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La restauration ferroviaire entre représentations et consommations / Railway Catering Between Imaginary and Consumption

Consommateurs, images et marchés / Consumers, Images and Markets


Edited By Jean-Pierre Williot

La restauration ferroviaire est peu connue alors qu'elle entre dans l'économie de multiples prestataires de service dans le monde depuis le XIXe siècle. Elle intéresse une demande quotidienne. Fournir des denrées et des boissons aux habitués des gares et des trains est une source d'innovations régulières. Les propositions alimentaires s'adressent à des clientèles nombreuses, aux choix très différents et aux exigences multiples en termes de prix, de conditionnement et de goûts. Depuis l'invention des buffets de gare, qui ont pris la suite des auberges routières, et la conception d'une restauration en voyage proposée dans le célèbre dining car, les formules mises au point n'ont cessé d'être transformées. Qu'il s'agisse d'un plateau repas ou d'un grignotage, d'un repas gastronomique ou d'une manière de tromper l'attente, chaque voyageur a expérimenté la restauration ferroviaire. Il en résulte des représentations mentales, des récits de voyage, des situations subies ou gardées en mémoire comme des instants incertains ou des moments de confort rassurants. On en retrouve la trace autant dans des BD et des Mangas que dans des scènes improbables portées au cinéma ou sur le support d'affiches commerciales. La restauration ferroviaire – il conviendrait d'ailleurs d'écrire plutôt « les restaurations ferroviaires » – peut ouvrir de nombreuses pistes d'études littéraires, historiques ou anthropologiques, mais aussi d'études des techniques ou d'histoire économique de la consommation. C'est l'approche initiatrice dont cet ouvrage rend compte par des études saisies dans la diversité des cultures, aux Etats-Unis, en Inde, en Russie, au Japon et en Europe, du XIXe au XXIe siècles.


Rail catering is unknown even if it is an economy of multiple service providers in the world since the nineteenth century. It concerns a daily demand. Supplying food and beverages to the consumers and travellers of stations and trains is a source of frequent innovations. Food proposals present very different choices and several requirements in terms of price, packaging and tastes. Since the invention of the station buffets, which have taken over from the road inns, and the design of a restaurant catering proposed in the famous dining car, the formulas developed have not ceased to be transformed. Whether it is a ready-made meal or a snack, a gourmet presentation or a take away during an expectation, each traveller has experimented railway catering. The result is mental representations, travel stories, situations experienced or kept in memory as uncertain moments or reassuring time of comfort. Traces of it are found in comics and Mangas as well as in unlikely sketches taken to the cinema or on commercial poster stands. Eat and drink in railways open so many literary, historical or anthropological studies, but also studies of techniques or economic history of consumption. It is the initiating approach to this book, which is reflected in studies of the diversity of cultures in the United States, India, Russia, Japan and Europe from the 19th to the 21st centuries.

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Food in Transit (Aparajita Mukhopadhyay)


Food in Transit

Railway Catering and Commensality in Colonial India

Aparajita Mukhopadhyay

Professor department of history – Salisbury University, USA

This chapter explores the impact of railway catering on food practices in colonial India. It makes two specific points: (1) railway catering created a distinct sub-culture of food and consumption of food in colonial India that was unique to railway travel; and (2) this sub-culture had divisive impact on existing social identities in colonial India. This process moreover, had wider implications for Indian society, a discussion of which however, is beyond of the scope of the paper.

Railway operations formally commenced in India from 1853. Though the railways were primarily introduced to fulfil the economic and military needs of an expanding colonial administration, its role in uplifting India from her putative stupor was considered to be equally, if not more significant. This confidence in the instrumentality of railways to transform India was also part of a wider belief which credited technology with an ability to propel social change. Thus, the introduction of railway communications was expected to convey a powerful ideological message claiming that railways would ‘improve’ India and bring the fruits of modernity to its inhabitants, albeit in an unspecified future. Railway’s links with advent of modernity is well-known to warrant detailed discussion.1 In colonial India, among other things, the railway’s most significant role was said to be its ability to transform social behaviour and practices and thereby dissolve social...

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