Trigger warning: This post is all judge-y. If you’re a sensitive food-obsessed person, you should probably move on.
I don’t know about you all, but I loathe the term “foodie” to a degree that almost provokes me to violence. Okay, that’s extreme, but it really sets my teeth on edge. Hey, I love food as much as the next person, but when people start to elevate it to something akin to fine art, I get annoyed.
In a New York Times article, entitled Pure Food – the Status Symbol of the Decade, Barbara Kafka, food consultant and cookbook author says: ”The food you purchase is a reflection of your position in society. It’s a way to upgrade the image of yourself. It’s a class thing and has a lot to do with upward social mobility.”
And that, in a nutshell, is it. Do you think this is a modern phenomenon? Hell, no! In ancient Rome the wealthy could eat meat and vegetables while the poor ate almost entirely cereals, and only meat and vegetables when they could afford it. It would be possible to delineate social class by food going back, I’m sure, to prehistoric times. Though I imagine it wasn’t wealth then, but fittest and strongest. We haven’t really changed much, just our perception of what constitutes “superior human”.
In fact, it could be argued, and has, that food – the searching for, collecting, growing, desire for – is the foundation of human evolution, for better or for worse. In Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat’s excellent, excellent book, A History of Food, she says: “Empires have done battle for food, civilizations have been built around it, crimes committed, laws made and knowledge exchanged.”
As I talked about in my post on food as ritual, we are known by our food. Homer writes of the Lotus-eaters in Odysseus, Spartans were spartan, you get the picture. But now, in our culture, food has mutated into something that sets us apart economically.
I worked with a chef once, who I adored. When I fussed too much over something, he’d say, “Don’t worry about it; it all goes to the same place, anyway.” I’d look at him quizzically and he’d say, “Lake Ontario.”
I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.
Ready? Yeah, I know. Kinda gross, but he’s right.
So think about that the next time you talk about the authentic, artisanal, farm-to-table sammie with the great mouth-feel that you savoured at that iconic, edgy new resto last night. Damned foodie.