Friday, October 2, 2009

Selfish Food

He suggested that while it’s “very bourgeois” to constantly talk about food, it’s also very bourgeois to criticize people’s enjoyment of talking about food.

“I mean, I get it. I understand the douchy aspects, I really do, and your little super-artisanal South Brooklynite can make anyone want to kill themselves,” he said. “But if you have things that captivate your interest, then whatever. Go ahead and talk about 800 varieties of cheese, or be some asshole talking about how he kills pigs in his
own backyard. Go for it! Have a blast! It’s nothing to hate on.”

So perfect

Sometimes people just nail it right on the head and you can’t say it any better.

The above quote is from the very funny and spot on article exploring the yuppie New York City food obsession. My very cool and hip mother sent me this post; I bet she found it on her Twitter feed. Joe Pompeo of The New York Observer interviews 20s and 30s somethings from around the city to find out why they are no longer talking about important things like sex in favor of talking about other things with which they stuff their mouths.

And while the article is tongue-in-cheek about the cultural shift about eating, it also honestly exposes the selfish nature of our foodie and foodiot (exactly what you think) mentality. It is a critique of not only the stupid blogs like this one but also a more penetrating observation. The picture accompanying the article online is a photo of Boulud and Maccioni sitting at a classically French appointed dining table at Le Cirque. The caption reads: “Back when dining was fine, not ‘mine’: Daniel Boulud and Sirio Maccioni at Le Cirque in 1990.”

Food, like all good things, is better when enjoyed with others. But when we cut out people because they don’t like escolar or really enjoy a Big Mac, foodies fail. We food snobs of the world have an obligation to know better than to judge based on norms. I mean some of us cook and eat pig head. I think it is fair to say that seems kind of nasty. (It tastes pretty damn good though.) Then again some foodie type people I know have an obsession with Popeye’s Chicken...well just one and no, it isn’t me. You know who you are...

I suppose the quote with which I started this post sums it all up: Yeah it is smug to talk about your farm-to-plate mentality, but it is also smug to judge those who talk about it. But go deeper: This is about life-style and culture and class.

Over the last five years of so, people have started to spend significant sums of expendable income on food as entertainment, as cultural exploration and for bragging rights. It isn’t the first time this has happened in the United States. (If you want to learn more about that, head to your local library and pick up The United States of Arugula.)

But this time it isn’t just the rich doing it; it is the struggling artist who is paying for the artisanal cheeses and farm fresh lamb leg at the hip new place run by that chef we all know from somewhere. The food space is where the rich aren’t emulating the artist for cultural advancement; rather the artist is emulating the rich.

There are about a million problems with the way we eat in this country and even our new hip and earth friendly food mentality. But we can’t forget this is a class question. What and where we eat is 100% based on our class and how we choose to express it. We are lucky to have the option of terrine of pig head or Popeye’s chicken in this country. In reality the cost (not, the time of course) is pretty close. To say that you had a slow cooked meal with friends and family is not just a statement of fact, but a statement of values. These are class values: how we spend time, money and energy is always about how and where we see ourselves in the world.

We all have to eat and in reality we all should—and can—eat better. If we can remove the snobbery and some of the classist mentality associated with foodies, and their black sheep cousins the foodiots, we might be able to make a significant change in the way this country consumes. Until then, eating food from sources you know or taking in a well made localized meal at an independent restaurant will remain an elitist action.

Foodies of the world can unite to achieve great eats for all…or we can stay in our little clubs, talk to the same people and continue to isolate the good food experience. For all the talk of the slow food groups, the Pollans, Waters and all those suicide-inducing South Brooklynites, we are selfishly limiting the admission into our club based on the fact people don’t have the knowledge that can only be gained by being let in to the club.

While we can’t end the hate we see from the other side, foodies can do a better job of adding just one more place at the table and explain a few things without the air of snobbery that we all tend to fall into when talking about our meals. I think there are many people, Saint Tigerlily and The Boss especially, who do this exceptionally well.

We can all do better. So why not come over and we can talk about it. There is a great cheese shop near my place; I will get some of the reserve and we can discuss over wine.

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