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Eating tradition: Typical products, distinction and the myth of memory

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Typical food products today are much more than goods purchased just for taste; often they are bought to indulge symbolic or social behaviours. The concept of 'typicality' appeared well before designations of origin, in pre-industrial times, and was embodied in the goods that had a reputation in the European markets. Over time, these products have come to define deep-rooted relationships with the terroir in which they are made, becoming in this way an important part of the cultural heritage.

This paper uses the concept of 'typical' in a general sense to define a wide range of products that, in other scientific approaches as well as in the lexicon of other European experiences, are sometimes classified as heritage or traditional products. As foodstuffs, they can be described in various ways: local, regional, place-based, GI, authentic and farm products. In this article the concept of 'typical' is used as shorthand for a category that has been widely studied in the past. Like many other fashion goods, the purchase is often the result of decision making by consumers that reflects symbolic ideas rather than rational processes. These choices are numerous and varied, but given the irrational nature of consumer behaviour, they tend to be largely based on symbolic and abstract factors.

With Avatar products - which copy in some ways the 'original' ones - rather than the reality of a typical product, the consumer is offered an illusion in terms of communication and symbol. Such products are often reinvented and, at the same time, they can take on the signs and symbolic values of a so-called authentic typical product. This article presents theoretical reflections and empirical case studies showing that consuming typical products is often an expression of cultural consumption, rooted in a 'myth of memory'.
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Keywords: Designation of origin; Typical products; avatar products; invention of tradition; marketing of memory

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2018

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  • The half-yearly journal Global Environment: A Journal of History and Natural and Social Sciences acts as a forum and echo chamber for ongoing studies on the environment and world history, with special focus on modern and contemporary topics. Our intent is to gather and stimulate scholarship that, despite a diversity of approaches and themes, shares an environmental perspective on world history in its various facets, including economic development, social relations, production government, and international relations.
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