The Cultual Significance of (Baby and Other) Food

by Kevin Currie-Knight


In this episode, Amy Bentley (food historian, NYU) talks about the cultural and historical reasons we eat as we do. Amy and Kevin talk about why w eat three meals a day, how COVID might disrupt our eating habits, and the five historical factors that made baby food possible in the industrial age.

4:46 Why does Amy study food history? (Spoiler: it has to do with the role of gardening during World War II.) 11:54: How industrialization led to our three-meal-a-day eating schedule 23:01 – How has COVID messed with our three-meal-a-day cultural regimen? 34:29 – How baby food influenced (and was influenced by) culture 36:38 – The perfect storm of factors that gave rise to baby food (industrialization, discovery of fruits and vegetables’ importance, advertising, sexualization of breasts, etc) 54:10 – Baby food, its politicization, and the “mommy wars”


One response to “The Cultual Significance of (Baby and Other) Food”

  1. Peter Smith

    Meals are narrative factories. That is their cultural significance.

    Meals supply a pleasant, relaxing environment for face to face conversation. This is where we create and exchange the narratives that are so important for fashioning memories, values, aspirations, agreements, negotiations and collaboration. The meal is more important than the handshake. It is an opportunity to offer and accept hospitality. It cements the bonds of friendship and nurtures relationships. It nourishes family life. It is the foundational element for creating social capital. At the heart of all this lies the process of narrative creation.

    Food is the means to this end. Of course food is necessary for its sustenance but if that was all it signified we would eat alone, as my dogs do, without any thought for the other, except to snarl at him if he encroaches on our food.

    Kevin, my compliments for an enjoyable interview.