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Gingersnap
02-18-2011, 11:46 AM
The Moral Crusade Against Foodies

Gluttony dressed up as foodie-ism is still gluttony.
By B. R. Myers

We have all dined with him in restaurants: the host who insists on calling his special friend out of the kitchen for some awkward small talk. The publishing industry also wants us to meet a few chefs, only these are in no hurry to get back to work. Anthony Bourdain’s new book, his 10th, is Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. In it he announces, in his trademark thuggish style, that “it is now time to make the idea of not cooking ‘un-cool’—and, in the harshest possible way short of physical brutality, drive that message home.” Having finished the book, I think I’d rather have absorbed a few punches and had the rest of the evening to myself. No more readable for being an artsier affair is chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir, Blood, Bones and Butter.

It’s quite something to go bare-handed up an animal’s ass … Its viscera came out with an easy tug; a small palmful of livery, bloody jewels that I tossed out into the yard.

Then there’s Kim Severson’s Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life, which is the kind of thing that passes for spiritual uplift in this set. “What blessed entity invented sugar and cacao pods and vanilla beans or figured out that salt can preserve and brighten anything?” And I thought I knew where that sentence was going. The flyleaf calls Spoon Fed “a testament to the wisdom that can be found in the kitchen.” Agreed.

To put aside these books after a few chapters is to feel a sense of liberation; it’s like stepping from a crowded, fetid restaurant into silence and fresh air. But only when writing such things for their own kind do so-called foodies truly let down their guard, which makes for some engrossing passages here and there. For insight too. The deeper an outsider ventures into this stuff, the clearer a unique community comes into view. In values, sense of humor, even childhood experience, its members are as similar to each other as they are different from everyone else.

For one thing, these people really do live to eat. Vogue’s restaurant critic, Jeffrey Steingarten, says he “spends the afternoon—or a week of afternoons—planning the perfect dinner of barbecued ribs or braised foie gras.” Michael Pollan boasts in The New York Times of his latest “36-Hour Dinner Party.” Similar schedules and priorities can be inferred from the work of other writers. These include a sort of milk-toast priest, anthologized in Best Food Writing 2010, who expounds unironically on the “ritual” of making the perfect slice:

The things involved must be few, so that their meaning is not diffused, and they must somehow assume a perceptible weight. They attain this partly from the reassurance that comes of being “just so,” and partly by already possessing the solidity of the absolutely familiar.

And when foodies talk of flying to Paris to buy cheese, to Vietnam to sample pho? They’re not joking about that either. Needless to say, no one shows much interest in literature or the arts—the real arts. When Marcel Proust’s name pops up, you know you’re just going to hear about that damned madeleine again.

It has always been crucial to the gourmet’s pleasure that he eat in ways the mainstream cannot afford. For hundreds of years this meant consuming enormous quantities of meat. That of animals that had been whipped to death was more highly valued for centuries, in the belief that pain and trauma enhanced taste. “A true gastronome,” according to a British dining manual of the time, “is as insensible to suffering as is a conqueror.” But for the past several decades, factory farms have made meat ever cheaper and—as the excellent book The CAFO [Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations] Reader makes clear—the pain and trauma are thrown in for free. The contemporary gourmet reacts by voicing an ever-stronger preference for free-range meats from small local farms. He even claims to believe that well-treated animals taste better, though his heart isn’t really in it. Steingarten tells of watching four people hold down a struggling, groaning pig for a full 20 minutes as it bled to death for his dinner. He calls the animal “a filthy beast deserving its fate.”

Even if gourmets’ rejection of factory farms and fast food is largely motivated by their traditional elitism, it has left them, for the first time in the history of their community, feeling more moral, spiritual even, than the man on the street. Food writing reflects the change. Since the late 1990s, the guilty smirkiness that once marked its default style has been losing ever more ground to pomposity and sermonizing. References to cooks as “gods,” to restaurants as “temples,” to biting into “heaven,” etc., used to be meant as jokes, even if the compulsive recourse to religious language always betrayed a certain guilt about the stomach-driven life. Now the equation of eating with worship is often made with a straight face. The mood at a dinner table depends on the quality of food served; if culinary perfection is achieved, the meal becomes downright holy—as we learned from Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006), in which a pork dinner is described as feeling “like a ceremony … a secular seder.”

