rating: 3 out of 5
Okay, honestly, with a title like “Bite Me: Food in Popular Culture” and a cover that is a bit suggestive with a close-up picture of the cleft of a peach/nectarine, I was at the very least expecting a book that was readable and fun. I was expecting something along the lines of Kitchen Confidential, Fast Food Nation, or Candyfreak— an engaging expose on how food influences and is influenced by pop culture. I mean come on, this is a cover that got me lots of second looks as I read it on the train. Yes folks, I am reading a book, with a big naked butt on the cover.
In the end (ha), “Bite Me” was a little too academic for my taste. It read like an advanced college text book with lots of works cited and a large bibliography. Parasecoli obviously put a good deal of research into the book.
In the chapter Tasty Utopias, Parasecoli discusses food and politics in science fiction books and movies. The works he looks at include Orwell’s 1984 and the movie Demolition Man. Parasecoli analyzes what food & eating means to the characters & societies in these sci-fi works.
Food has played a relevant — even if sometimes almost invisible — role in many sci-fi works. I believe this connection is revealing. Food is an important element in any society, determining many aspects of production, distribution and consumption, and providing fundamental institutions and customs. It is virtually impossible to isolate food from the social, economic, and political structures of a human group. The act of eating, located between the biological and the symbolic, allows sci-fi authors to analyze a large spectrum of phenomena, often with a certain comic impishness. Imagination is a fundamental dimension of the style and the content of science fiction, encompassing all aspects of human life.
In other chapters Parasecoli compares breast feeding with vampirism and cannabalism, discusses the influence of food in African American culture, looks into diet culture especially the Atkins diet, and finally how tourism relates to food.
There were some interesting factoids in the book, but overall it was a bit too dense for leisure reading. While “Bite Me” might have been a bit of a heavy dish for a casual book club book it would probably be ideal fare for a cultural studies course in college.