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Mapping the Tasteland

Explorations in Food and Wine in Argentinean and European Culture

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Matias Bruera

This book draws together the results of extensive research into the complex relationships that some modern European and Argentinean writers have enjoyed with food and wine. The European writers considered include Roland Barthes, Walter Benjamin, Honoré de Balzac, Charles Baudelaire, Italo Svevo, Marcel Schwob, James Joyce and Robert Louis Stevenson; their Argentinean counterparts include Domingo F. Sarmiento, Lucio V. Mansilla, Roberto J. Payró and Ezequiel Martínez Estrada. Through an exploration of both fiction and non-fiction, the author shows how these thinkers’ ideas about food and wine influenced modernity and how they continue to influence contemporary issues such as ‘globalized’ menus and food poverty.

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Part 2 Taste, Modernity and Centre I Bordeaux: The Human Condition as Purple Venality

Extract

The mythology of wine can in fact help us to understand the usual ambiguity of our daily life. For it is true that wine is a good and fine substance, but it is no less true that its production is deeply involved in French capitalism, whether it is that of the private distillers or that of the big settlers in Algeria who impose on the Muslims, on the very land of which they have been dispossessed, a crop of which they have no need, while they lack even bread. There are thus very engaging myths which are however not innocent. And the characteristic of our current alienation is precisely that wine cannot be an unalloyedly bliss- ful substance, except if we wrongfully forget that it is also the product of an expropriation. — Roland Barthes, Mythologies Montaigne: The Botrytis and Château d’Yquem Biographies are always suspicious, because lives always exceed the defini- tions with which, in a handful of words, they try to capture them. However, there is something which irrevocably characterizes the figure of Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592): no author has ever read the classics so obses- sively and no other author has been quoted so often by the moderns. It is no accident that Sainte-Beuve, the only perennial critic in literature, has suggested that he was the wisest of all the French. In general, when we talk of Montaigne it is impossible to avoid sketch- ing his life, for he is an absolutely fundamental author in the...

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