Eating healthy, eating modern. The "urbanization" of food tastes in communist Poland (1945–1989)

Katarzyna Stańczak-Wiślicz
2020 Ethnologia Polona  
The paper analyses the changes of food behaviours in post-1945 Poland in the context of socialist modernization. It is focused on both discourses and everyday practices. After 1945 Poland was a nearly mono-ethnic rural society which experienced fast modernization, industrialization and urbanization. The communist authorities who promised social justice and universal prosperity faced a problem of painful food shortages. This resulted from the aftermaths of war, and later was a by-product of the
more » ... ocialist economy. Thus, dietary education became an important strategy in the effort to feed the new socialist Poland. Special institutions and agendas were established to modernize eating habits according to the "rational", "scientific" bases of the communist project of modernization. Up until the late 1970s, expert dietary advice promoted pre-prepared food, canned and frozen products, vegetables and meat consumption. Food columns in women's magazines, advice books and adverts presented the model of a modern cuisine, which was in the first place healthy, but also urban. Official food policies affected everyday practices and, by the end of the 1970s, experts identified a process of the denaturalization of food in rural areas. This changed during the crisis of the 1980s, when "traditional" recipes came to be appreciated as simple and "natural". The analysis of expert and popular discourses (women's magazines, medical literature), as well as of personal narratives (personal diaries, memoirs, letters to the editor) shows the changing meanings of food, and their connections to processes of urbanization and social advancement which were elements of a socialist modernization which was not too different from the western modernity of the time.
doi:10.23858/ethp.2020.41.2303 fatcat:crph4ggf2rdnxebfgsz4kcxaia