We invite you to read Volume 9 of the journal, which contains articles based on papers presented at the conference "Literary Map of Flavours: from Taste Culture to the Taste Industry" (2020).
The papers present, for the sake of convenience, interpretations offered by Lithuanian and European researchers, ranging from the importance of historical products for our identity to the analysis of different meals in literary texts, to taste as a value criterion. Taste has been chosen as a semantic code that helps delving deeper into literary history and cultural studies, gastropoetics, semiotics of the senses, and aesthetics.
Rimvydas Laužikas "À la Lituanienne: In Search of a Lithuanian Gastronomic Identity"
The nationality of food is related to specific cultural ideas and the relationships between these ideas and nationality concepts. The first mentions of a “national gastronomy” in the region are from the time of the Renaissance and Reformation (16th century). At this time, Lithuanian cuisine is described as more ordinary, less cultured, less sophisticated, more wild, natural, and, at the same time, healthier. The idea of the simplicity of Lithuanian cuisine developed with the focus on ethnographic Lithuanian cuisine of the Romantic period (19th century). Another idea of romantic gastronomic Lithuanianness was the use of natural ingredients in cuisine. Wild plants and hunting cuisine drove this trend. At the end of the 19th century, the idea of gastronomic Lithuanianness, inspired by Romanticism, had waned. The inclusion of “Lithuanian” in the name of a dish indicated exoticism (a brand in a purely technical sense). A narrower, ethnolinguistic narrative of Lithuanian culture emerged at the end of the 19th century. The gastronomic identity of this period marked the transformation of the existing multicultural gastronomic tradition of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) and its layers (mostly French), an adaptation to the intelligentsia’s tastes, and the evolvement of Lithuanian and ethnographic cuisine. After the Second World War, the idea of ethnolinguistic Lithuanianness was transformed by the principles of Soviet ideology, creating a phenomenon that maintained an external (pseudo) national form of culture acceptable to the Soviet system. During the Soviet era, the Lithuanian gastronomic identity was reduced to the dishes of poor peasant ethnographic cuisine (primarily potato-based dishes). The restoration of Lithuania’s independence at the end of the 20th century has created new opportunities for constructing a gastronomic culture and gastronomic identities. On the one hand, Lithuania is experiencing global gastronomic trends. On the other hand, ideas of historical identity are reviewed, reconstructed, and implemented. Notably, that narrow, ethnolinguistic and post-soviet gastronomic identity of poor peasant cuisine is also popular in contemporary Lithuania.
KEYWORDS: history of Lithuanian gastronomy; gastronomic identity; Renaissance; Romanticism; nationalism; Soviet era
Mārtiņš Laizāns "Dining with Faustus – (Dis)Taste in Translating the Gastronomical"
The novel Viltotais Fausts jeb Papildināta un pārlabota pavārgrāmata (Mock Faustus, or, The Corrected Complemented Cooking-Book), published in 1973 by the Latvian writer Marģers Zariņš (1910–1993), is arguably the first Latvian postmodern novel. As the title suggests, it is a reworking of the Faustian motif in a gastronomical manner. The reaction to the novel from critics and readers at the time of its publishing produced polemical attitudes. One of the more extreme remarks was that this novel should be translated into the Latvian language, pointing mostly to the linguistic challenges the reader must face. The text abounds in archaisms, neologisms, obscure dialectal idioms, expressions from other languages, etc. The majority of them are tied to gastronomy, resulting in a fictional amalgam of both Latvian and foreign cuisines. However, the gastronomical is further seasoned with a cornucopia of references from all fields of culture in many languages. Thus, it challenges the reader at the utmost level in terms of comprehensibility.
Although it has already been mentioned that Mock Faustus is a challenging read, even for the native Latvian reader, there are some translations of this novel into other languages. In this paper, I will focus on two translations – the Russian (1981) and English (1987) – and outline the specific challenges the translators had to face when dealing with a text with such complex linguistic and stylistic features. This includes the labyrinthine use of cultural references – in particular the gastronomical ones – around which the whole text of the novel is orbiting. I will also indicate how, in some cases, the translations completely change the cultural constellations of the source text. This reveals how the translators, like chefs, have to improvise when some of the ingredients of a dish (or, in this case, a text) are missing in the target culture.
