Food and eating are firmly established components within the burgeoning mix of new ‘ethical’, culturally-concerned tourism experiences in the West. Perhaps as much as 25 per cent of total UK tourist expenditure is accounted for by food purchases (Hudman, 1986). Cuisine is significantly central to the tourism ‘experience’, so much so as to consider food and drink as stand alone motivations for visitation. There is evidence (Fields, 2002) that demonstrates regional and national culinary tourism ‘products’ to be widely and successfully promoted in macro destination marketing strategies. However the UK, in relation to the rest of Europe, is perhaps an anomaly and a culinary silo where food and the sociology of eating are concerned. Most typically in the UK and America, recipe books feature keenly in best seller lists and celebrity chefs dominate ‘the A lists’; yet it is most typically in the UK and America that people spend more time watching others prepare fantasy-food on television than they spend on experiencing cooking in their own kitchen (Blythman, 2004). In addition, healthy eating advice, safety and the provenance of food dominate popular culture yet more ‘junk food’ is consumed in the UK than in the rest of Europe in its entirety. National food is hijacked as regional and what was once ‘local’ is now ‘national’, reflecting some dysfunction in UK culinary identity. This paper argues that the ‘language’ of tourism destination marketing legitimates the ‘myth’ of the ‘culinary tourism experience’ providing the increasingly thrill seeking ‘Bourgeoisie’ tourist with a new type of moral, alternative tourism. It is argued that culinary tourism is part of a wider tourism and leisure trend towards ‘experience’ and away from materialism. In an increasingly globally competitive tourism environment, destinations exploit ‘authentic’ regional culinary strengths to re-engineer perceptions of British food. The UK is said to have reached a stage where society has ‘an awkward relationship with food’ (Blythman, 2004). If this is so then it is a strand of discourse that is all but absent from tourism marketing literature yet remains visible in public culture.
Wight, C. (2008). Reengineering “Authenticity”: Tourism Encounters with Cuisine in Rural Great Britain. In L. C. Rubin (Ed.), Food for thought: essays on eating and culture (153-165). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company