Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Foodways is a portmanteau word, more North American than British, that encompasses the food habits and culinary practices of a group of people—be they a township, ethnic grouping, or people living in a historical period—and the interaction between those habits and their more general circumstances. It might be described as the holistic study of food as it impacts on, and reflects, a defined group.

The term was first used in America in the 1940s and is often used by folklorists when they attempt to untangle the connections of belief, identity, and historical fact as they pertain to food. It can, of course, be used entirely literally, to mean ways of food preparation and consumption. Many historians prefer the phrase ‘food culture’ to describe the contextualization of food practices within the wider frame of history, economics, politics, and agriculture.