This article is concerned with consumption, and with ways in which practices. We are particularly interested in ways local preparation and consumption of food may reflect and hence give us insight into ideas and ideologies of tradition and modernity. The material we discuss comes from two former socialist countries, the Czech Republic and Poland. These countries present a particularly interesting field for comparative thinking, as both were part of a particular state-driven modernity project, that of the (post 1945) Soviet Union, and both have had to deal with the failure, and abandonment (post 1989), of that project in favour of another one with very different notions of the modern: western, globally driven, capitalism. So, in some senses, the end of communism has heralded for the people of these countries a shift in understanding of the modern, or of what it means to be modern. For Soviet systems the modern was the plan, represented in scientific socialism's vision of gigantic industrialization, the ambitious collectivization, the regulatory procedures of full (mandatory) employment in exchange for full entitlements to social services. For those living under these systems, however, particularly those in the more ambivalent satellite states such as Czechoslovakia and Poland, there was concurrently a strong emphasis, outside state discourse as well as within it, on tradition. 'Traditional' material culture, practices and ideas operated on at least two levels. On one level, they formed part of the repertoire of the socialist state, in terms of being promoted and sometimes invented in association with the state's claims to legitimacy through evocation of 'pure', even essentialist cultural identities which did not depend on or generate dangerous claims of ethnicity.. On another level, with which we are more concerned in this paper, they were associated with the family, with local identity or belonging, and with the nation. In these latter contexts they frequently served to contest the modernist project associated with external regulation, rules and the machinery of the (intrusive, Soviet directed) state. We focus here particularly on food and consumption as they epitomize changing understandings of what constitutes traditional and modern aesthetics and practices. Any examination of food brings with it at least some consideration of family and kinship. The importance of food in constituting kinship has been demonstrated in many anthropological studies: for example, how kinship is performed through commensality; how generational hierarchy is reflected in the etiquette of meals or more simply in access to or share of food. Food is central in family-life, not only in so-called traditional societies, but also in the Western world; the sharing of food is seen as a key to 'proper family relations' while a perceived evaporation of family meals is portrayed as a threat to the basic structures of society.
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