Submission note: A thesis submitted in total fulfilment of the requirements of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy [to the] School of Humanities, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora.
Television programs about food are now a main stay of prime time viewing schedules on both public and commercial broadcasting networks in Australia. Given the current popularity and variety of the genre, these programs provide important and unique insights into the aspirations and lifestyle choices of contemporary Australians. This thesis examines four food series produced by public broadcasting networks in the last decade. It investigates the common theme of „authenticity‟ and argues that in the era of late modernity the appeal of food television lies in connecting audiences with vicarious experiences of „real‟ food and related culinary traditions. In examining the various ways authenticity is constructed in these programs, the thesis reveals that although it is a concept widely used in food based discourses, its use can be problematic. Authenticity is often an assertion made about particular foods frequently without substantiation. The programs examined include Food Safari, Luke Nguyen‟s Vietnam, Gourmet Farmer and Poh‟s Kitchen. Each series is scrutinised in the context of the development of lifestyle television in Australia and the broader societal shift towards lifestyles as ways of living which are consciously chosen rather than determined by tradition. This necessitates an investigation into the changing role food plays in contemporary industrialised societies. Food now functions as a significant factor in the production of identity. Choices made relating to what one eats and in what manner, can be indicative of one‟s aspirations and sense of self. This thesis argues that the desire for authentic food as mediated through culinary television is intrinsically linked to the need to experience connectedness and tradition, albeit vicariously.
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