Law, Food, and Race: The Whiteness of French Food

Food is central to French identity. So too is the denial that racial differences exist and matter. Both tenets are central to the nation’s self-definition, making them difficult, yet all the more important to think about together. This paper purports to identify a form of French food whiteness, that is, the use of food and eating practices to reify and reinforce whiteness as the dominant racial identity. It develops three case studies of how law elevates a fiction of homogeneous French/white food as superior and normative at the expense of alternative ways of eating and their eaters—the law of geographical indications, school lunches, and cultural heritage law. Though it focuses on France, the argument has bearing on the broader understanding of food law as a form of racial regulation in other regions. The whiteness of French food is at work internally as a mode of production of racial difference and inequalities, but also internationally due to French cuisine’s elite status.