The Right To Eat

Not even going to provide commentary but urge you to read this piece on India’s struggles with hunger. It is amazing (oh wait now I am commenting oh well) how ideology humps itself in there on questions of morality–do we let the market play a role, what can government do, etc. That happens here, too, of course. Earlier this summer I tried to pay for a ferry ticket with a $20 bill, which the ferry guy refused, telling me it was counterfeit. This struck me as supremely absurd. Isn’t money in general just an elaborate charade? If he had accepted the $20, then used it to pay someone else, would it have made any difference? It’s not magic paper, it’s just a mutually-agreed-upon fantasy symbol. Mostly I feel like I think we should just do away with it altogether. Start over with a clean slate. But first, let’s feed everyone.

Meat is the New Spa

It makes me happy that a story about “paddock to plate” practices in Australia and how you can have a fun foodie vacation there was written by someone named Leah Greengarten. It almost keeps me from grinding my teeth when she quotes a chef who says: “Our customers really like the journey we are taking them on, as it’s as wholesome as it can be.” If you go there on your Australian vacation, it’s a bonus journey within a journey!

But I cannot ignore that one of the things she mentions is a $770 butcher class. There is probably a 20-syllable German word that means “travel to the other side of the world to spend tons of money doing what Sam the Butcher on the Brady Bunch did every day before you go back to your desk job,” and I wish I knew it. How is that even a vacation?  Nothing sounds less relaxing to me after a 21-hour flight than learning the “ins and outs of cutting and utilising a pig, from nose to tail, including making sausages, slow roasted pork belly in the wood-fired oven, pigs trotter and potato pie and pig’s head terrine.” Massages are so over.


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.