Steak and Chips

In “Steak and Chips” Roland Barthes shows how steak is displayed to be a delicacy, and explains how it is a “basic element” in France (63). He compares steak to wine, by stating, “It is the heart of meat” (62). Like wine, compared to other alcoholic drinks, steak is higher quality; meat and viewed to be more elegant compared to other meats. It is portrayed to be a man’s food, and “whoever partakes of it assimilates a bull-like strength” (62). Barthes shows that steak resembles a strong, high standard food, setting the bar high for other edibles.

Barthes explains that eating steak rare is a symbol of nature and a moral of life. Back to the beginning of time, I imagine hunters and gatherers struggling to keep food on their tables.  The importance of meat-eating and the food chain go back many, many years and are an important part of nature and life. Also, the degree to which the steak is cooked is as important as well. An overcooked steak is leathery and chewy having an unappetizing and colorless appearance while a rare steak has a complementing color and texture. It is much more pleasing to the palate to enjoy a moist piece of steak that does not force one to chew and chew while getting pieces stuck between your teeth as an over-cooked piece of meat would.

In France steak is the most popular food, as a cheeseburger is in the United States. Barthes explains, “steak is in France a basic element, nationalized even more than socialized” (63). Steak and chips are not just found in some places around France or eaten by some of their citizens, but it is found throughout the entire country. France is the home to steak and chips which is a staple among the French citizens and the country will always be known for this meal.

In Indo-China, Barthes discuses, how a general ordered steak and chips. He shows that the general knew when he was not ordering his meal that steak and chips were not Indo-China’s common dish. Barthes states that “the General understood well our nation symbolism; he knew that la frite, are the alimentary sign of Frenchness” (64). Even though steak and chips are available in different countries, the meal is known for its French heritage. Barthes explains that steak is a “redeeming food,” showing that it makes up for what the other foods do not have (62).



One response »

  1. Michael K. Johnson says:

    You’re on the right track in the last paragraph when you quote Barthes on steak and chips as a symbol of Frenchness. It’s steak as a symbolic marker of national identity that you might emphasize earlier in the post as well. One way you might expand on Barthes’ essay is think about what foods in America serve similar symbolic purposes, and then look for advertisements that play up that connection between a particular food item and the concept of Americanness.

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