As I noted last month, I’ve spent the past year losing almost 80 pounds.
In that time, I’ve discussed the issue with a few of my friends, many of them who like many Americans could stand to lose a few pounds. More than a few of them have responded “I could never give up…” pasta or ice cream or popcorn or whatever. And I do get that. None of them were easy for me to give up – and now that I’ve lost the weight, I indulge once in a while – but when I was in the middle of things, my response was and remains “nothing tastes as good as getting healthier feels”.
But I’ve gotten a response from a few others that’s caused me to think a little higher up the sociological food chain.
My mom wasn’t a bad cook when I was a kid – but dinner time was a matter of being together, rather than about the food, per se. There wasn’t a lot on the menu that had deep cultural or social significance for us, other than maybe my grandma’s lefse.
Dinner was about eating and family. Not pseudo-mystical connection to food itself.
I’ve met people for whom things are quite the opposite; for whom “foodie-ism” is either a nerd outlet, like being a Star Wars buff, or a pseudoreligion. Our culture caters to both; from the “Food Network” to the celebrity chef culture, there are parts of our culture that totemize, even fetishize, food to one degree or another.
Or that’s my theory.
I thought about this over the weekend, when I listened to “The Delicious Dish”…
…I’m sorry, that was an SNL spoof of NPR.
No, I was listening to “Splendid Table”, a show that used to be a pretty accessible recipe show with Lynne Rosetto-Casper, but has turned almost as serious-about-itself as “On Being with Krista Tippett”.
And I was treated to this:
Lucy Long: I lived in Spain for a year. Part of what I was doing was studying the food culture, and people kept telling me that I needed to go to the north of Spain during a certain season and try their bean soups. I was told that every village had their own variety of bean and would make these into soup or stew. And people who were knowledgeable about this tradition, they could look at a bean and tell that it came from a particular village. They’d spend a day, maybe a weekend, traveling to these villages to eat these beans.
I did go to one or two restaurants in villages and try these. To me, it was just bean soup. I was eating out of curiosity. I didn’t have enough knowledge to fully appreciate the distinctions that were being made. I wasn’t going there as a pilgrim; I was going there as a tourist. I could definitely tell that some of the other eaters were there as pilgrims because they were eating very carefully, they were tasting very carefully, and they were experiencing this on a much deeper level that just eating some bean soup.
And leaving aside the pretension in which the show marinades, it struck me – could the fetishization of foodie-ism be part of our problem?
Maybe not by itself: I doubt that people trekking through Spain to catalog seasonal beans are the ones getting Type 2 Diabetes.
On the other hand, I have to think the fact that our society’s been turning food into recreation, network entertainment, a social marker can’t help, either.