Accepted abstract - Creative Tastebuds Symposium 2021

Taste and sustainability - Why this combination?

Opinion paper

By Susanne Højlund, Department of Anthropology, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

The UN agenda of the Sustainability Development Goals has entered the so-called gastronomical field. This field is characterized by a new alliance between chefs, food producers, designers and academics (Matta 2018). Exactly this combination of knowledge, where craftmanship of cooking, innovation, the academic analysis and the creative thinking and communication go hand in hand has a potential to bring new perspectives to the debates on how to think, make and eat food for a sustainable future.

It is difficult to disagree on the aim of producing, using and eating in ways that take care of both body and planet (as recommended in the EAT-Lancet Commission). But in order to point to change of habits we need to know more about people’s relations to food. Food cannot speak for itself. Sustainability cannot either.

We need new approaches, new thought models to analyze the link between the two. In order to complement the moral advices of how we ought to eat better, it is necessary to explore and explain how people actually can make food a matter of sustainability. In this paper, I propose that we draw on understandings of taste, generated in the new gastronomical field.

In this approach, taste becomes the link between food and sustainability, as we then become able to analyze what people do to and with food, how they experience it, and how they form their lifestyle in relation to their food choices. It is exactly this ‘doing’ food practices that can be related to ideals of sustainability. Therefore, taste is a key analytical concept when we want to understand how people handle their food choices. But taste is an interdisciplinary concept that means different things for a chef, a scientist and a sociologist. We need to be aware of the many meanings of taste and their specific potentials (Hedegaard and Leer, 2017). Within the gastronomical field there are different approaches to taste:

From the chefs, we can learn how craftmanship of cooking and taste qualities of different foodstuffs are interwoven. From the scientists, we can investigate how taste molecules are developed in the food and experienced on the tounge and in our brain. From sociologists and anthropologists, we can get insights into people’s everyday concerns, habits and consumer choices. From designers and artists, we can focus on how to communicate, reflect on and challenge our research dissemination. The article will unfold how these approaches can help us develop (our thinking of) sustainable food practices.

Built on the concept behind Creative Tastebuds 2020, the work of the Taste for Life centre and the discussions at the Creative Tastebuds 2020 symposium, I explore and discuss the potentials of combining taste and sustainability, I argue for the relevance of this combination and present analytical themes to formulate it.


Matta, Raul (2018): Celebrity Chefs and the Limits of Playing Politics from the Kitchen. In: Dürrschmidt and Kautt (eds.): Globalized Eating Cultures. Mediatization and Mediation. Palgrave/Macmillan.

EAT-Lancet Commission (2019): Food, Planet, Health.

Hedegaard, L. and Leer, J. (2017): Perspektiver på smag. Sm