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Comptes rendus

Marc Jacobs and Peter Scholliers (ed.), Eating out in Europe: picnics, gourmet dining and snacks since the late eighteenth century

Oxford, UK: Berg, 2003, 411 p.
Jannike W. Hegnes

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1Is there a connection between coarse bread eaten during harvesting in 1840, a cordial meal at a Berner Inn in 1870, the robust food of a factory’s canteen in 1900, a sophisticated dinner at a three-star restaurant in 1950, and a hamburger consumed outside a school gate in 1990 (p. 1)? They are all examples of meals eaten outside the home, in Europe, during the last to centuries. In the book Eating Out in Europe the editors Marc Jacobs and Peter Scholliers want to give an overview and to demonstrate the interconnectedness between distinct forms of eating out, and the transition this phenomenon have underwent the last two hundred years. The book is based on 21 papers, originally written to the 7th colloquium held by The International Commission for Research into European Food History (ICREFH).  

2The book is organized into two parts, each divided into three sections. In the first part called Customs in Common, the main focus is eating out before the diffusion of restaurants, focusing on meals taken in the open air, inn Inns and at Public houses. The essays show a slow adoption of new forms of modern organization and preparing, serving and consuming meals outside the house. The second part, called New Places, Choices and Tastes, explores the rise of modern forms of eating out, from the late eighteenth century and up till today. Among others it consists of studies of expensive restaurants, canteens and the fast-food industry.  

3Part one starts with the subtitle Meals in the open Air, a section under which three authors study different forms of eating out doors. John Burnett writes about eating in the open air in England in the period from 1830 to 1914, making a point of the distinction between eating in the open air in connection with work and in connection with leisure. Alexander Fenton studies how the Scottish Harvest Food gradual changed and Eszter Kisbán writes about the changing eating habits of Country Folk in Hungary from 1760 to 1960.

4The next subtitle is Up, Down and (Drinking and eating) Out, where moral is a central team. Beat Kümin deals with the dining culture in early modern inns. He also challenges the established sharp line between modern restaurants and earlier establishments, arguing that the modern restaurant is the result of a gradual change. Christoph Guggenbühl analyses the social perception of the Public House in Switzerland in the Nineteenth – and early Twentieth- century. Oliver Haid explains how a Beer- drinking culture developed in a traditional wine- producing area, in Meran in South Tyrol, stressing the influence of tourism. Maja Godina-Golija points to the connection between growing industrialization, urbanization and a variety of novelties in food consumption outside the home in Slovene, at the beginning of the Twentieth-century.

5The last subtitle in part one is Customs of Continuity and Change. Here Julia Csergo writes about the picnic in Nineteenth- century France, using a semantic approach. She studies the emergence of the term and its semantic evolution. Marc Jacobs discusses different free dinner and drinking situation, claiming that many customs involving trick or treat aspects show family resemblance. Virginie Amilien studies the gap between elitist and popular culinary culture in Norway, looking at the rise of restaurants. She points to the paradox of the low frequency of eating out in Norway (in comparison with other European countries) and the high focus on eating out in the media.

6Part to (New Places, Choices and Tastes) starts with Getting hold of Gastronomy: languages and tastes. In this part the culinary discourse, especially represented by the written word, is the central theme. Karin Becker uses novels as a source to write about luxury eating in the nineteenth century France. Alain Drouard studies the change in French cooks social position. Using the The British Good Food Guide, Alan Warde studies the guide’s influence on the British restaurants in the period from 1951-2001. At last Stephen Mennell interprets the main stages of gastronomy, using Habermas model of the development of the public sphere.

7The next section is Creating Semi-public Places and Endless Choice: Restaurants of All Types. Here Adel P. den Hartog investigates the technological basis and processes that sustain and encourage the development of eating out. The chapter focuses on the underlying technological processes, like modern lighting and innovation techniques related to pre-cooked ingredients, foods and meals. Hans- Jürgen Teutebergs chapter investigates how the German catering trade developed during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Derek J. Oddy studies the ride of the Fast- food Industry in Twentieth-century Britain. While Aldri Albert de la Bruhèze and Anneke H. van Otterloo study the role of Snacks and the Snack Culture in the Netherlands in the same period.

8In the last section Diffusing public Places of Discipline: Canteens and Cafeterias eating at work and at school are the topics. Anne Lhuissier uses the investigation of the Le Play group, from the second half of the nineteenth century, to analyse the eating habits among urban labourers in France in this period. Ulrike Thoms writes about Industrial Canteens in Germany in the time from 1859-1950. She shows how the early canteens were meant to be an instrument of welfare policy; and how they changed into modern factory restaurants by the 1950. In the last essay Isabelle Téchoueyres studies the debate on the educational aspect of school meals in France, in the period from 1970 – 2001.

9In general the writing of food history is challenging, leaving limited traces in the archives. It is therefore a strength that the writers in this book come from a variety of disciplines including history, sociology, economy, geography, ethnology and anthropology. It has resulted in a wide approach to the theme of eating out. The different essays document many facets and conceptions of the phenomenon of eating outside the home, and the book has a broad perspective according to time, geography and setting of the meals. But do the editors really succeed in demonstrating interconnectedness between all the different examples? Actually this diversity represents both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand, covering a time period of two hundred years makes it possible to capture the big transition public dining has underwent, while case studies from different areas and countries illuminate a highly interesting geographical diversity. But on the other hand, the broad perspective makes any potential unity complicated. It is difficult to find any connection when the different essays concern peculiar case studies, covering small parts of space and time, particularly when some of the essay also cover several themes stretched over a long time period. But when we ask ourselves why some of the chapters are in the first part, when they just as well could have been placed in part to, the editors explain that other combinations are possible: new combination can offer new insight and, what is a major point, each chapter can stand alone.

10In spite of the structural incoherence, this book plays an important function by collecting the research on the theme of eating out. A name and place index also makes it a useful reference book. All in all it is a valuable addition to the research on food history.

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Electronic reference

Jannike W. Hegnes, « Marc Jacobs and Peter Scholliers (ed.), Eating out in Europe: picnics, gourmet dining and snacks since the late eighteenth century », Anthropology of food [Online], 4 | May 2005, Online since 01 May 2005, connection on 14 June 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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About the author

Jannike W. Hegnes

SIFO, Oslo.

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Anthropologie of food est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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