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The Society Sector

secteur société tableaux
Throughout the Society sector, visitors discover how food connects us to our own kind. The human diet is, above all, a social and cultural indicator, giving us clues to help us understand both ourselves and other people. We create links, display our social status, ritualise practices and perpetuate a tradition of conviviality whenever we share food. It is a subtle way of talking about oneself and of measuring oneself against others, whether we are the host or the guest. This sector favours the sharing of knowledge and experiences, and focuses on exchange, starting with the question: “How do I eat?” The three main recurring themes of the tour show that eating is not only a biological need, but also an act which fulfils an essential social function.

Visitors can enter a cocoon filled with photos and personal accounts from the private sphere and will realize the extent to which our education and our family circle shape our relationship with food. A community wall invites them to explore new social phenomena such as the term ‘food porn’ or the use of hashtags. From New York to Seoul, #pizza, #burger or #bulgogi reflect our cosmopolitan culinary discoveries and cravings. However, the silence from certain parts of the world reveals other realities and food boundaries...

This wall may inspire visitors to leave their childhood memories, tips and ‘food selfies’ in a special terminal which will be used to expand the Alimentarium ‘Proust’s madeleine’, a sort of memory bank created for and by visitors. Everyone can add their favourite recipe which, who knows, may well be recreated by the Alimentarium chefs!

Continuing the tour, visitors will realise how their choices and habits are also determined by much wider cultural and social spheres, converging from a rich array of influences. Every society, every culture, defines what it deems as authorised food, its taboos and its rituals. In addition to religious taboos, our era has witnessed the emergence of new alimentary precepts (less salt, less sugar, etc.). A collection of large-scale photos highlights the diversity of eating habits across the globe and over the centuries. What are the consequences of our food choices on our health, the environment and on other people’s lives? Why do we crave for more?

The way the table is laid has marked history and is important in many countries. An interactive table presents several games on tableware and table manners in different cultures, inviting visitors to learn about some of these fundamental values. To end the tour, visitors find themselves confronted by a large wall of lively and colourful images, along with a range of objects from the Museum’s collection. This area evokes the richness of different rituals, festivals and places where we eat across the globe.