Food Philosophy – You Got to Be Kidding!
If you’re not an avid reader of the Atlantic (or similar general interest magazines like the New Yorker) then you’ve undoubtedly missed both B.R. Meyers’ anti foodie argument/rant (in a piece called, “The Moral Crusade Against Foodies – gluttony dressed up as foodie-ism is still gluttony”) and James McWilliams’ March 1st response entitled, “B. R. Myers and the Myth of ‘Sustainable’ Food“.
Both articles are entertaining and touch on highbrow food terms/concepts such as organic, locavore/local, slow food, food sustainability, etc. yet have the stench of pop sociology that would make David Brooks rage with anger (Brooks is the only popular writer that is objective enough to get non academic sociology correct). Heck, McWilliams even mentions Immanuel Kant and French philosopher Pierre Bourdieu – is he kidding (and this is coming from an ex-Philosophy major who was entrenched in circles which espoused theoretical bullshit on a consistent basis)? At the end of day here’s what both writers are saying: Meyers’ article condemns ”foodies” for being glutenous while McWilliams’ points out no one is correctly doing sustainable food.
Eat Like You’re Off the Boat!
My reply to the fancy writers above: eat like immigrants. Well, it wouldn’t hurt to ignore labels like “foodie”, “organic”, “local”, etc and turn off Anthony Bourdain’s cable TV show (do you know the dude grew up in Jersey; yup the same town I currently reside in). The aforementioned labels aren’t anything new (as my good friend Dr. K reminded me recently) and eating food that is made near one’s home is exactly what my Calabrian family has been doing for a couple of hundred years. They eat wild arugula and mushrooms from the forest, raise and slaughter their house guests (viz., pigs, goats, and chickens), and take a trip down to the sea to buy swordfish from the folk living in Bagnara Calabra. My family has no idea what a “foodie” is and why guys like Bourdain stuff their face like idiots on TV proclaiming Kuhnian paradigm shifts whenever their brain receives a novel transmission from their tongue.
What it means to eat well is to simply try and eat like people who have lived in the same spot for hundreds of years and come from a real food culture. You really can’t do this in the United States in a 1:1 fashion yet, but you can try hard hard and get pretty damn close. There are plenty of examples if you live near a large city; just go and spend some time in an ethnic neighborhood or ask first generations Indians, Koreans, Italians, etc. what they’re having for lunch and dinner. In New Jersey, for example, we have the third most diverse population in the United States (which is also coincidentally one of the healthiest compared to it’s American born population) and you’ll see that eating well is about eating simply; making the cuisine of your homeland, using the best ingredients you can find, and repeating the process everyday of your life (and if you’re an extremely thoughtful individual making sure you pass the food culture to your children).
While I like reading about food the discussion should never be on the level of ontology; that is to say, we eat, as humans, to sustain ourselves and gain a bit of pleasure (I’m with Bittman here). I eat well because, as I said above, I want to pass along one of the most pleasurable parts of human existence to my family and friends and, as any self confessed epicureal contrarian would argue, I am not a foodie.