Gourmands and Gluttons

The Rhetoric of Food Excess

by Carlnita P. Greene (Author)
©2015 Monographs X, 156 Pages


From «supersizing it» to hoarding, we are living in an age of excess. Whether it is cars or housing, American culture is being driven by the old adage that «bigger is better». Yet, although we often overlook it, nowhere is this rhetoric of excess more on display than within our food discourses.
While many would argue that the gourmand vanished from society at the end of the 19th century, this book contends that both the gourmand and its counterpart, the glutton, have moved beyond their historic roots to become cultural personae found throughout contemporary media and popular culture.
Utilizing texts ranging from the Slow Food Movement to «food porn» as a cornucopia of visual fantasies, this book maintains that today the gourmand and the glutton have come to epitomize a rhetoric of excess far beyond the realm of food.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Introduction—The Rhetoric of Food Excess
  • Chewing Over the Recent Food Frenzy in Media and Popular Culture
  • Beyond “Mere Cookery”—Situating Food in Rhetorical Studies
  • Scrutinizing a Full Plate—A Holistic Approach to the Rhetoric of Food
  • Untangling Incongruities—Alluding to Excess
  • Enter the Gourmand and the Glutton—A Preview of Chapters
  • 1. From Gourmand to ­Glutton— Counterparts and Cultural Personae
  • In the Footstep of a Gastronome: The Historical Gourmand
  • The Historical Glutton as the Embodiment of Excess
  • The Gourmand and the Glutton as Cultural Personae Today
  • 2. Enfolding Desires and Pleasures into Tantalizing Appeals and ­Rhetorical Strategies
  • What Is Excess?
  • Tantalizing Appeals—Rhetorically Steering Us Towards Excess
  • The Rhetorical Strategies of Excess
  • Weighing the Influence of the Gourmand or the Glutton
  • 3. The Foodie’s Arsenal of Excessive Delights
  • Recounting Foodie Motifs in the Origins of Slow Food and Locavore
  • Tantalizing with the Slow and the Local
  • Seasoning with the Rhetorical Strategies of Quality and Control
  • Foodie Excesses: Copiousness, Competition, and Rationalizing
  • Foodie Paradoxes and the Backlash Against Foodies
  • 4. Embracing the Glutton through the Power of Fat
  • Fast Food Consumption and Fat Shaming
  • Enticing Consumers with Escape and Control
  • The Strategy of Quantity—Enormous Portions and Fatty, Sugary Foods
  • Excess as Challenge: “Upping the Ante” by “Hedging Your Bets” or “Going All In”
  • The Problems of Gluttony—Trying to Quantify Desires
  • 5. Digitized Food Porn as a ­Cornucopia of Excess
  • Getting to Excess by Narrowing the Definition of Food Porn
  • A Tantalizing Invitation that Simultaneously Presents and Masks Excess
  • A Fusion of the Gourmand and the Glutton in Food Porn
  • Employing Necessity and Escalating Our Desires
  • Fleeting Pleasures Steadily Feeding Cravings Beyond Food Porn
  • Conclusion—Overstuffed, ­Insatiable, and Teeming with Questions
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index


Some aspects of today’s food movement do smack of elitism, and if left unchecked they could sideline the movement or make it irrelevant. Consider the expensive meals and obscure ingredients favored by a number of celebrity chefs, the snobbery that often oozes from restaurant connoisseurs, and the obsessive interest in exotic cooking techniques among a certain type of gourmand.—Eric Schlosser1

With a recent frenzy of discourses about what, when, where, why, and how we eat, food undoubtedly has emerged from the realm of the mundane to become perhaps the foremost matter that almost everyone is discussing today. Whether it is celebrity chefs demonstrating how to recreate five­-star meals at home, oodles of new food apps developed for managing our diets, or an endless stream of blogs marveling at the wonders of “all things” culinary, everywhere we turn there are references to food and eating. Because it also has spawned a profusion of items ranging from intricately detailed works of art like the “Sandwich Book” to clothing and other paraphernalia, food’s popularity as a subject does not seem to be abating anytime soon in what many people would claim is now a full­-blown “food explosion.”2

Yet, I contend that, even within the midst of this current “explosion,” its related discourses are not only engaging forms of entertainment merely attempting to satisfy the appetites of a food­-crazed culture. Rather, today’s ← 1 | 2 → food discourses also function rhetorically as key forms of influence, in a plethora of ways, which are not always so readily apparent. That is to say, along with depicting a seemingly widespread, cultural obsession with food, I assert that media and popular culture inadvertently promote a “rhetoric of excess,” which influences how we consider our relationships to food, shapes the decisions that we make about its production and consumption, and parallels wider cultural discourses about the nature of excess in American society.

