Foodie Frivolity? Food for Thought on a Cold February Day
I love food. Obviously, as a food blogger, whose posts consist mainly of restaurant reviews and recipe trials, I really appreciate tasty and well-made food. I claim to be a lover and appreciator of food, no more no less. I get excited about new ways to cook foie gras, or unique dessert items; I crave a big bowl of pasta at the end of a long day; I’m obsessed with travel, food and all things Anthony Bourdain; I love champagne and decadence as much as I love McNuggets; and I am an avid Food Network watcher. However, in recent months I have been wrestling with a nagging feeling in the back of my full belly: is the foodie obsession an example of western frivolity at its worst?
Think about all the cooking shows that are filling our HD screens these days: Top Chef, The Taste, Chopped, etc. A lot of food seems to go to waste in these shows, and despite my delight in the drool worthy dishes that are masterfully (or not) created on them, I can not help but feel a little guilt about the foodstuffs that are probably thrown away after the cameras are turned off. Do not get me wrong, I love these shows. I love learning about different foods from around the world, different techniques that I can try in my tiny kitchen, but it does make me think, and on this cold February afternoon, it really has me wondering, why?
There are parts of me that revert back to childhood, my mother telling me to finish everything on my plate, that poor children in Africa do not have anything, and that I should consider myself lucky. My first thought was always “If I do not finish this food, it doesn’t go to kids in Africa, it goes in the garbage.” I think about all the donuts or baked goods that fast food places throw away at the end of a day and are for some “health safety” reasons not allowed to give away the barely-stale food to the homeless who could greatly benefit from it. I think about all the restaurant meals that are thrown away because of a simple miscommunication, or an undesirable temperature, or simply because the customer did not like what they ordered. I think about all the awesome food that I have eaten in my travels around the world, or all the nutritious food that I have grown up eating (despite the copious amounts of complaining about peas) and then wonder about the people around the world who have never tried, or never will try, any of the decadent fare that I have.
While considering all the food that goes to waste, I cannot help but think about the gastroculture that has flourished in recent history. There is something to be said for the explosion of food bloggers and writers into the world with the rise in popularity of WordPress and BlogSpot, I myself have jumped on the train. Restaurants and food lovers tweet daily specials, while Chefs have reached popstar-like famedom. Does this constant need to talk about what we eat, to take Instagram photos in Michelin star restaurants, to make videos of disgusting calorific fast food lasagna simply promote unhealthy eating and in effect the wastefulness of food in the western world?
Obviously, I myself am guilty of over-loving food, of embarrassing my boyfriend while I take ten shots of my steak tartare, and especially of over eating because something tastes delicious. I am contributing to the promotion of the foodie movement, the love for all things delicious, and the exploration of new tastes and recipes, but it makes me think: How does this change the way that we look at food? I have recently started thinking about why I love food so much, what about a good tasting entree makes me squeal with happiness, and why do I feel the need to tell everyone about it? Food is and has always been a means of sustenance, a way to stay alive and be healthy, and now there seems to be a whole other arena that is purely about taste and enjoyment. Where is the line drawn between sustenance and frivolity? Does every meal you eat have to be the best meal of your life, worth writing a thousand word blog post about every bite? How does one balance the basic need for food and the desire for gastronomy?
Don’t get me wrong, this is not an angry diatribe about the misguided gourmet of our culture, or the rise of gluttony and frivolousness, but while I love food and writing about it, I cannot help but think about these things sometimes. I do not have any real answers for these questions. I have been thinking about food, and I am starting to do more food history research, and of course reading up on my Michael Pollan and Steven Poole, in hopes of reaching some form of conclusion regarding these thoughts. In the mean time, I will deal with the foodie guilt, continue to eat at delicious restaurants (and talk about them) and try and find a balance between necessity and excess. I will continue my journey to Explore. Eat. Repeat.
Just a little food for thought. Bon appetit mes amis.