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Of Migrants and Meanings

Italians and Their Food Businesses in Brussels, 1876–1914

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Olivier de Maret

The circulation of goods, ideas, and people has shaped a common European food culture. But practical questions pertaining to this process remain unanswered. How and why do changes in food habits occur and what are their implications? What are the social and cultural processes involved between hosts and migrants and how do they play out in the face of economic and political imperatives? This book addresses these questions through the combined study of food and migration in the past.
By building on studies in the fields of anthropology, geography, history, and sociology, the present monograph analyzes the public foodways of Italian migrants in Brussels at the turn of the twentieth century as a way of exploring how migrants used the business of food to construct meaning and articulate sentiments of belonging. It describes and discusses Italian neighborhoods, migratory patterns, occupations, and food businesses (i.e. cafés, restaurants, shops, and peddling activities) by applying quantitative and qualitative methods of interpretation to archival, business, journalistic, and photographic sources. The study bridges a gap in the historiography of Italian food and migration by providing a Western European counterpoint to Italian experiences in North and South America and a thorough discussion of the forging of Italianness outside of Italy at a crucial time in that nation’s history. This book ultimately underlines the creative and innovative role migrants play in the social and cultural processes that shape human societies.
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Extract

European Food Issues

For several decades now, our attention has been drawn to expanding agricultural output and the proliferation of powerful food companies. At the same time, in the process of European integration, the adoption of the Codex Alimentarius (1963), the Food Law (2002), and the recognition of PGIs for many products have contributed to the creation of a common European “food space”. Today, these systems of supply and distribution have between them given Europeans quite varied dietary possibilities. This situation stems from various developments, linking the economic to the technical and amounting to a long-term trend. Cultural issues bear upon this, whether culinary transmission from generation to generation or the increasingly diverse catering sector, and political decisions also contribute through the establishment of standards and regulations. Hence, traditions and ruptures, innovations and continuities are permanently unsettling the European diet. Using original sources, doctoral theses, conference papers, monographs and testimonies, this series examines historical developments at the national scale and also, more generally, in a transnational perspective. The series hopes to make a significant contribution to understanding the processes of food innovation, which are powerful factors of difference and identity in contemporary Europe.

Series editors

Antonella CAMPANINI, Università degli Studidi Scienze Gastronomische, Pollenzo (Italia)

Peter SCHOLLIERS, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (België)

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