Breaking Bread

The Roles of Taste in Colonialism

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It is no secret that colonialism has left an indelible mark on the foodways of many West African nations. Imported products like wheat and rice now flood the market leaving traditional grains struggling to stay afloat. Bread, a holdover from colonial times, is more popular than ever, its demand now extending beyond the major coastal cities and into the rural interior. Even a Europeanized breakfast now reigns in the sub-Saharan lands that barely produce any of the products needed to concoct it. What is less evident is the role that taste played in transition from old to new staples, past to present preferences. Wielding taste, at times in the manner of weaponry, colonizers marginalized natives by their palates. Often deeming men less than human until they partook of European foods and punishing children for avidly savoring their own African heritage, they used foodways as a means of control. But the subjugated populace, too, used food as a means of control. Following dietary law and clinging to ritual meals, they were able to salvage an identity, in some ways defying colonialism. Looking at the specific case of French colonial rule in Senegal, this paper investigates these roles of taste in colonialism with the intent of further honing the existing research.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2004

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