Feasting is an important aspect of all of our lives and the anthropological study of food and drink lets us examine these important cultural events.
For this discussion, select any feast that you have attended (preferably recently).
A. Introduction: Briefly (in 1-2 sentences) describe the feast you have selected (Is it for a rite of passage such as a wedding/ is it surrounding an important cultural event, such as the Super Bowl? Is it based on a religious holiday, such as Eid-ul-Fit?)
B. What Makes a Feast? Think about your experience at this feast and describe each of the identifiable characteristics of this specific feast:
1. Food (What food was served at this feast? – Was there a surplus of quantity? What about the quality of food- was there special or extravagant food served/ was alcohol included/ are there special foods included you don’t eat on a daily basis?)
2. Size (How many people participated in this feast? The size can range from a small gathering to much larger groups- usually feasts have more participants than a daily meal)
3. Participants (Who were the people present? Think about social groups- gather together to communally eat- e.g., couples, families, lineages, clans, neighborhoods, communities, different ethnic groups, regional groups, etc.)
4. Time: (When was this feast held and why at that time? Was this a designate times- based on religious calendars, rites of passage, events of social/ cultural significance?)
5. Display (How was food displayed / the event decorated? How did this communicate to you information about this particular event? Think about the display of special foods, large quantities of food, better serving vessels, special rooms or spaces that might have been used. These elements define the meal as special / distinct- like eating on the good china- are there elements of the display that tell you about formality/ fanciness of the occasion?)
6. Drama (Were there events that accentuated sense of ritual, public performance, and activities that dramatize the event? These could mean differential seating, distinctive serving order, stories/ speeches/ shows/ ect.)
C. The Eating Event Now think about the eating event itself according to the following components:
1. Preparation (Who was responsible for preparing the feast? How long would this preparation likely have taken? Were there messages about gender/ age/ expectations when it came to the labor of preparing and hosting the feast?)
2. Structure (Were there multiple courses? seating arrangements? A table- what shape? Utensils used? Etiquette? What was the speed of service of the food and consumption? Were there expectations of the attendees? For example, were people expected to drink lots of alcohol, dance, help clean up, help cook, bring dishes from home, etc.)
3. Actors (Were there social distinctions between the eaters- how could you see social distance between the eaters? Were statuses and roles visible based on kinship, age, gender, rank, host, guest, or other status? How could you see different status (who did what work/ who ate first or last? etc. )
4. Implications (What was the purpose of the meal? Did this increase equality/ intimacy/ or solidarity of the group? Did this feast reinforce, construct, or communicate different identity or social difference?)
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