Terroir and cultural identity


  • Brent A. Hammer PhD Graduate, University of Alberta




The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between terroir and cultural identity to illustrate that the concept is being employed as a means to reconnect people to the land or an ancestral heritage. The rapid pace of globalization has created a disconnect between identity and the land for many people. If it is true that 99% of human history has been spent as hunter-gathers, it is fair to say that we have a strong connection to the land as a sense of place
in direct relation to food procurement. We know we can´t go back to being hunter-gathers, but it doesn´t mean we can´t seek out or desire a connection to the land or an ancestral heritage. This connection can be represented by the concept of terroir. To synthesize the various defi nitions of terroir, it is important to explore the historical origins of the term. A philosophical view establishes that the concept of terroir exists as a separate experience to be refl ected upon independent
from the sensory experience produced by eating or drinking a food product. A selection of essays and articles are presented to illustrate that the human or cultural component is the most important factor in considering the role of terroir in shaping or creating identity at ethnic, national, regional, and individual levels. Whether one simply believes the concept is being used as a marketing gimmick or that it resonates with our identities, terroir does exist in relating place, time
and people to the production, consumption, and epistemolog y of our modern foodways.