The Truffle Fry Wars

We already noted the “truffle fry” incident from the now-infamous profile of M.I.A. by Lynn Hirschberg, but now apparently M.I.A. has upped the ante and posted audio that apparently proves that Hirschberg, not she, is the real foodie:

As the print magazine arrived this weekend, so did a new track blasting journalists, along with an audio clip from her interview with Lynn Hirschberg under the headline “War Crimes and French Fries.” Next to the audio clip, M.I.A. promised “the TRUFF” about whose idea it was to order truffle fries during a March interview.

While who selected the bourgeois-sounding snack doesn’t seem like such a big deal, it was one of the bits of color used by Hirschberg to paint M.I.A.-now married to Ben Bronfman, a Seagram’s heir-as more a figure of radical chic than a committed radical.

In the piece, Hirschberg wrote how M.I.A. “studied the menu, deciding on a glass of wine and French fries.” The Times writer later noted that the artist talked of wanting “to be an outsider,” while “eating a truffle-flavored French fry.”  However, the audio that M.IA. posted suggests that Hirschberg actually brought up the variety of French fries and placed the order, while also telling the singer to get whatever she wanted “because the New York Times is paying.”

Far be it from me to suggest that we’re catching on or anything. Food as status symbol is far from a new thing, although it does seem that lately it’s gotten beyond all reason. Still, I sort of love that in the war over M.I.A.’s credibility, the battlefield is french fries.

Do I lose my cred with you, Shut Up Foodies readers, if I tell you that I had dinner at a posh Williamsburg eatery that shall remain nameless recently? Or that I had bacon on my salad at lunch?

When the Home for the Range is a Mansion

Uhh, or something. One thing that makes me crazy is the way that, for many people, being a foodie is this socially-sanctioned form of conspicuous consumption. Like they get that it’s not cool right now (recession!) to be going out for crazy spendy meals every night or buying another Prada bag but it’s OK to blow thousands on cookware and Himalayan dandelion butter, because that’s nurturing and wholesome and part of being a food activist!

I get that the kitchn folks weren’t suggesting that their readers actually buy any of these obscenely expensive ranges but mostly appreciate them for how great-looking they are. (And they are gorgeous.) But this points up the way that so much foodie media falls into line with most other “lifestyle” media—the argument is that it’s supposed to be aspirational.

Aspirational is why people keep buying Martha Stewart and Men’s Health and watching the Food Channel even though they are never going to have washboard abs, faux bois hallways, or cook 7 straight nights of healthy, low-cost, quick, easy, delicious, and inspiring foods for their families. I get that we all need something to strive for, and I like a pretty picture as much as the next person but have you ever noticed the hamster wheel these images set you on? “Aspirational” might as well be “shopspirational”—you have to keep buying better cookware, going to newer restaurants, redoing the bathroom, and trying new workout regimens.

This is not a brilliant media insight. But when you combine the the narrative that you need to buy things to be a successful foodie with the pervasive implication that being a foodie is some kind of moral triumph, that it means you are evolved and sensual and in touch with the earth/yourself/several spices that lesser people have never heard of, then you can see how privilege and foodieism are linked in some uncomfortable ways.

As a brilliant friend of mine just said:

David Brooks (I KNOW) really did say it well in Bobos in Paradise — there is a segment of the populace who would never dream of flaunting designer labels on their clothes and who scorn mcmansions but they pour money into bathrooms and kitchens  — two private spaces in the home that involve the body — which they design not to look flashy but to be totally luxuriant, fetishy. It’s like the big trend for slate, everyone’s favorite fine-grained metamorphic rock. It’s earthy but expensive, it’s not shiny like granite, it has no sparkle. In kitchens, it’s not about appliances with tons of bells and whistles, but big bulky ones that look like they could be in restaurants, that make you feel like you could do anything a famous chef can do, but it’s GOOD to spend money on those things b/c you are CHERISHING and CARING for your hearth and family. It’s VIRTUOUS!

This blog isn’t about how foodies suck, or why foodies are bad. Hey, some of my best friends, etc. There are foodies who work in soup kitchens and food pantries and who are actively addressing food issues worldwide. I appreciate that so many are following us, even though we like to make fun of them, and I know we aren’t the first to raise some of these topics. But, in addition to how deeply funny foodies often are, they also offer us opportunities to talk about these things from time to time.