Offering both historical and contemporary perspectives, this book explores the rhetoric of food in its varied guises as it is manifested within today’s media and popular culture. In the introduction, I will provide a foundation for analyzing the rhetoric of food, which will be extended, and further developed throughout the book. After situating the study of food in the field of rhetoric, I will offer an approach for discerning how the rhetoric of food operates, present the main themes of the book, and briefly discuss its subsequent chapters. Before examining the rhetoric of food, however, I begin by delving deeper into the food frenzy.

Chewing Over the Recent Food Frenzy in Media and Popular Culture

Our contemporary “food craze” has sparked a zeitgeist of cultural and societal changes, because food now is at the epicenter of daily life, and many people not only are questioning what they eat, but also are concerned with the politics and the pleasures of food. As Michael Pollan reveals in “The Food Movement, Rising,” “It might sound odd to say this about something people deal with at least three times a day, but food in America has been more or less invisible, politically speaking, until very recently.”3 Today, the pervasiveness of food within media, popular culture, and everyday life certainly makes us more aware of our food choices, relationships to food, and larger, global and political issues related to its production and consumption.

Simultaneously, due to its ubiquity and, perhaps, its over saturation within media, many people profess that they have had their “fill of food” and now fervently contend that this contemporary food mania must end.4 They accuse foodies of engaging in “food snobbery,” regard food as a trivial subject used only for entertainment purposes, or consider it as the latest “hot commodity” being driven by marketing fads, which is destined to dwindle away when we lose interest in it and find a new outlet for our fluctuating cultural fixations.5 ← 2 | 3 → Subsequently, for all of these reasons, food is at once regarded as a “serious matter” and, concurrently, is dismissed simply as a means of fostering self­-indulgent pleasures or performing decadent lifestyles.

Far too often, by solely condemning food’s popularity or only exulting in the joys of its consumption, these competing viewpoints frequently overlook other complexities immersed within them, such as the meanings that we create about our relationships to food, which impact our choices. Likewise, because food is everywhere, it becomes far too easy for us to become inured to its rhetoric or to become swept up into the food frenzy without critically considering its broader implications. Therefore, these diverging perspectives on food indicate that there is another issue emerging within media and popular culture, which not only is widespread and indicative of food’s current role in society, but also needs to be considered rhetorically.

Beyond “Mere Cookery”—Situating Food in Rhetorical Studies

Echoing its prevalence within media and popular culture, the study of food is flourishing within academia. As Carolyn De La Peña and Benjamin N. Lawrance explain, “The term foodways has emerged both in popular and scholarly literature to account for everything about eating, including what we consume, how we acquire it, who prepares it, and who is at the table.”6 With its “…deep roots in foodways and other aspects of the humanities and social sciences,” food studies has become an expanding, interdisciplinary field in which scholars draw upon diverse approaches to investigate food and its related issues ranging from agriculture and nutrition to globalization and political struggles.7

Correspondingly, with a recent surge in scholarship—articles and special journal issues dedicated to it, two edited volumes solely focused on food in communication and rhetorical studies, not to mention a burgeoning number of books and dissertations on the horizon—food studies also is an emerging area within the discipline of communication and is gaining momentum in rhetorical studies.8

In a rapidly changing, fast­-paced society, rhetorical scholars increasingly are questioning whether our definitions of rhetoric and research fully encapsulate its “scope, function, and purpose” regarding life in the 21st century.9 Accordingly, several scholars call for an expansion of rhetoric’s definition and maintain that, aside from language and discourse, it should also include ← 3 | 4 → our “ordinary” or “everyday” lived and material experiences.10 As Michael Salvador and Tracylee Clarke reveal in “The Weyekin Principle: Toward an Embodied Critical Rhetoric,” “Prominent rhetorical scholars advocate realigning critical theory and praxis to engage the materiality and meaning of our embodied existence with­-in nature…”11 Similarly, in “Contemporary Rhetorical Criticism: Diverse Bodies Learning New Languages,” Celeste M. Condit also advocates that to fully comprehend how rhetoric functions today, we must “…take account of codes outside of human language—codes of the body and the broader ecologies in which we swim.”12

Corresponding with these perspectives on rhetoric, I argue that food, certainly, is one such aspect of our lives “in which we swim,” as it is rooted within both embodied and discursive, lived experiences. It is a life­-sustaining force, which directly impacts physical health and our abilities to engage within the world. Because it occupies such a vital role materially, it also is one of the primary ways that we communicate with others, is consistently included in our sense­-making processes, and is at the center of discourses.


X, 156
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2013 (September)
Overweight Alimentation Cultural personae Popular culture
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. X, 156 pp.

Biographical notes

Carlnita P. Greene (Author)

Carlnita P. Greene (PhD, University of Texas at Austin) is on the faculty in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon. She is co-editor of Food as Communication/Communication as Food (Peter Lang, 2011).


Title: Gourmands and Gluttons