Meals Matter

A Radical Economics Through Gastronomy

Michael Symons

Columbia University Press

Meals Matter

Pub Date: June 2020

ISBN: 9780231196024

376 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $35.00£30.00

Pub Date: June 2020

ISBN: 9780231551601

376 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $34.99£30.00

Meals Matter

A Radical Economics Through Gastronomy

Michael Symons

Columbia University Press

Until the early nineteenth century, political philosophy and economics were dining companions. Both took up fundamental questions of how we should feed one another. But with the rise of corporate capitalism, modern economics lost sight of its primary task and turned away from the complexities of real people’s sustenance in favor of the single-minded pursuit of money.

In Meals Matter, Michael Symons returns economics to its roots in the distribution of food and the labor required. Setting the table with vivid descriptions of conviviality, he offers a gastronomic rebuttal to the narrow worldview of mainstream economics. Engaging with a wide variety of thinkers—including Epicurus, Enlightenment philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, the gastronomer Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, and economic theorists from François Quesnay and Adam Smith through the neoliberals—Symons traces how we went astray and how we can find our way back to a more caring, sustainable way of life. He finds hope for shared “table pleasure” in institutions like community gardens, street markets, and banquets and in eating fresh, local, and “slow” food.

An innovative, historically based argument at the intersection of food history and social thought, Meals Matter challenges us to reject the economics of greed in favor of a community-based economics of sharing and gastronomic enjoyment.
Michael Symons succeeds brilliantly in a radical project: convincing readers to rethink a singular ‘economics’ as multiple ‘economies’: bodily, household, market, political, and natural. His book draws on intellectual history, economic and social theories, and gastronomy, and it is richly illustrated with stories about meals. Janet Flammang, author of The Taste for Civilization: Food, Politics, and Civil Society
As an academic economist and former chef, this is a book I wish I had written. Symons’s work provides a unique contribution through its fusion of philosophy, economics, and food, arguing for the need to reject the acquisitive self-interest ethos of economics and instead return to a social-centric Epicurean philosophy. I for one would enjoy a seat at Symons’s table. Ted P. Schmidt, author of The Political Economy of Food and Finance
Meals Matter is a passionate call to create a more convivial world by centering food and its consumption. It combines a powerful challenge to action with a well-documented contribution toward our understanding of the cultural and social significance of food and foodways. Bertram M. Gordon, author of War Tourism: Second World War France from Defeat and Occupation to the Creation of Heritage
A clearly written and exciting reappraisal of the development of Western economic thinking and when and where it goes awry. Meals Matter offers an original argument about the relationship of food, money, and economics that has the potential to upend many orthodoxies. David Sutton, author of Remembrance of Repasts: An Anthropology of Food and Memory

About the Author

Michael Symons is the author of One Continuous Picnic: A Gastronomic History of Australia (anniversary edition, 2007) and A History of Cooks and Cooking (2000), among other works. He is also a former journalist and restaurateur.