Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Peak Food

This New Yorker article, by British writer John Lanchester, is so good. It's personal and thoughtful and - most importantly for me - touches on something I find myself thinking about a lot. That something is the way food culture has saturated every other part of culture.

It's not a new subject - I blogged about my own fatigue with "foodie" culture way back in 2007. Reading that post, in retrospect, is interesting - especially since at that point, I was just starting to dip my toe in the game of for-real food journalism. And because in 2007, the overwhelming "everyone's a critic" movement was in its infancy.

Fortunately, seven years ago, when I was wondering if I was over food...well, I wasn't. And that's because, of course, food, as a subject, is full of depth. I love this quote from Lanchester:
The apparent silliness and superficiality of food fashions and trends touches on something deep: our ability to choose who we want to be.
I'd go further, of course. Lanchester talks a lot about what food used to be (where we come from) and what it is now (where we're going) - and I agree with him. I think he's correct, both on a personal and societal level. When I write about restaurants, I'm also writing about Baltimore, and cities in general. Now, when I sit down to write a review, I'm not so full of myself (usually?) that I think in grandiose terms. I'm more like "what do people want to know about the service." But underneath all that, especially looking across articles, over time, there's more.

But, as Lanchester points out, food is, ultimately, just food. I love this:
Imagine that you die and go to Heaven and stand in front of a jury made up of Thomas Jefferson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Your task would be to compose yourself, look them in the eye, and say, “I was all about fresh, local, and seasonal.”
That made me nod and also laugh a little.

Anyway, read the article. It's so worth the couple minutes it'll take.

P.S. The title of this post comes from the article. Lanchester notes that he thought that culturally, we'd reached "peak food" way back in the mid-90s. He was, as he notes, wrong.

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