A new term Food Porn emerged in 1984 in a book Female Desire depicting visual food presentation, which arouses desire or impulsion to have the food as a substitute for sex. But food not only make one salivate in visual; the same theory as porn, food appears as vivid as visual presentation on literature as entertainment and cultural insinuation. Details of food represent authors’ attempts to incorporate daily diet into fiction. But beyond that, the endeavour authors put on depicting the details of food preparation, dining rituals, table manners convey important cultural information back to the age, especially regard to social class.
In the East, arguably the most representative classical novel “Dream of the Red Chamber” in nineteenth century is a hardcore revealing the cultural connotation of Oriental food, and by that, portrayed the extravagancy among aristocracy in traditional feudal society back to the age in its most elegant and poetic way. The book that depicted 186 traditional dishes in total, innumerable delicate Chinese utensils and banquets, reflects two pieces of truth, namely, nutritional and culinary discourse plays a big part in eastern literature, primarily for life span prolonging. Also it is noticeable that throughout the novel, Chinese diet based on a rigid order in respect of the hierarchy system. For example the younger can only start the meal following the elder; each level of people has their own type of rice to eat and the order must not be disturbed.
As for Western, French writer Gustave Flaubert uses the serving of food as a media to portray the structure of the societies, especially ceremonial meals. In “Madame Bovary” published in 1856, Emma’s vulgar wedding feast is a big contrast with the elegant banquet at La Vaubyessard, where the menu and presentation signify the refinement and elegance that Emma longs for. Emma select her meal depending on the menu; she rejects the simple country food in which her husband enjoys a lot and she eats only if the food represents the refine taste of upper class. References to food in the literature of the nineteenth century are abundant both in Eastern and Western literature, it matters because the knowledge of food we have today mostly referenced from them.
By Jennifer Chan