological food research conferences to the present day.

In their joint article dealing with the position, problems and tasks facing ethnological food research in Europe, mentioned above, Bringéus and Wiegelmann stated:

“Als erster Arbeitsschwerpunkt der nächsten Jahre kommt vor allem infrage, einen Überblick über die regionalen Unterschiede der alten ländlichen Kost in Europa zu arbeiten. Ein derartiger Überblick böte sowohl eine Grundlage für historische Studien wie für Analysen zum modernen Wandel” (Bringéus / Wiegelmann 1975, p. 9).

[A matter of crucial importance over the coming years is to work towards getting an overview of regional differences in the old rural diet of Europe. Such an overview would offer not only a basis for historical studies but also for analyses of change in modern times.]

The theme of the second ethnological food research symposium – “Dominierende Züge in regionalen Speisesystemen im 20. Jahrhundert” / “Dominant Traits in Regional Food Systems in the 20th Century”5 – which was held in Helsinki, Finland,6 three years later (13–18 August 1973), partly reflected the above statement. Organised by a committee consisting of Professor Dr. Toivo Vuorela (Helsinki) (1909–1982), Professor Dr. Ilmar Talve (Turku) (1919–2007), Hilkka Vilppula, Doz. Dr. Bo Lönnqvist, Päivikki Kokkonen and Hilkka Uusivirta, under the chairmanship of Professor Dr. Niilo Valonen (Helsinki) (1913–1983), forty-three delegates attended the meeting (Valonen / Lehtonen 1975, p. 5) and the subsequent symposium publication Ethnologische Nahrungsforschung / Ethnological Food Research (Valonen / Lehtonen 1975) contained twenty-seven papers.7 This ← 7 | 8 → volume pointed the way forward for the future thematic, theoretical and methodological emphases of food studies for a considerable time.8 A number of participants in these initial symposia in Lund and Helsinki, respectively – especially Nils-Arvis Bringéus, Eszter Kisbán (Hungary), Konrad Köstlin (Austria), Grith Lerche (Denmark), Renée Valeri (Sweden) and Johanna Maria van Winter (The Netherlands), continue to be active members of the international ethnological food research group. Also contributing to the above-mentioned symposia was the German social and economic historian, Hans Jürgen Teuteberg, who subsequently formed The International Commission for Research into European Food History (ICEFH) in Münster, Germany, in 1989.9

Delegates from the Welsh Folk Museum,10 Trevor M. Owen, Curator, and S. Minwell Tibbott, also participated in the 1973 meeting. This is of interest as the third conference was held four years later (22–27 August 1977) in Cardiff, where it was hosted by the Welsh Folk Museum. According to the editors, the proceedings resulting from the conference were entitled Food in Perspective (1981), because “the 33 contributions from many different countries each throw a different light on the study of food and the relevance of such study to social history” (Fenton / Owen 1981, p. v). While German and English were the languages of the previous symposia volumes, Food in Perspective was, according to the editors, an English language publication for “the English-speaking world, since the subject and the various methods of approach that are demonstrated here have been familiar in several other countries for some time” (ibid.).11

These three international meetings put the international ethnological food research group, led by Professor Nils-Arvid Bringéus,12 on a solid footing, and ← 8 | 9 → helped to stimulate further national and international research and co-operation in the area of ethnological food studies, which is still ongoing today.

The fourth conference, arranged by Dr. Maria Kundegraber (1924–2014) and Dr. Anni Gamerith (1906–1990),13 and held in, Styria, Austria (24–30 August 1980), after a three-year interval, examined food from a communicational perspective. By taking as its theme “Nahrung als Kommunikation” (“Food as Communication”), the conference recognised that food is not just a means of survival but that it is also a key element of social, cultural, political, and personal discourse. While the proceedings of this conference were not published, a substantial review of the meeting appeared in Österreichische Zeitschrift für Volkskunde 1980, pp. 252-263 (= Schindler 1980).

Concepts and processes such as innovation, adaptation, and change in food and eating habits from the Middle Ages onwards, engaging scholars, such as, for example, Günter Wiegelmann (e.g. Wiegelmann 1967, 1974, 2006), became the themes of the fifth and sixth ethnological food research conferences, respectively. The fifth conference (16–20 October 1983) arranged by Dr. Eszter Kisbán, Institute of Ethnology of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and held at Mátrafüred, in the Mátra Mountain area of Hungary,14 had as its theme “Sequences and Shifts in the History of Popular Diet”. It thus had a strong historical focus with periodisation in food habits being a key concept. The proceedings of this meeting appeared in the volume entitled Food in Change. Eating Habits from the Middle Ages to the Present Day (Fenton / Kisbán 1986). Two of the papers in this work – by Eszter Kisbán (“Food Habits in Change: the Example of Europe”) (ibid. pp. 2-10), and by Hans J. Teuteberg (“Periods and Turning-Points in the History of European Diet: A Preliminary Outline of Problems and Methods”) (ibid. pp. 11-23), respectively – sought to discern, and to reach general conclusions about, the causes and effects of the major periods of change in European food habits. Further papers looked ← 9 | 10 → at changes in such habits in a number of individual countries, or areas, and two papers dealt with medieval fasting regimes.

