B.R Myers has written a very provocatice polemic in this month’s Atlantic. You should check it out if you haven’t.
The gist of Myers’ argument is that foodie culture has gone too far.
More specifically, he contends foodie-ism:
- Celebrates gluttony.
- Is elitist. Myers contends that the gourmet has always celebrating in a form of eating that the “mainstream cannot afford.” This means foodies celebrate eating rare – even endangered things and take pleasure in arcane details about food’s provenance (think Michael Pollan).
- Reveres strange – inconsequential – things.
- Disparages dietary restrictions (especially cultural/religious ones)
- AND…that food writing is basically hyperbole-laden bullshit.
As with many polemics, Myers’ argument has credibility because there are grains of truth in the above.
Go check a food blog near you. You might find celebration of gluttony, a mildly elitist slant, and/or an exaltation of a cheese sauce couched in terms usually reserved for the divine.
Point is, Myers has a point - though one made with extreme examples that makes sweeping statements based on these (another feature of all good polemics).
But Myers’ anti-foodie rant fails to account for some of the great things foodie culture has done.
- Foodie culture has played a role in bridging cultural divides. As the world grows smaller, foodies’ obsession with trying new foods has served to bring hitherto foreign entities together. This is not a bad thing.
- Foodie culture – specifically the locavore/”need to know provenance” segment – has raised awareness about dangerous eating and food production. OK, it may be annoying to listen to someone drone on about needing to know what a cow’s childhood was like and what the name of the farmer’s daughter is. But there’s no doubt that lesser versions of these foodie-tendencies have helped expose factory farming, the use of anti-biotics, and other nasty things. We believe this stuff is important and that much of the content from this segment of the foodie world is reasonable in its tone and argument (hopefully we are too).
- Food writing is a lark (at least for me). I don’t expect food writing to be lean prose a la Hemingway. Yes, some of it is turgid enough to induce vomitting, but if there were ever a realm for flights of verbal fancy would it not be this one? Simply put, Myers needs to chill a little and recognize food writing for what is (and is not).
Love to know what you think on this. Please add a comment!