Oh my, is this essay is good! The author is right: gluttony is just gluttony no matter how you dress it up. Liking good cooking is one thing, equating culinary skill with art, sex, philosophy, or religion is ridiculous.

The Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/print/2011/03/the-moral-crusade-against-foodies/8370/)

noonwitch
02-18-2011, 01:30 PM
I am really into cooking food, but I wouldn't consider myself a foodie. I can't afford to be picky about whether the animal felt pain before becoming meat, and I can't afford organic veggies.

The article is funny because the foodies who are really snobbish about things like imported french cheese or whatever are just as uppity as the people who won't watch funny movies because they are "lowbrow". Or who won't buy cheap clothes to wear around the house because they only want "quality".

I am somewhat spiritual about food, but not the way the article describes foodies as being. I feel that God gave me the ability to cook/bake, and that I should share the food I make with others.

Madisonian
02-18-2011, 01:34 PM
Liking good cooking is one thing, equating culinary skill with art, sex, philosophy, or religion is ridiculous.


You have obviously never had properly prepared yak or you would never make such an unfounded statement.:cool:

Novaheart
02-18-2011, 01:38 PM
You have obviously never had properly prepared yak or you would never make such an unfounded statement.:cool:

My old best friend's mom is Filipino. I learned to avoid anything in her kitchen resembling stew or soup.

Gingersnap
02-18-2011, 01:51 PM
You have obviously never had properly prepared yak or you would never make such an unfounded statement.:cool:

I'm pretty sure eating yak is against my religion outside of survival situations.

Madisonian
02-18-2011, 01:58 PM
I'm pretty sure eating yak is against my religion outside of survival situations.

So in the right circumstances you would agree that yak is better than sex.:p

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnHmskwqCCQ

Gingersnap
02-18-2011, 02:01 PM
So in the right circumstances you would agree that yak is better than sex.:p


God willing, I'll never know. :p

megimoo
02-18-2011, 02:17 PM
I'm pretty sure eating yak is against my religion outside of survival situations.What are the differences between a 'foodie' and a true gourmand. .Would you consider someone like Escoffier a glutton or the La Ligue des Gourmands as 'foodies'?

megimoo
02-18-2011, 02:19 PM
I'm pretty sure eating yak is against my religion outside of survival situations.Ask Jonsie, he's been in 'Yak' country !

noonwitch
02-18-2011, 03:12 PM
My old best friend's mom is Filipino. I learned to avoid anything in her kitchen resembling stew or soup.

I'll bet she did wonders with the embryonic chicken thing. What is it called? Baluts? Something like that.

Odysseus
02-18-2011, 08:40 PM
I'm pretty sure eating yak is against my religion outside of survival situations.
Yak is actually not bad. It's just buffalo.

So in the right circumstances you would agree that yak is better than sex.:p

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnHmskwqCCQ

That would depend on the yak, and whether or not we had a deep emotional commitment. :D

Gingersnap
02-18-2011, 08:58 PM
Buff tastes like buff, I have half a freezer full of buff. Yak is foreign.

Back on topic: I watch a few food shows and the insufferable attitude most chefs have is highly annoying. My religion doesn't involve worshiping food items. I've killed my share of game and chickens and I hope to make it as quick as possible but I don't have a spiritual relationship with food.

I also don't have an elitist attitude about food. I grow a lot of organic produce but I know for a pure fact that my produce isn't magically more nutritious than conventional produce; it's just a productive hobby. I cook from scratch but I'm a picky eater and it's cheaper. ;)

Rockntractor
02-18-2011, 09:06 PM
Once you've had yak you'll never go back!