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Thesis Details
TitleThe cultural transmission of cookery knowledge : from seventeenth century Britain to twentieth century New Zealand
AuthorInglis, Raelene Margaret
InstitutionUniversity of Otago
Date2009
AbstractUnderpinning most anthropological definitions of culture is the concept of the cultural transmission and diffusion of learned behaviour. Anthropological works generally emphasise the outcomes of this transmission rather than the processes, in part because the mechanisms are either ongoing or practically invisible. Recipes have proved a unique tool for tracking cultural transmission because of their inherent precision and characteristically datable contexts. This study uses recipes to explore the many paths of transmission and diffusion of culinary knowledge. The period under review is from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries and the focus is on British culinary traditions up-to and after, their transfer to New Zealand. It was found that culinary knowledge was disseminated around New Zealand through both formal and informal mechanisms. Formal transmission involved teachers, their school cookery classes and published teaching manuals, all of which played a major role in training school children to cook the dishes served at family meals. In contrast, informal publications such as cookery columns in magazines and newspapers were transmitting recipes for more fashionable dishes, especially baking, and these incorporated mechanisms that promoted innovation more than retention of traditional recipes. The significant role of material culture in cookery provided another pathway of transmission through appliance recipe books which translated established recipes into a form that could be made with the new technology, thereby preventing their disappearance from the culinary repertoires of cooks. It was established that community cookbooks, a common means of fund-raising, were a significant means of diffusing culinary information. The cookbooks produced by such efforts demonstrated change over time in their recipe content, especially if published as a series and such publications were tangible repositories of the cookery knowledge within the community. This study examined not only the pathways of culinary transmission but also the contexts in which it occurred. These circumstances were found to be influential in determining eventual acceptance or rejection of cookery knowledge and recipes, and provide valuable insights into processes of culture change.
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