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The dimensions of ‘traditional food’ in reflexive modernity: Norway as a case study


  • This article is strongly inspired from our chapter in the Norwegian anthology from 2007 “The Cultivated Food”[63] which data material is based on our SIFO working report.[53]



This article aims to better understand the definition(s) of ‘traditional’ food. The authors discuss and exemplify how this rhetorical concept is used in the specialist literature and in Norwegian public debate. The authors ultimately propose a set of central dimensions of traditional food and their relevance across various discourses.


After examining the use of the concept ‘tradition’ in scientific publications, the authors note that it is based on two main axes: time and know-how. These are interwoven in a ‘meaning’ dimension in the connection between time and culture, but also in a ‘place’ dimension that is systematically materialised in food. In order to better describe and understand the dynamic that emerges from the interplay of innovation and tradition, the article goes through the broadest use of ‘traditional food’ in public discourses, in national and regional newspapers, and in consumers' attitudes. There, the concept of ‘traditional food’ is used for both preserving historic values and renewing sense of identity.


The article can be regarded as an empirical example which elaborates the understanding of tradition in reflexive modernity. It concludes that the concept of traditional food is neither fixed nor finite but is a fluid and energetic concept which, based on the tensions between four central axes, can adapt to the discourses of preservation, moderation and innovation. © 2013 Society of Chemical Industry