Food and foodways have long been present in American (and other) fiction, of course, but inadequate critical attention has been paid to this oft-used narrative strategy. What I call “Significant Food” in fiction is food used as a significant plot or other substantial literary device, food where the important concomitant cultural signifiers related to nourishment and the table (or the absence thereof) assume a crucial narrative role. The reasons for investigating Significant Food in fiction are simple. On one level, food can be pleasurable, and writing and reading about it can also be so. Yet from myriad political, gender, economic, cultural, medical and moral perspectives, food can also be a source of great conflict. This breadth of significance exists because in some fiction food becomes so much more than itself. Food becomes a food act—the gathering or buying of it, the preparation of it at home or the restaurant-going, the ritual of eating around a common table, or not—and this is the focus of this Group.


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