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Investigating the history of meanings of a dish

 

An enactivist approach to the life of the Russian salad in 20th century Bulgaria

ABSTRACT

This article investigates the history of the Russian salad and its meanings in Bulgaria during the 20th century: its raise and fall as a celebratory dish and its status of a culinary icon, first borrowed from fashionable Russian immigrants, then abandoned, allowing for the dish’s full incorporation in the local foodways. To explain the observed evolution, I experimentally apply a novel to food studies approach: the enactivist theory, developed lately by cognitive philosophers. I argue that its non-reductive naturalist framework may prove to be well tailored to capture so far elusive and important to food studies (and to social sciences in general) issues, such as the life of social practices and the role of the body in sense-making. Applying the enactivist approach to the case study of a history of meanings of a dish I demonstrate its potential to explain the autonomy (ability for self-regeneration) of historical processes of sense-making.

Keywords

Food history; Cultural history; Enactivism; Bulgaria; USSR, Russian salad