IS McDONALD’S COMPATIBLE WITH LOCAL IDENTITIES?
What is the relation between local identities, territory, and fast food such as McDonald's? Professor Massimo Montanari analyzed this topic
Massimo Montanari, Prof. at Bologna University, teaches Medieval History and Food History. The article is taken from “Let the meatball rest, and other stories about food and culture”.
“Food is an important instrument of cultural identity. Mom’s recipes are always the best ones because there (in your mom, and in what she represents) you can find, or you might want to find, the roots of the personal identity. However, when McDonald’s food is opposed to mom’s cooking, do we face a conflict between affirmation and cancellation of the identity? Between identity and non-identity? Not at all. If the global village is not just an invention of the sociologist McLuhan but a reality of our daily life, this identity belongs to us too. The citizen of Imola (who recognizes himself in the food of his city and his countryside) is also a citizen of the Emilia Romagna region, of Italy, of Europe. Each of these identities – all changing, all under construction – wants its food symbols. The global village has McDonald’s, the same everywhere, reassuring, maternal (the big M, round like the breast). Thinking of the hamburger as a non-culture, a non-identity is a severe error of perspective. The hamburger has, on a symbolic level, a far broader cultural depth that at first glance does not appear. After all, the hamburger is never the same. Everywhere is accompanied by market studies that not only speak the number language but also (secondly, maybe) that of tastes and traditions. The sauce is not the same everywhere. The relationship between sweet and savory changes from one country to another. The uniformity of taste does not exclude variations and this means that even the hamburger cannot ignore the local identities. Today it is also forced to coexist with vegetarian offerings. Perhaps this means that coexistence between McDonald’s kitchen and mother’s cooking is possible. I would say more: the same diffusion of ‘globalized’ food models, like McDonald’s and its competitors, paradoxically has excited the search for diversity, the reconstruction of more or less invented roots, the rediscovery or reinvention of the ‘local’ traditions. The social body has developed a formidable antidote to the risk of cultural homologation. Networking local cultures, spreading them, making them known, sharing them was the positive answer to this risk. Using the global village as a place of exchange rather than homologation. Globalizing gastronomic and cultural biodiversity.”
Thank you, Prof. Montanari for letting us reproduce it
This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)