Canteen in the Era of the “Reform”. Lunchtime in a Large Public Company in France in the 1990s

By Marie-Line Jamard

In the mid-1990s, in a context of important reorganization, an ethnographic survey was interested in feeding patterns on the workplace at EDF-GDF (producing electricity and natural gas), especially in lunchtime. Be they at the refectory, at the canteen or at the office, the analysis of food practices away from home captures what people make, in practical use, of their 35-minute lunch break. The refectory was historically a stronghold of working class identity. Despite the tensions born of the standardization process of the lunch break, eating at the staff canteen remained the practice of the majority, men and women alike. Meals could also be taken in the office or in the refectory, the first being more feminine than the second. Beyond the different ways to use this time, which varied significantly between sexes, the same logic prevailed, that to escape or at least circumvent the constraints built into the system of dependency and domination in which everyone find themselves.

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