Urban Homesteading!

A friend sent me a link to this tirade about “foodies” in the Atlantic recently. I get the point, but the piece is so full of strawmen, surmise, and hyperbole that it robs itself of any real impact. I guess that’s not surprising, since The Atlantic continues to employ embarrassingly sloppy corporatist hack extraordinaire Megan McArdle as their Business and Economics editor. She’s so bad that she actually almost cancels out the brilliance of Ta-Nehisi Coates. Evidently they envy the New Republic’s plummet into ignominy and uselessness and are keen to follow.

I remember being in China with a group from college for six weeks; at the time I was a vegetarian and couldn’t get over the nerve of the so-called carnivores who would recoil in horror at half the dishes put before them. That squeamish hypocrisy is absolutely a legitimate target for scorn and mockery. Plus, they ate all our broccoli and tofu because beef tendon? Eeeeew! And pompous, bombastic gluttons like Jeffrey Steingarten are just that. (Also, if he needs a week of afternoons to plan to make ribs, dude is as out of his depth as McMegan).

I saw Bourdain last fall when he came to town and he did not say that Jews should man up and eat pork when they’re on vacation and someone offers it to them. He said that we should do our best to be ambassadors for our country when we travel, and that being picky and high-maintenance can come off as extremely rude in some cases because cultures care about and identify deeply with their food. Sharing food is a fundamental human exchange, and bleating apologetically about how you don’t like eggplant or how liver is gross just makes you look like an asshole. And some countries can be more challenging than others; when I lived in France, still a vegetarian, I got thrown out of a restaurant in Paris with my Mother because I asked politely and in very good French if it would be possible to order à la carte instead of eating the prix-fixe menu which included main courses of only meat. “Foutez le camp!” the waiter explained to us helpfully. This was shortly after I lived the better part of two years in Italy with nary a hint of friction. Wherever I went, I always tried to make sure that my dietary choices were my problem. It usually worked fine.

Going after egregious food snobs and gluttons is fine, but to include by extension the widespread attempts by regular people to produce and/or connect with their food is unfair. And would it have been so hard to make the piece funny? Gardening, curing, pickling, canning, and building sustainable local and regional food systems are noble and important, especially given the impending apocalypse. I helped kill and butcher a pig, and it was a valuable experience. Wealthy snobs and the novelty-craving media drive these trends right off the absurdity cliff but if the result is more people thinking about what and how they eat and making better choices then that’s OK by me. Such broad-brush (and humorless) generalizing is just obnoxious. It’s like me saying that because some Koch-whore magazine editors earn a living by enthusiastically fellating their glibertarian masters at the expense of simple facts and basic journalistic ethics that all people associated with such a publication must necessarily type in time to the gentle, rhythmic slapping of John Galt’s balls on their chins.

Can you tell I’m having a day? It’s funny, because the bacon tarts are all blownsed up on the interwebs and that post has gotten a zillion hits. This should take care of that.

Speaking of assholes, check this out. Honestly, this is bad enough, but to do it right on the heels of Sarah Palin® trying the same thing with her name? Beyond the abject tastlessness of the move, that’s just terrible timing. Yes, let’s all endeavor to imitate Monsanto in our own special little ways. That’s the way to a better world.

I urge all of you with food blogs to use the phrase “Urban Homesteading” as much as possible in the coming months. I’m also registering “What would Monsanto do?” and printing T-shirts. If I see that phrase on your blogs, I’m suing you.

Also, URBAN HOMESTEADING. Also!®

23 comments to Urban Homesteading!

  • You are one sexy badass, my friend. I mean, in a totally cerebral, platonic way.

    • theinvisible

      “It’s like me saying that because some Koch-whore magazine editors earn a living by enthusiastically fellating their glibertarian masters at the expense of simple facts and basic journalistic ethics that all people associated with such a publication must necessarily type in time to the gentle, rhythmic slapping of John Galt’s balls on their chins.”

      The best paragraph ever written in the history of humankind. In my humble opinion, of course.

  • heather is on to something… great post.

  • El

    Oh wow. But how do you really feel Peter? Oh and yeah maybe it’s my own squeamishness but I was sipping coffee when I read the ball-slapping. Quite the howl, but now my lap is full of coffee.

  • You rock like Grandma’s favorite chair!

    I see valid points in the anti-foodie movement. I understand where articles like that come from (sort of). A year ago I wrote a blog about how I learned that Accomack County is the fattest county in Virginia. I vacation in Accomack every summer. There are farm stands everywhere and fresh seafood can be plucked easily from the local waters. Yet it’s the fattest county in VA. I have also seen some pretty grim poverty in that area, so clearly there are issues getting all of that good fresh food to those who need it most. I get the accusations of elitism.

    But that article was horrid and over the top and poorly written. The author just seemed to be using 3-dollar words as some kind of masturbatory aid. I read it twice (both times were painful) and I still couldn’t quite fathon what it was all about (if you eat foie gras you are morally obliged to eat a tortured cat or something?) I have a college degree and consider myself pretty literate and I still couldn’t make heads or tails of that pretentious writing.

