Accepted Paper:

Taste of fermentation: placing and negotiating palatability in postindustrial Japan  


Shingo Hamada (Osaka Shoin Women's Univ.)

Paper short abstract:

Culturally produced palatability makes the boundary between the fermented and the rotten unsettle and relational. This paper discusses the movement of regional fermented food into urban culinascape.

Paper long abstract:

Fermentation is a preservation technology that has been practiced over millennia in human history and prehistory. Food cultures in Southeast Asia and East Asia are known for fermented fish and fish sauce (Ishige and Ruddle 1990). As kombucha in North America exemplifies, over the last four decade a variety of regional fermented food and beverage are commoditized as healthy choice, both bodily and environmentally, and moved into new urban markets.

However, distinct appearance, odor, and texture make it uneasy for ones to acceptance newly introduced fermented food. Against the term 'culture', fermented food and beverage tend to be associated with nature. While the naturalness is valued in postindustrial consumer societies, it connotes uncontrollability and risk of rotting. For consumers who have not acquired the taste for newly introduced fermented food, the boundary between the fermented and the rotten relies more on cultural preference than biological constraints. How do consumers describe the taste and distaste of fermented food and beverage? What sensory experiences of food - appearance, odor and texture - make fermented food acceptable or inacceptable?

Taking fermented fish as a case study, this paper discusses the movement and placement of regional, traditional fermented food into urban, modern and postmodern culinascape. With ethnographic data drawn from participant observation, semi-structured interviews and literature reviews, I examine how consumers negotiate their sense of edibility and palatability to accept the taste of unfamiliar heritage food, while reproducing the boundary between the fermented and the rotten, natural and non-natural food, healthy and unhealthy food in the contemporary consumer society.

Panel LL-FWF05
Taste in motion: movement, placement, and localization of new food and beverages in the past and present