Sunday, November 1, 2015

Can Foodies Laugh at Ourselves?

No doubt about it – foodies often take themselves (ourselves) too seriously.  The endless pursuit of the unique ingredient or some elusive source of the best of something can reek of elitism.  And while we talk of great food as though everyone should experience it, we know we are enjoying something that prices out many, many people.  

Recently a group of artists in Providence, Rhode Island poked some fun and satirical criticism at us and hit the nail on the head.  Check out this article at The Atlantic’s Citylab and have a good laugh:

I particularly appreciate this passage:
“The artists say Lura was not intended as a criticism of foodies per se. “It’s just about how easy it is to feed into hype, the need to belong in a community, and the elitist aspect of it,” they told CityLab. “People are so into this foodie culture because it does give you a sense of belonging [and] social hierarchy. It's a niche.”

Modern media has certainly allowed us all to hype whatever we think should be shared with the world and build a movement – or a moment.  Little has staying power so if you’re going to draw attention to something, you have to have significant hype.

And foodies certainly like to build community and a sense of belonging.  That’s the point of my blog after all.  But I disagree that it has to be a sense of elitism, hierarchy and niche.  Certainly there’s an element looking for the next Michelin star and the next big go-to restaurant and chef.  But many of us just enjoy a delicious meal with great conversation.  I am happy with a banh mi sandwich for half the price and triple the flavor of a ubiquitous Subway.  Show me a killer falafel spot for a cheap snack and I will show you a happy guy.  I crave a taqueria and can walk to a half-dozen that make me happy for under $10.  And I don’t want these places classed up; I have no interest in any elitist attitude about them.  I want people to go to these places and enjoy real food for a great price at a local spot that will keep their profits in the community and not send them off to some bland, corporate overlord.  Sometimes being a foodie is really about great food at prices accessible to all prepared by neighbors.  

That said, this Lura CafĂ© project was brilliant and made a great point.  Bravo!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Shared Experiences Build Bonds

On the surface this blog is certainly a food blog.  Underneath it is really an exploration of family and community.  I just happen to think that it is around food that we form those bonds, those shared experiences that make us community.  But food is by no means the only way.

Walter Cronkite’s autobiography explains a memory of his childhood.  Driving across the fields of his Midwest in the evening all the farmstead homes lit from the inside would all go dark at the same time, give or take a few minutes.  In that day people only had a few TV stations and everyone watched the news at the same time then headed off to sleep.  Even if in separate homes there was a shared experience. When I was a kid we had a few more distractions, but we still experienced what Cronkite describes.  Each October we all watched It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on the same night on one of the broadcast channels.  Each December we all got excited for each of the Rankin-Bass Christmas specials. Each spring, normally Easter weekend, we could all watch The Wizard of Oz for the only time that year.  In high school all this started to change, not just because we got older, but we also got VCRs.  We could watch these “events” at any time, and it was amazing.

Now we have DVDs (we don’t even have to be kind and rewind), Netflix and other streaming sources, massive choices online for a multitude of distractions for any interest, and satellite TV.  Anything and everything is available to us all the time.  For an information junky this is all amazing.  But what has been lost?

Last week in my family and many others we regained some.  Last Monday night we had Monday Night Football on.  While that’s not rare at all, this night we had it on for a commercial, specifically the new Star Wars trailer. As soon as we saw it we went online to buy tickets for December 17.  The internet slowed to a crawl as millions did the same.  This past weekend we watched The Phantom Menace as part of our build up to part 7.  In Mid-December my entire family will head to the theater, probably a couple times, and just as I did as a kid, we will all escape to a galaxy far, far away and share a communal experience like few we have left.  Whether it’s a sporting event or a massive blockbuster movie, these communal experiences are a tangible part of what ties us to those around us.  Let’s embrace these opportunities to laugh, cry and cheer alongside others.

Now I think I need to go make some Yoda and Millennium Falcon-shaped pancakes.  May the force be with you.      

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Timeless Wonders

“Hey, Mark…can I have these?”  It’s my stepson running down the bread and breakfast aisle at the grocery store.

If you are a parent you’re used to hearing this question in a grocery store or toy store.  In my family this question takes on a different dimension.  My stepson has a number of food allergies, most importantly an allergy to peanuts.  We have to check the ingredients on every processed food; we read labels obsessively.

He’s holding a package of Hostess Cupcakes.  I read the label.  No nuts.  Not processed in a factory with nuts.

“Sure, do you like those?”

“I don’t know…never had ‘em.”

“What!!!!  You’ve never had a Hostess Cupcake!!??  Yes…grab two!  I have to show you how to eat them”

“There’s a special way to eat them?”

Because he has been slowly outgrowing some of his allergies and his tastes are expanding we are often finding new foods to try.  But some foods are simply childhood staples and some of those things just taste best when eaten a certain way (see Oreos).  I am always game for taking up those parental responsibilities of demonstrating proper consumption of guilty pleasures.

“Of course, there’s a best way to eat everything…you know that.  Let’s hurry home and eat these!”

Once home he is too eager to even let me unload groceries.  We head to the kitchen sink.  It’s really the best place to eat a guilty pleasure, right?

We open the twin pack.  I pull out the plastic holder, tip it upside down and the two cupcakes softly land in my hand.  I hand one to him.

“Now hold it right-side up in your left hand and with your right hand peel a little of the top off and twist a little like this.”

I show him.  My top needs a little finessing but in seconds I have the top, the lid if you will, off in the right hand in one piece.  He copies perfectly and looks up at me expectantly, huge grin covering his face.

“Now take a bite.”  

He watches me as I take a bite and the whole things starts to fold in my hand so I stuff it all in my mouth.  He does the same into his much smaller mouth and grins, squeezing waxy frosting through his teeth.  

“Now the surprise.”  

I take a bite of the remaining headless cupcake and expose the creamy white frosting inside.  He takes a bite, starts to giggle and stuffs the rest in his mouth whole.

“How was it?”


10 years old or 45 years old, never lose sight of the simple joys of being a kid eating something yummy for the first time.  Make an old experience new all over again.  We all have such busy lives, full calendars and a heap of demands. Food offers us a unique opportunity, a moment in time if we choose to take it, to pause and escape into some delicious moments of multi-sensory pleasures. Eat on my friends and enjoy.