KEYWORDS: gastropoetics; gastrotranslation; gastronovel; translation; translatability; Faustus; Marģers Zariņš
Svetlana Pogodina "Russian Food as an Identity Marker: Russian Periodicals in Latvia in 1920s and 1930s"
The present research is devoted to the problem of representation of Russian cuisine, or Russian food, as it is described in the Russian-language periodicals published in Latvia (Riga) in the 1920s and 1930s. For the purpose of this research, several Russian magazines and newspapers, namely Segodnya and Dlya Vas, were reviewed. Segodnya (“Today”, Russian: Сегодня) was a Russian-language newspaper published in Riga from 1919 to 1940. Segodnya had a comparatively well-developed network of foreign correspondents and offered its readers an extensive analysis of European affairs. The newspaper was widely available to Russian émigrés and was the most significant Russian newspaper with circulation outside of the USSR in the 1930s. Dlya Vas (“For You”, Russian: Для Вас) was a Russian-language magazine published in Riga from 1933 to 1940. Russian emigrant writers and journalists published their articles, memoires, and novels both in Segodnya and Dlya Vas. Their texts of different genres describe the shared atmosphere of Russian emigration. Russian authors/émigrés tried to preserve their national and cultural identity through mentions and descriptions of food and beverages. National cuisine is a part of national identity, which becomes more relevant and important in the context of emigration.
KEYWORDS: gastropoetics; cultural identity; Russian periodic; Latvia; national cuisine
Ojārs Lāms "Cheese on the Menu of Latvian Contemporary Migrants as a Sign of Intercultural Encounter: Texts by Alvils Bergs and Laima Muktupāvela"
In world cuisines, cheese can be found in many different types and forms. It is a popular item on our daily menu and is associated with regional, ethnic, and social identities, as can be gleaned from its wide range of prices and the varied palate. Traditional Latvian cuisine is not rich in cheese variety. Perhaps that is why cheese as an exotic token is sometimes used in literary texts to describe specific choices, contradictions, or conflict situations. In the contemporary Latvian migrant or intercultural narrative, cheese is becoming a widely used gastropoetic element. Cheese in literary texts forms a whole paradigm of situations through which social, emotional, experiential and identity aspects of migrants’ lives are revealed.
The paper provides a detailed analysis of two contemporary Latvian migrant texts – Šampinjonu derība. melnie balti ķeltos (The Mushroom Testament. The Black Balts among Celts, 2002), the debut novel by Laima Muktupāvela, a pioneering literary work on contemporary migration, and one of the latest examples – the text Divi stāsti par Barsu (Two Stories about Barça, 2018) by Alvils Bergs.
Both texts reflect different migration experiences; they are significantly different in terms of attitudes and construction. Focusing on the place of cheese in gastropoetics gives a new perspective on intercultural encounters and reveals the dynamics of change in the semiotic connotations of the cheese paradigm in Latvian migrant narratives.
KEYWORDS: gastropoetics; cheese; migrant literature; intercultural literature; Latvian contemporary novel; Laima Muktupāvela; Alvils Bergs
Manfredas Žvirgždas "Variations of the Poetics of Taste in Maironis’ Works"
In the works of Maironis, the primary models of many poetic genres of Lithuanian literary tradition may be recognised, as well as stereotypical self-images and the rules of alimentary code, which is related to the style of the author’s epoch and sociocultural context. Maironis, who was an exclusive public figure of his time, was acquainted with Western gourmet culture and was influenced by the pretentious customs of provincial nobility of the 19th century; however, by that time he was equally passionate about the emerging national cuisine as with the formation of a classical Lithuanian literary canon. The consumption of meals and drinks is linked with the significant moments of transformation, rites of initiation, and the calendar cycle of spiritual holidays in Maironis’s poetry; the poet was, in this sense, a true traditionalist. A sampling of well-prepared food is represented as the means of communication in the “epoch of banned books” (during the Russian Tsarist suppression), when other instruments of cultural education and intellectual dispute were very restricted. Maironis was a founder of a “higher style” in poetry, as well as the promoter of a “higher taste” in traditions and gastronomical etiquette within his private environment. He mentions “tasty health” in one of the most famous of his poems; this was the ideal classicist model of balance and harmonious existence. This article refers to some typical aspects of taste, as well as to the problems of alimentary morality and social distinctions between different types of national cuisine.