    “Hello, Foodies? This is Megan McArdle. Just called to tell you you’re black.”

  • The real tragedy of the Atlantic article is how poorly it’s written. It should have been half that length and with a single, meaningful point. Because I’m just not sure what they’re trying to say. Foodies are good? Bad?

    I’m a vegetarian and my biggest complaint is about the omnivores who just can’t handle knowing the process that must occur for them to have their bacon. And certainly the ones who recoil at the mere sight of a bone on their plate. But I laugh heartily and the indignation they have for the animals that other cultures eat. As if there is some magical order of worthiness in the animal world.

    I am reminded of that wonderful old episode of Tales from the Crypt where they serve human steaks in a restaurant and the customers just rave about how wonderful they are.

  • Peter

    Blanche: Suuuuuuure you do.

    Claudia: You’ll “like” anything with balls in it.

    El: I’m sorry. I should have put a No Hot Beverages advisory at the top.

    Rachel: Sure, but it’s a slovenly piece that makes exactly zero cogent points except for the unintentional meta-point that sloppy thinking and sloppy writing make the world a stupider place. Now there’s a phrase worth trademarking. Are you listening, Atlantic?

    Lesley: I’m as confused as you are. But it’s in a magazine, so that means we’re stupid. Thanks for commenting.

  • If only Anthony Bourdain hadn’t also trademarked his “thuggish style”. I was thinking of going for that one myself.

  • You don’t ever hold back, and I really appreciate that. Great, great post.

  • One word for these Devraes people: Douchesteading. May the ghosts of Helen and Scott Nearing canker their vegetables.

    I met Bourdain several years ago when he rolled through Miami. I approached him with a big smile and said, “Hi, I’m from the Hezbollah wing of the vegetarians” – thus he referred to vegans in Kitchen Confidential – “and I just wanted to say that I really admire your writing.”

    He paused. “Bacon,” he answered. “You know you want it.”

    “Please enjoy it for me.” Bourdain is okay in my book.

    As for the Atlantic article, it seems that the author is passing off rhetorical excesses in foodie writing as moral rather than literary failures. That they sometimes read like bad erotica is failure enough.

  • Sharon Miro

    My My My..I cannot even think of words to describe how delicious this whole article is…for a painter, you can turn a phrase pretty damn good.

    The Dervaes are about two miles from me, I can run by and bad vibe their garden for us all, but that would be lowerng my standards to their level.

    And, am I the only one that noticed their “church” status, and why they chose that over a regular 501 3c?

    PS: I already trademarked Also!

  • Just found your blog through Punk Domestics. You have a new fan. Thanks for writing this. You said everything I wanted to say about that Atlantic article, but now I don’t have to go through the effort of doing it myself. Wouldn’t have been nearly so entertaining as this anyway.

  • Why don’t you always write like this? I might come by and leave comments. ;)

  • [...] a great response here (plus a comment on the crazy Dervaes Urban Homesteading thing) by Peter on Cookblog: “Going after egregious food snobs and gluttons is fine, but to include by extension the [...]

  • Peter

    Christine: Cognitive thugs?

    Julia: What’s the point in holding back?

    Franklin: He’s also the first person to cop to his own hypocrisy- to great comic effect- so he makes a bad target for this kind of criticism.

    Sharon: Damn ! That was going to be my meal ticket.

  • Peter

    Damn phone.

    Jenny: Thanks for coming by to say so. I should do this sort of thing more often.

    CC: I knew you’d come out of the woodwork for this one.

  • There is plenty to laugh about with the food-obsessed – we are in many ways laughable. But at least we know it and embrace it. Seems to me the article was exaggerating for effect – but missed the target. Glad you called them on it.

  • mister peter man you have so hit that proverbial rail on the head again. so glad to see your feathers ruffled and shimmering out bloggedly loud. so now I get to rant, okeydoke? I mean, gaw-lee: that Atlantic writer, if I can call it that, and I mean it, really is just as oafish and sanctimonious and little-souled as it complains about the ‘oodies ‘eing. Into the stinky stew pot of dingbat germalism you go, oh corporatatious mag writer with a bad attitude and a misguided sense of mission, and a shrill whine I could bottle and pour down the drain.

  • Oh my god, I LOVED this!!!!

  • Gah!!! I just clicked on the link about the Dervaeses! What the fuck?? How lame. We used to live quite near them. I’ll make sure to post an “Urban Homesteading” post! Since that’s what I’m trying to do!!

  • Peter

    That’s the idea. I’m going to add Urban Homesteading as a category here.

  • [...] represents “the great clash that now reverberates through American culture?” Holy shit. I thought that Atlantic anti-foodie screed was bad, but this is the single stupidest thing I have ever read in or on the New York Times (which [...]

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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