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!®