The sixth conference (8–13 October 1985), organised by Dr. Anna Kowalska-Lewicka (1920–2009), Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Kraków, was held in Karniowice, Poland, the theme of which was “Innovations in Food Habits”.15 While the proceedings of this conference were not published, reviews of the meeting appeared in Ethnologia Scandinavica 1986, pp. 161-163 (= Borda 1986) and Etnografia Polska 31(1), 1987, pp. 213-215 (= Szromba-Rysowa 1987).

Seventeen years after the first symposium in Lund, the ethnological food research conference went north again to Scandinavia where the seventh congress (10–14 June 1987) was held in Søgndal, in south-western Norway. It was organised by Professor Andreas Ropeid (1916–1996), Norsk Etnologisk Gransking (NEG), University of Oslo, and Astri Riddervold, Oslo, a food ethnologist and an independent scholar. The conference theme was “The Storage and Preservation of Food”. Central to the discussions on that occasion was how people in different parts of the world, at different time-periods, managed ecological and economic conditions in order to prepare food in such a manner that, when stored, it would not undergo decomposition and become a health hazard. Such knowledge of preservation procedures was of vital importance for the management of household food supplies and meals. In the course of the conference, the topic of the storage and preservation of food was examined from technical, cultural and historical perspectives, an approach evident also in the subsequent volume of proceedings entitled Food Conservation. Ethnological Studies, which was published one year later (Riddervold / Ropeid 1988).

The representational role of food was dealt with at the eighth conference (18–23 June 1989), held in Philadelphia, USA, the theme of which was “Food as Symbol”. The conference was co-organised by William Woys Weaver, food historian and writer, and Dr. James Turk of the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies, which also acted as institutional host. A key question dealt with by the conference participants was why food is so often charged with powerful symbolism. While the proceedings of this conference – the only one held in the USA to date – remain unpublished, a report on the meeting appeared in Ethnologia Scandinavica 1990, pp. 144-146 (= Genrup 1990). ← 10 | 11 →

In the two succeeding conferences, specific foods featured as conference topics. The theme of the ninth conference (17–22 June 1992), which was held in Ireland, was “Bainne agus Táirgí Bainne / Milk and Milk Products” in recognition of the historical and contemporary importance of milk and its products in the Irish diet and economy. It was hosted by the Department of Irish Folklore, University College Dublin, and was organised by Dr. Patricia Lysaght of that Department. After its formal opening in University College Dublin, the conference, in view of its topic, moved southwestwards to Kilfinnane, Co. Limerick, a rural village located in the rich dairying area known as the Golden Vale.16 Here, the formal indoor lectures were complemented by field excursions – including visits to commercial and private cheese-making enterprises, and to Dromcolliher in the west of the county where the first dairy co-operative in Ireland was founded in 188917 – which emphasised the importance of milk and milk products in the local, regional, and indeed, in the national economy of Ireland also. Thereafter the conference moved to the Burren area in northwest Co. Clare, in the west of Ireland, where the final sessions were held. As an extensive karst region with an oceanic climate, and unique winter grazing systems or reverse transhumance, the Burren is an area, about which it has been said, that there “the cowman and not the ploughman is king” (Parr / Moran / Dunford / Ó Conchúir 2009, p. 145). Thus, the conference delegates had an opportunity to experience a number of different kinds of landscapes, stock-raising methods, and milk-production systems in Ireland. Overall, the conference presentations and the conference publication which followed, entitled Milk and Milk Products from Medieval to Modern Times (Lysaght 1994), examined the role of milk and its products in the food structures and meal systems of diverse cultures in many parts of the world, including the role of women in dairying culture and the folklore associated with that economic activity.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (April)
food research gender study culinary heritage identity
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2015. VIII, 276 pp., 12 b/w fig., 6 tables, 4 graphs

Biographical notes

Violetta Krawczyk-Wasilewska (Volume editor) Patricia Lysaght (Volume editor)

Violetta Krawczyk-Wasilewska is Professor of Ethnology at the University of Łódź (Poland). She is the author of numerous articles and books on the theory of folklore, cultural ecology and digital culture and has also developed e-folklore research at an international scholarly level. Patricia Lysaght is em. Professor of European Ethnology at the University College in Dublin (Ireland). She is President of the Working Group on Food Research at SIEF (International Society for Ethnology and Folklore) and contributing editor of many of the group’s international conference publications.


Title: Food and the Internet