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Margaret Visser

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Margaret Visser
Born (1940-05-11) May 11, 1940 (age 84)
Occupation(s)writer, broadcaster, academic
Known forwidely cited expert on the etiquette of dining

Margaret Visser (born May 11, 1940) is a Canadian writer and broadcaster who lives in Toronto, Paris, and South West France. Her subject matter is the history, anthropology, and mythology of everyday life.


Born in South Africa, she attended school in Zambia, Zimbabwe, France (the Sorbonne) and the University of Toronto where she earned a PhD in Classics.

Visser taught Greek and Latin at York University in North York, Toronto for 18 years. For several years Visser regularly appeared on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's popular radio program Morningside in conversations with Peter Gzowski. Her writing has won many awards, including the Glenfiddich Award for Food Book of the Year in Britain in 1989, the International Association of Culinary Professionals' Literary Food Writing Award, and the Jane Grigson Award. Visser delivered the 2002 CBC Massey Lectures. Her topic was "Beyond Fate."[1]

Visser is married to Colin Visser, professor emeritus of the English Department of the University of Toronto.

In 2017, Visser's 1992 book, The Rituals of Dinner was re-issued, on her birthday, and The Guardian's review of it noted her wry humour.[2] The review noted "Twenty-five years after its first publication, Visser’s book remains a delightful guide to how we eat, and why it matters."

In 2018, the Washington Post cited Visser, on the etiquette of cannibalism, from her 1992 book on dining manners, The Rituals of Dinner, when reporting on the bizarre case of a California high school girl who claimed she served her classmates cookies that contained her grandfather's ashes.[3]

In September, 2019, Visser was one of the experts interviewed for a documentary on what recent archeological discoveries say about Mayan dining habits.[4]


  • Margaret Visser (1986). Much Depends on Dinner: The Extraordinary History and Mythology, Allure and Obsessions, Perils and Taboos, of an Ordinary Meal. Grove Press. ISBN 9781443403702. Retrieved 2019-09-19., OCLC 820146147
  • Margaret Visser (1992). The Rituals Of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities, and Meaning of Table Manners. HarperCollins. ISBN 9781443417327. Retrieved 2019-09-19.
  • Margaret Visser (2000). Geometry Of Love. HarperCollins. ISBN 9781443403696. Retrieved 2019-09-19.
  • Margaret Visser (2000). The Way We Are: Collected Essays. HarperCollins. ISBN 9781443403719. Retrieved 2019-09-19.
  • Margaret Visser (2002). Beyond Fate: CBC Massey lectures series. House of Anansi. ISBN 9780887846793. Retrieved 2019-09-19.
  • Margaret Visser (2008). The Gift of Thanks: The Roots and Rituals of Gratitude. HMH. ISBN 9780547428444. Retrieved 2019-09-19.


  1. ^ Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. "Beyond Fate". CBC Radio, Ideas. Retrieved December 20, 2015.
  2. ^ John Gallagher (2017-05-11). "The Rituals of Dinner by Margaret Visser review – why table manners matter". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019-09-19. With the wry humour that enlivens this book, she remarks: 'Nothing so unites us as gathering with one mind to murder someone we hate, unless it is coming together to share in a meal.'
  3. ^ Maura Judkis (2018-10-18). "A teen allegedly baked her grandfather's ashes into cookies — and fed them to classmates". Washington Post. Retrieved 2019-09-19. If the girl who baked her grandfather into the cookies ate one, this would make her an endocannibal — someone who eats the remains of a relative or fellow tribesperson. According to Margaret Visser's book "The Rituals of Dinner: The Origins, Evolution, Eccentricities and Meaning of Table Manners," endocannabalism has been practiced by ancient tribes throughout history, who "can, and indeed must, 'take in' the life essence of a dead fellow tribesman by eating him after he has died a natural death.
  4. ^ Hrag Vartanian (2019-09-03). "The History, Context, and Legacy of an Ancient Maya Plate: Four experts peel back the layers of history hidden in an object that people believe was once used to serve white venison tamales centuries ago". Hyperallergic. Retrieved 2019-09-19. In this episode, we talk to four experts in the field, Gardiner Museum educator and curator Siobhan Boyd, Metropolitan Museum curator James Doyle, cultural historian Margaret Visser, and Popti storyteller Maria Monteja to peel back the layers of history in this wondrous artifact from ancient times to learn about Maya traditions and culture through the lens of today.

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