Term Paper: Globalization and Food in Film

Pages: 14 (4622 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  Topic: Agriculture  ·  Buy This Paper


There is no better commodity to discuss than chocolate, when looking at the globalization of food. Food can tell the most astounding stories as well as create a sense of identity for and entire culture. In the film Chocolat, through American eyes, is an example of the changes that can be symbolized by the power of a single food item, in this case the rich historical and global food, chocolate.

A food is the ideal cultural symbol that allows the historian to uncover hidden levels of meaning in social relationships and arrive at new understandings of the human experience. The tug of cultural anthropology and sociology is strong here, and underscores food as symbol and metaphor, a cultural numerator essential to the human equation. (Super 165)

The history of chocolate spans the globe. The 2000 film, Chocolat is an expression of the history of chocolate, as well as its foundational and lurid historical representation. This work will briefly discuss the history of chocolate and its role in the globalization of food, briefly synopsize the film Chocolat, and lastly argue that chocolate has been used as a thematic representation of the human experience of modernization in the film. Chocolate, is rivaled only by coffee, tea and sugar as a colonial crop of wealth, that spread across the world as far as the colonial arms. In its rich history, are politics, love, economics, slavery, religion and especially globalization. (Clarence-Smith)

Goodman, Lovejoy, and Sherratt 2)

The characters in the film, through chocolate and the experiences it brings into their lives, by its very existence in their small conservative village in France in 1959

Laubier 30) broaden their lives and allow themselves to be drawn into a world of risk and reality. The characters become modern people of the world, by opening their minds to what is real, the erotic and sensual pleasures that can transform them from a drab culture of hidden desires to one that expresses the broad nature of the human experience. Chocolate is the thematic link in the film between the old and the new, global world.

Chocolat unfolds a morality tale about a single mother with Mayan Indian roots who wanders from town to town, spreading healing and understanding to sworn enemies in the form of gifts of chocolate. Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche), with her red shoes and colorful dresses, and young daughter Anouk, blows into the village of Lansquenet at the beginning of Lent, upsetting the staid Lenten denials of the Catholic community.

Mcfadden 117)

Lent, celebrates a time when individuals mirror the suffering of Christ to atone for their sins and thank the lord for his sacrifice, through prayer special services and abstinent behaviors such as fasting and not eating meat on Fridays which lasts from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, usually a period of about 6 weeks.

Brief History of Chocolate:

Foods are known to pay a particularly important role in identity, both individually and culturally and chocolate is a foundational food in France. It is known as decadence, but is also eaten as a daily part of many lives, such as melted squares of dark chocolate on bread with one's bowl of morning coffee. Chocolate, would be a likely candidate for denial, in the season of lent.

The choice, consumption, display, and representation of foods are necessarily tied to the formation and reformation of identities -- cultural, class, ethnic, racial, and national... They mark the boundary between the Self and Other as a way of defining who we are in opposition to our Others. It is in this sense that we can interpret Annales historian Fernand Braudel's use of Brillat-Savarin's famous aphorism to describe European culture: "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are. " In this process of dialectic differentiation, different peoples use certain foods as metaphors of the Self and stereotypes of the Other. The foods in question can be staple items such as rice for the Japanese (Ohnuki-Tierney 1993, 3-11) or ceremonial foods such as luxury chocolate for the French.

Terrio 237)

The history of chocolate is an ancient one, and the bringing of chocolate to Europe is one of the beginning marks of colonization and world economic power, of which many European countries, including France played a part. Chocolate has become a luxary food in many places in the world, an import from Central America grown on a cocoa tree. "The botanical name for the cacao - or cocoa - bean is Theobroma, meaning Food Of The Gods. One chocolate chip gives enough energy for a human to walk 150ft. Eating chocolate makes your heart beat faster, and fine dark chocolate can actually help lower your cholesterol." ("Charlie's Chocolate Fact-Ory; SOME" 24) According to tradition the word chocolate comes from the Maya and Aztec roots of the plant, the name given to the spicy drink made from roasted and ground cocoa beans which was a big part of their culture is xocolatl, which translates to "bitter water." The Aztecs were even known to use the cocoa beans as a form of currency and according to legend 10 beans would buy an individual a rabbit. "The idea of chocolate as an aphrodisiac began with the Aztec emperor Montezuma. His bedtime drink was cold chocolate - but he would not let women try it." ("Charlie's Chocolate Fact-Ory; SOME" 24)

Through its known history, chocolate has been many things to many people, in the fourth century it was even utilized as a medicine, in much the same way it had been used medicinally among the Maya and Aztecs, disregarding some of the ceremonial functions of the drink. It had been used to dress wounds, treat diarrhea and cystitis as well as an accepted cure for tuberculosis. The cocoa bean was introduced to Europe by Christopher Columbus in 1502, as he was returning from his fourth voyage to and from the new world. According to history he was the first European to taste chocolate. Variations of chocolate, including a variation on the drink, that added sugar and vanilla to the roasted and brewed crushed beans popular in Europe in the Seventeenth century, up to the early Victorian times when an eatable form of chocolate was concocted, by the Dutchman Conrad J. Van Houten through pressing fat from roasted cacao beans to produce cocoa butter and then adding cocoa powder and sugar. "Charles the II tried to shut down chocolate-drinking houses, saying they were "hotbeds of sedition." ("Charlie's Chocolate Fact-Ory; SOME" 24) The popular form of milk chocolate was first produces in 1875 when condensed milk was added to dark chocolate. Chocolate was also a favorite of the famous lover Casanova who was said to have seduced women with it. There is some chemical evidence suggesting that Chocolate can produce a feeling of euphoria similar to that produced when one is in love, phenylethy-lamine, called the love drug.

Cocoa itself contains more than 500 distinct which gives it a very complex blend of aromas and a giving it an extremely complex blend of aromas. ("Charlie's Chocolate Fact-Ory; SOME" 24)

Historically the distribution of the cocoa bean grew rapidly over the many years of colonialism, being introduced in much the same way that coffee and previously tea were introduced and cultivated. Cocoa has a rich history as a global food good, a luxary to some, a nuisance to others. The utilization of slave labor, in the colonial world, to grow cocoa is well-known but not discussed as often as that of coffee, tea and sugar. The following table, shows the growth of world trade in cocoa, between 1765 and 1913.

Just as other world trade goods have been associated with human corruption and greed chocolate has also been associated with such things. Many famous and infamous literary and political figures have given chocolate its own identity.

Balzac vaunted the virile virtues of coffee, airily denouncing chocolate for contributing to the fall of Spain, by encouraging sensuality, laziness and greed. For Musset and Flaubert, chocolate was the breakfast drink of the idle rich (Bologne 1996:223-30; Bernard 1996:90). Dickens reflected another old stereotype, portraying a corrupt Catholic cleric as a chocolate drinker (Coe and Coe 1996:205). However, such pejorative views were not universal. Goethe made 'a cult of chocolate and avoided coffee' until his death in 1832 (Schivelbusch 1992:92). Moreover, chocolate retained a reputation as a remedy for many maladies, even though its alleged aphrodisiac properties were widely discounted (Barreta 1841:38).

Clarence-Smith 22)

Chocolate as a commodity for the redistribution of wealth began with the age of liberalism as the growing capital and commodity markets, in combination with a stable currency (gold) something also sought in colonial pursuits, created a way to bring the growing consumption of cocoa to the market through financial incentives and a growing global sense of free trade.

To be sure, the extent to which this opportunity was seized was conditioned by a gap between the liberal ideal and the reality on the ground, but it mainly reflected the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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