Welcome . . . to a diner’s sense of things

MY NEW BOOK , Meals Matter: A Radical Economics through Gastronomy, from Columbia University Press, rethinks the human predicament from, perhaps for some people, a surprising direction. That unexpectedness is why food anthropologist David Sutton, for example, generously locates the book’s “potential to upend many orthodoxies”.

Copies are due to reach the bookshop shelves just as a pandemic closes their doors. Yet, otherwise, the reworking of economic theory from the bottom-up is now even more timely.

“A book I wish I had written”, writes former chef and now academic economist, Professor Ted P. Schmidt. The book succeeds “brilliantly in a radical project”, in the opinion of politics professor Janet Flammang. “Meals Matter is a passionate call to create a more convivial world,” according to professor of European history Bertram M. Gordon.  More reactions to the book.

Meals MatterUntil the early nineteenth century, political philosophy and economics studied fundamental questions about feeding one another. But with the rise of corporate capitalism, modern economics turned from the complexities of people’s sustenance to favour the single-minded pursuit of money.

Meals Matter returns to economics’ roots in the distribution of food and the labour required. After developing Brillat-Savarin’s understanding that taste-pleasures lead inextricably to conviviality, the book engages with the ideas of Epicurus, Enlightenment philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, and economic theorists from François Quesnay and Adam Smith until the disaster of neoliberalism. The book finds hope in the liberal economics naturally emerging from community gardens, street markets, restaurants, domestic communalism, and the prospective return of banquets.

SV300331 (2)Here is the cover of my first book, One Continuous Picnic, a gastronomic history of Australia, which appeared in 1982, with a new edition in 2007.

That original work was inspired by living for a year in a former watermill down an ancient Roman road near Radda-in-Chianti in Italy, and then setting up a restaurant in another Tuscan town, Bacchereto. The contrast with my own country was so sensual, important and revelatory that I’ve been doing gastronomy ever since. Here is a list of my books.

Gastronomy is the diner’s sense of the world, and Meals Matter, the blog, provides a focus, bringing together books, ideas, debates, news and observations.

WSV300328 (2)hy do human beings cook? Who are our gastronomic heroes – that’s beyond Epicurus, Thomas Jefferson, Brillat-Savarin and M.F.K. Fisher? What’s the origin of the flat white? So many questions … while grateful for good food and company.

For blog essays, hit the Posts & Essays button (sometimes it’s above). To keep up with the latest, hit the Follow button (also, sometimes upper-right).

And to contact Michael Symons, email michael@mealsmatter.net, or fill in the form:


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