KEYWORDS: gastronomic; alimentary code; taste; Romanticism; Classicist world-view; consumption of food; nationalism
Ieva E. Kalniņa "Food as a Metaphor: A Long Poem about Milk by Imants Ziedonis"
For decades, the Latvian poet Imants Ziedonis (1933–2013) has exerted influence on and shaped public thought, shifting the point of focus in Latvian public thinking, drawing attention to forgotten aspects of Latvia’s history and reinventing them. During the Soviet period, Ziedonis maintained the idea of Latvian identity, the roots of Latvianness, and Latvian traditions. One of the works in which all of the aforementioned are perhaps the clearest expressed is A Long Poem about Milk (Poēma par pienu, 1977). The objective of the present article is to view how the “gastronomic” word “milk” functions in the work by Ziedonis when used in several metaphors (milk-world-view, “milk boy”, milk song, etc.), and what content (poetic message) has been included in the work by its author. The analysis uses the notion of a “seme”, used as an instrument to reveal the course of formation of the various meanings that the previously mentioned metaphors have.
KEYWORDS: Imants Ziedonis; A Long Poem about Milk; metaphor of milk; seme
Ieva Kalniņa "Breakfast in Valentīns Jakobsons’s Short Prose"
Latvian writer Valentīns Jakobsons (1922–2005) has published three collections of short prose – Brokastis zaļumos (Breakfast in the Greens, 1986), Brokastis ziemeļos (Breakfast in the North, 1992) and Brokastis pusnaktī (Breakfast at Midnight, 1995), which all have the word “breakfast” in the title. In Jakobson’s stories, breakfast holds a diverse role – in the titles of collections and stories, the name of the painting of Édouard Manet “The Luncheon on the Grass” is used and the breakfast time and dishes are described. In his stories, breakfast satisfies a person’s need for food, describes the historical and social situation in the Soviet time, and somewhat highlights gender differences in the depiction of this meal. While describing the traditions of eating breakfast in Siberian exile, the author of the article draws parallels with Varlam Shalamov’s Kolyma Tales.
Jakobson’s stories show that hopes for love, the restoration of self-esteem, deportation, relocation of an arrested and deported person to another correctional labor camp of strict regime, the beginning of a new life, all start with breakfast. The writer ironically reveals that the hope for a new beginning is an illusion; an individual in the Soviet social system cannot strive for change, but only survival.
KEYWORDS: breakfast; Latvian short prose; irony; the Soviet daily life; Siberian exile
Laura Laurušaitė "Starvation and Literature: Reading Lithuanian and Latvian Contemporary Novels"
The cataclysmic events in the Baltic states during and after the Second World War, such as the Holocaust, concentration camps, Siberian exile, etc. make hunger and famine a momentous topic in the Baltic works of literature: it has become so popular that it recently amounted to a rich body of Lithuanian and Latvian contemporary trauma narratives. Food researchers search the literature for phenomena related to satiety, i.e., gustatory experience. My debate will focus on food deprivation, low-calorie intake, malnutrition, and the corresponding physiological and psychological effects and reactions. How does the social, political, and psychological situation of a starving person deconstruct the accepted view of food? What is the relationship between starvation and femininity in the representations of trauma? Is it possible to adequately articulate starvation if neither the writer nor the reader has experienced it directly?
The paper is based on a few Lithuanian and Latvian modern literary accounts, namely Five Fingers (Pieci pirksti) by Māra Zālīte, Between the Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, In the Shadow of Wolves (Mano vardas – Marytė) by Alvydas Šlepikas, Darkness and Company (Tamsa ir partneriai) by Sigitas Parulskis, and The Beautiful Ones (Skaistās) by Inga Gaile. My interest in focusing on these texts is determined by the capacity of a literary text to capture ethical debates expressing the relationship between life and death, the individual body and power, and the edible and non-edible. By proposing a comparative trajectory and using structuralist research tools, I will trace the problematic depictions of starvation in Lithuanian and Latvian literary works and highlight the anti-cultural meanings that it acquires.
