Food identity: The relationship between food and identity in Leung Ping-kwan’s literary works

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Perhaps the saying “You are what you eat” is most frequently quoted as far as the topic of food and identity is concerned. Does food really matter to the formation of identity? It seems no simple answer can satisfy this question. On one hand, critics such as Claude Fischler, David Bell and Gill Valentine (to name only a few) maintain that food plays a crucial role in the formation of identity. Alan Warde, on the other, denies the significance of food in the formation of it. Peter Scholliers, however, maintains that food does matter to the formation of identity, but in a less important way. In addition to the above suggestions, I suggest that food does matter to the formation of identity. Nevertheless, it is a different kind of identity. The identity formed by food is much more flexible and different from our other identities, i.e., national identity, cultural identity and so forth. Transgression, violation and subversion are accepted in the formation of food identity. These particular characteristics of food identity are barely discernible unless in a chaotic situation, for example, two groups of people who come from totally different cultural backgrounds confront with each other. Colonization is one example. The polarity between the colonialist and the colonized is in such an obvious way that any ambiguity in one’s identity (both national and cultural identities) will be at the risk of being accused of becoming a traitor. A study of the food identity of the colonized will find a total different story. Leung Ping-Kwan is one of the few poets and writers who often depict food in his literary works. Most of his food poems (“Foodscape”) were written before or on 1997, which means Hong Kong was still under British colonization. It is noteworthy that Leung’s food identity formed in those poems is rather ambiguous. The poet freely transgresses between the Chinese and British food culture, which completely violates the rules of being a colonized. Interestingly, Leung Ping-kwan’s food identity remains unchanged after 1997. The formation of his food identity after the handover is mainly depicted in his novel Postcolonial Affairs of Food and the Heart. The poet again can be considered as a transgressor, if not a “traitor”. In this piece of study, I will examine the formation of Leung Ping-kwan’s food identity and the characteristics of it through his poems “Foodscape” and his novel Postcolonial Affairs of Food and the Heart.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2011


Literary Works
Cultural Identity
National Identity
Postcolonial Novel
Food Culture
Hong Kong
Cultural Background


Au, C.-t. (2011, December). Food identity: The relationship between food and identity in Leung Ping-kwan’s literary works. Paper presented at the Legacies of Taste: An International Conference on Food Narratives in China, The University of Hong Kong, China.