Processed Modernity: Cooking Ingredients and the Materiality of Food


Processed foods

How to Cite

Ayora-Diaz, S. I. (2022). Processed Modernity: Cooking Ingredients and the Materiality of Food. Studia Alimentaria, 1(1), 13–35.


In this paper I examine the meanings and values articulated through the use of preserved and (ultra)processed foods in everyday cooking in Mérida, Yucatán. Most studies on the practices deployed in the kitchen have tended to focus on cooking instruments and appliances, as well as on the part played by cookbooks and other instruments in the reproduction of culinary knowledges and practices. In contrast, here I focus on the very ingredients used in by cooks, arguing that through their materiality and their aesthetics, cooking ingredients contribute to the objectification of local values. The choice of ingredients by one or another cook expresses values such as “modern” and cosmopolitan, and simultaneously support claims of “authenticity” and “tradition,” and thus are lived as constitutive of regional identity. The use of preserved and processed foods is a common practice in Yucatán’s domestic and restaurant kitchens, which, as elsewhere, has historical grounds. There have been in the city of Mérida, since the turn of the twentieth century, industrial plants making beer, cookies and crackers, vegetable oils, soda drinks, chili pepper sauces, and recados (different pastes of spices). More recently, local industries have begun to package local dishes to sell them frozen, canned or vacuum-packed in plastic containers. I argue that these ingredients are important in transforming the local taste of and for Yucatecan food, and that, as objects that receive and give meaning to regional culinary culture, they become an important locus for the discursive and praxis-based negotiations of local forms of “modernity.”


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Copyright (c) 2022 Steffan Igor Ayora-Diaz