Size matters: Israeli Chefs Cooking National Identity

Open lecture by Nir Avioli, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Ben Gurion University

17.11.2017, 12:00-13:00, Oddi-205

About the lecture Questions concerning the nature and characteristics of the Israeli cuisine have vexed Israeli gastronomes and food critiques for a while now. In this lecture, based on long term ethnographic research conducted in Israel, and specifically on interviews with prominent Israeli chefs and key players in the Israeli culinary arena, I suggest that the Israeli cuisine is not defined merely by its ingredients, cooking styles and dishes, but also by a set of sociological characteristics, most prominent of which is portion size. The demand for big portions is shown to cross class barriers and ethnicities and to prevail in domestic and public eating spheres. The Israeli demand for big portions is discussed in relation to the definition of satiety in Israel, which is shown to be cultural rather than physiological, shaped by Jewish histories, diaspora experiences and Israeli cultural inclinations. I conclude by addressing the implications of my findings regarding the definitions of Israeliness.

Nir Avieli is an associate professor of  anthropology  in the department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ben Gurion University, Israel, and the President of the Israeli Anthropological Association. Nir has been conducting ethnographic fieldwork in the central Vietnamese town of Hoi An since 1998. His book: Rice Talks: Food and Community in a Vietnamese Town (2012, Indiana University Press) is a culinary ethnography of Hoi An. His articles on Vietnam were published in the Journal of Material Culture, Ethnology, Annals of Tourism Research, and The Journal of Heritage Tourism among others. Nir conducted further ethnographic research in Thailand, India, Singapore and Israel. His new book: “Food and Power in Israel”, (University of California Press 2017) is based on multi-sited ethnographic research conducted in Israel since the late 1990’s. Nir convened the International Conference on “Food, Power and Meaning in the Middle East and Mediterranean” (Ben Gurion University 2010) and edited two special issues on this topic for the Journals Food, Culture and Society and Hagar. In 2015 he edited a special issue on “Everyday Life in Contemporary Israel” for the journal Ethnologie Francaise. Currently he is conducting an ethnographic study titled “Food for the Body and Soul”, on the vegan soul food of the African Hebrew Israelite Community.