After close to five years of writing about food on this here site, I supposed that I’ve developed what can be best termed as a philosophy. I thought it would be a great exercise to put to words these beliefs into short paragraphs. Easy-peasy, right?
At least that’s what I thought.
But when I sat down to actually think about what “I believe in”, it turned out that there were several themes/agendas running through my head. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far.
- Food is Life – This is pretty straightforward. You need to eat to live.
- Food is Cultural – What you eat represents who you are as well as the environment in which you inhabit.
- Food is Class – What you eat is defined by the allotment of resources available to you.
- Food is Politics – The food choices you make within your resources give credibility to the producers and suppliers of said food.
These are high level beliefs, and each relates to one another in a variety of ways. For example, when I give a more specific belief.
- Obesity is more complicated than “we eat too much” – Sure, at it’s root it is because we eat too much, but it’s also because, as a culture, we have shifted from an active work environment to a passive, less physical, work environments. It does help that we are inundated with images telling us how delicious processed foods with high volumes of fat and sugar can be.
The above relates to health (obesity), culture (advertising, work environment), and one could probably make cases for politics and class. So as you read the below, try to keep the above high-level items in mind, for those, more than anything, shape how I think about food.
So here it is, a few things about food that I believe. It should also be noted that none of these are hard-wired into my psyche. Given enough evidence, it is well within the realms of possibility that a) I could be wrong. And b) I could change my mind on any number of these issues. Ready? Here we go.
Food often works its way from the lower classes, up. – Historically speaking, the foods that enter and stay within our cultures tend to be ones that are eaten on an every day basis. We eat far more peasant food than we realize. Italian, Mexican, Tapas, French, the variety of regional Indian and Chinese cuisines, and yes, even Sushi, all have their roots as food for the commoners.
Related to this is this belief:
Food rarely works from the upper classes down – Here’s a quick bit of trivia. Lobster, caviar, bone marrow, and sweet breads are all foods currently associated with the upper class. All of them have their roots in the lower classes. There are likely exceptions. Sashimi comes to mind. But these are the exceptions.
What does this mean to me?
Upscale dining signifies very little – All of this talk about five-star restaurants and $1500 meals means very little in the grand scheme of things when it comes to food. Yes, there’s an entertainment value, and certainly the skills of the chefs are to be commended and commented upon. But their influence on day to day eating is probably negligible to everyone except those who eat at these types of places.
But boy do these places serve great meals (for the most part).
Mid-scale and low scale dining signifies quite a bit – The recession hits, and Bennigan’s closes, Applebee’s sell off 66 of their stores, and the Cheesecake Factory reports a 36% drop in third quarter earnings. When people have money, they eat out at places like these. When they conserve money, they stay at home or start eating at cheaper places. For example, McDonald’s has seen sales go up 8% for October. I’m willing to bet that teriyaki and taco truck sales are up here in Seattle.
The quality of the food aside for a moment, what I’m trying to say here is that if you want to see which foods represent food culture, look towards mid-scale and low-scale dining.
More beliefs at a later date.