What was Goulash Socialism and what came next?

Gastronomy of Late State Socialism and Post Socialism in Hungary,
Gábor Egry, Institute of Political History, Budapest


The lecture covers the topic of gastronomy as an object of discourse and means of social mobilization for various aims in post-communist East Central Europe. Gastronomy had a wide variety of meanings ranging from an ethnic marker and constructive element of national identity (national cuisine) to an instrument of social renewal in the repertoire of urban and rural eco movements. Although intricately connected to high culture in the form of haute cuisine and the notion of cooking as an art, new movements seek to infuse a wide segment of society with a reinvented idea of gastronomy and popular culture is an indispensable tool in this effort. Different channels of communication are used to distribute different layers of a broad idea of gastronomy renewal which is capable to attract diverse social groups from the nouveaux rich to the young bobos while drawing upon different notions of renewal (national, ecological, moral, philosophical etc.) 
The lecture will present the functions of gastronomy in post-communist societies and how the initial wave of mass consumption after the era of shortages was replaced by the idea of a new gastronomy. It will highlight how gastronomy is informed by ideas of nationhood and how it provides a common platform of social movements with different aims. Furthermore, illustrated with the case of Hungary it will also present how gastronomy can be a tool of politics of history with constructing a narrative of gastrohistory aligned with politically instrumentalized concepts of history.


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