KEYWORDS: famine; hunger; starvation; Lithuanian literature; Latvian literature; omnivore paradox; gusteme; culinary triangle
Dainius Vaitiekūnas "Semiotics and Literary Taste: The Case of Julius Greimas"
Semiotician Algirdas Julius Greimas is known to have analysed a variety of literary texts: poetry and prose, Lithuanian and world literature. His literary criticism was also characterised by a great variety of descriptive texts, reminiscent of their evaluations, which have left a clear mark on Lithuanian literary criticism. A wide variety of literary examples are mentioned in his conversations, letters and other texts. This paper considers the issues of Greimas’s literary taste by defining the outline of his implied anthology of personal works and highlighting its most important moments, patterns, and the principles of its selection. The aim is to consider the relationship between semiotics and literary taste based on these data. Greimas’s essay “On Imperfection”, in which fundamental questions of aesthetic survival were raised, was chosen as the starting point for such reflections.
KEYWORDS: Algirdas Julius Greimas; semiotics; Lithuanian literary criticism; literary taste; artistic value
Edlira Macaj, Marisa Kërbizi "Preserving the “Taste”1 of Cities in Albanian Literature of the 20th Century"
Writers are fond of intimate spaces, topoi (cities, places, homes), from which they can take many things. If we refer to works of Albanian literature in the 20th century, it is evident that many authors deal with particular places from different viewpoints, both in poetry and prose. These places embody typical poetics that shape writers’ emotional coverture and determine the peculiar identity of their artistic contribution. Thus, places are preserved in their literary experiences with a kind of a unique “taste”. The taste of a place (city, home, particular places) and how the writers preserve it in their literary memory are the main object of this paper. Taste manifestations will be examined by text analyses that also take into consideration the historical context, associating the line of argument with a philosophical and aesthetical interpretation.
Literary texts are often made famous due to how they evoke images of cities, made up of fragments full of colours, impressions, desires, rituals, refutations, love, fear, pride, etc.
Twentieth century Albanian literature has recorded a place-tasting literary process, which reveals each writer’s poetics. This discussion follows the line that as time goes by, even the taste process shifts from a traditional orientation toward a modern one, from a general perspective toward a personal one. Important cities like Shkodra, Tirana, Pogradec, Gjirokastra, etc., invigorate literature due to a specific connection between the writer and the place.
In conclusion, the city is not only a place where the writers cultivate their artistic identity; the writers also artistically preserve the lifelong “taste”of the city. Although the particular selection of cities and authors give a limited analysis of the whole panoramic view of “taste” on 20th century Albanian literature, this paper displays the most significant viewpoints regarding the preservation of taste.
KEYWORDS: Topos; “taste”; Albanian literature; 20th century; impact; preservation
Jūratė Jasaitytė "To Read Rilke: The Literary Taste in Contemporary Lithuanian Poetry"
This text investigates the relations between the literary taste and the reception of Rainer Maria Rilke (1875–1926) in Lithuania. Rilke’s reception extends to a century or even more, even if the exact date remains the cause of academic debates1. It is natural that over the years the attitude toward Rilke changed, as the generations of poets had changed too. They comprise admirers of Rilke’s works to (post)modern experimenters and sceptics.
The question of “literary taste” is to be considered as analogous to the question of the “readers’ taste”. These readers are also the poets. Therefore, the more correct question to orientate this text would be how do they read? The central focus is the reading experience, the circulation, and the articulation of the Rilke’s texts read within the last three decades (1990–2020).
The text is divided into two sections. The first section deals with those aspects of the reception of Rilke that are the most important and guiding in the present Lithuanian literary tradition. It elucidates why Rilke is so important a poet for Lithuanian authors, the impact of Heidegger’s text Wozu Dichter?, and the perspectives of literary taste. In the second section, examples from poems are presented and interpreted in order to accentuate the diversity of the literary taste of a certain Lithuanian poet.
KEYWORDS: Rilke; literary taste; reception; reading; Lithuania