Cookies

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Otherwise, we'll assume you're OK to continue.

Durham University

Research & business

View Profile

Publication details for Professor Peter Atkins

Atkins, P.J. (2011). The material histories of food quality and composition. Endeavour 35(2-3): 74-79.

Author(s) from Durham

Abstract

This article argues for material histories of food. In recent decades food historians have tended to emphasize the cultural factors in consumption, in addition to the already well-established social, political and economic perspectives, but what is still missing is the stuff in foodstuffs. With reference in particular to milk and wine, the suggestion here is that physical and chemical composition is a major influence in what we might call the biographies of particular items of food and drink. Product characteristics are rarely static for long and today's mass-produced bread is different from that of the past, but then so are the flour, the yeast, and the even the butter that is spread on it. Adulteration was a particularly interesting aspect of composition in the nineteenth century and was the key to the emergence of two different traditions of understanding and valuing food quality.