The idea that “Nations themselves are typically associated with particular foods” (P123) may be familiar to us. We can make good connections between certain food and certain nations: wine with France, tea with British, whiskey with Scotland and so on. And which food can we actually connect to America? Many of you may have different answers, but Coca-cola must be one of them. As to me, Coca-cola, as is the same with hamburger and French fries, can just remind me of America but cannot reflect a certain value or concept of America. However, in Mark Weiner’s writing, he shows the unique culture of America that Coca-cola reveals in a much detailed and deep way.
After the experience of WWII, Coca-cola has been treated not simply as a drink but also “the totem drink of American nation” (P139). It reveals two vital characteristics of American society: consumer society and participatory democracy. With the help of the government, Coca-cola succeeded in providing a sufficient supply to the soldiers who were away from home to fight against the enemies during the WWII. Surrounded by a sense of homesickness and shortage of material, the soldiers on solitude were reminded of “actual moments of their experience as civilians” (P133) by this kind of soft drink. In the soldiers’ letters, we can know that “Coca-cola did play a role in American civic consciousness” (P135). Coca-cola not only provided the inner satisfaction of individuals to these soldiers, but also associated the drink with communal life by its fantastic advertisements. Thus it can reflect the culture of America from both personal perspective and social perspective. The focus on individual consumption conceals the characteristic of consumer society, while the “shared ‘language of consumption’” (P136) is good for the citizens to bond together and construct participatory political power. Though there are many scholars who believe consumer society brings harm to democracy of the whole society, I think consumer goods such as Coca-cola can strengthen the democratic politics because the shared value and meaning are widespread through the history and regions.
Furthermore, I want to share my own opinions about the unique culture represented by food in China. There exist big differences of food taste between different regions of China. As the figure showed below, food in area ① is much more spicy and hot than any other areas in China. In contrast, food in area ② has a plain and sweet flavor and more complicated making process.
The differences of food between different regions are quite the consequences of different culture. In turn, the food containing cultural meaning can influence the personality of the people living there. People in area ① usually have explosive personality. Many of them enjoy straightforward conversations, unlimited and adventurous lifestyle. So the spicy taste of food can bring them excited and cheerful feeling, making them feel that life is not so plain just like the food. People in area ② share soft, quite and gentle temper in general. They are quite strict with details so many of the famous dishes there have not only good taste but also beautiful look. In conformity with their personality, they prefer bland and flat taste companied by a little sweet.
These areas are just two typical examples of Chinese cuisine and other areas in China also hold their own characteristics combined with their culture. Together, they make up the variety of Chinese food culture which implies the diversity of Chinese culture and multi-ethnic tradition.
- Do you agree with the idea that “consumer society conceals the antidemocratic relations of economic power on which it is based, and encourages an ethnic of individual self-focus incompatible with republican ideals of virtue and community” (P136)?
- Can you share some other food that can represent a certain characteristic of nations or regions?