Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Back from Paris

...and just in time to read this post from Ann Althouse, on a review of a new book written by a Frenchman on the shift in home cooking in French society. The questions raised in the post and the comments relate to the role of food and cooking at home - is it love, fuel, or something else? Is it easier to cook for someone or be cooked for?

Interesting questions, all, but I was a little annoyed as I read the comments. In the work part of life, I've done several projects related to the role of food in people's lives. I easily accept, as Althouse does, that studying people's relationships with food can lead to significant sociological insights - and the projects I've done for clients have supported that thesis.

As a marketer, I have a natural tendency to segment people: to assume that any large group of people will naturally fall into a handful of somewhat cohesive subgroups. That's certainly the case when it comes to how people deal with and react to food in general, and food with respect to social settings.

Without giving away any state secrets, I will say that the commenters on the Althouse blog fall into three camps I find familiar: obsessive foodies, people who equate food with love, and people for whom food is fuel.

I, like probably most food bloggers, fall into the first camp. In fact, I'd guess that even most readers of food blogs fall into the first camp. You don't have to be Jacques Pepin to consider yourself a foodie - you just have to love it. What's difficult, though, and what I saw in the Althouse comments, is that it is very easy to transition from food lover to food snob, looking down on those who just don't love food so much.

I should also note, especially since I just got back from a week of eating very well in Paris (more on that to follow, with pictures), that the book Althouse references in her original post is about the French, not the Americans. And the culture of food in France is vastly different than that of the US. Which connects to the fact that the nature of relationships in the US is somewhat different than in France. The basics of "family" might be the same, but there are differences in how they play out.

So good questions from Althouse and an interesting discussion, but one that fails to see the forest for the trees, in my opinion.

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