Thursday, September 02, 2010

Thought for Food (2/30)

I think I always have it in the back of my head to post more regularly than I do. That said, I didn't actually decide to do this until fairly recently, so while I want to practice my writing and move outside of my normal topic zone...I don't have a lot of time for research. So what do I do?

Well, it turns out that for a guy who cooks (and is proud of it), I don't actually write about food all that much. At least, not outside of the economy/ethics of food production - and that's really more of an environmentalist analysis. I do ever so occasionally look at food blogs for a recipe or two, but I'm not really into that scene. I think EK is friendly with the author of It Ain't Meat, Babe, a vegan cooking/journal blog. There's that and Not Quite Nigella, from which I got a phenomenal chili spiced brownie* recipe this one time...and, well, that's all I know about food blogs. Guess it's time to spend a week learning some more!

*If you've never tried a chili-chocolate hybrid of any kind, do so ASAP! Chocolate flavour with the burn of chili is a pleasure not to be missed. If you're kind of a spice wuss (as was I, once upon a time) I think a good place to start is with the chili-chocolate bars you can find at the supermarket. They have a pretty mild burn, but they'll give you a good enough idea of whether or not you'll like anything stronger.

Since I am committing to a whole week of posts on a theme (I guess this will be six days because I cheated with a statement of intent on day 1), I'll try to pace myself. Today's post will be a sort of précis, a rhetorical answer to the question "why write about food?".

To that, dear reader, I answer: "Because food is a pretty integral part of the human experience. Part of the experience of being anything living (technically only anything chemohetrotrophic). It has a sensual appeal (both in that we have the sense of taste/smell which is engaged by food, and that there can be an erotic dimension to food and to eating. Furthermore, I enjoy cooking, but I don't recall ever writing about it in particular detail. And finally, because although I'm trying to stretch my boundaries a little here, there are still ethical, economic, and political aspects to the growing, distribution, sale, and consumption of food.".

Being raised in a family of some privilege even within a society that is by and large itself quite well to do, my perspective on food has never really been shaped by scarcity - or even the threat thereof. I might have once missed a meal for misbehaving exceptionally poorly. Maybe I slept through one once, for all I can remember. As a child I recall that I used to watch cooking shows in the morning before Theodore Tugboat or somesuch; there was this jovial man who would always cook his guests a sit-down meal, but I cannot for the life of me remember his name. I don't think I can recall a single dish he ever served. I think the mindset of the cooking show/food column is however illustrative of my relationship to food: one essentially of leisure more than need. Sure, when I'm hungry I'm hungry...but when I think about cooking it's quite often "what would be an interesting challenge to make?" that I'm concerned with. I'm by no means the most pretentious person I have ever met with regards to food (that honour might go our former housemate from Maine?), but even so, recognizing and accepting the privilege that I have had makes holding certain views on food...problematic. I tend to believe that people should eat real food. I'm not a huge fan of things like "artificially-soured" sour cream. Sure it doesn't taste much different, but if we want to follow this path, we might as well just eat a watery sugar/nutrient paste with a plethora of flavour shots in it. I understand that some things lend themselves more readily to industrial processing/manufacture - and thus are likely to be lower in price, hence more affordable. And I get that in the choice between artificially-soured cream and no sour cream at all, you shouldn't go without because someone's paying you too little. But as long as we're on the crutch of artificial flavours and industrial-scale processing, I don't think anyone is going to put a lot of thought or effort into making real food affordable. It still annoys me that "organic" food is a boutique item, rather than a viable choice for anyone of any income who has health concerns about pesticides.

Something that I do belive, and that I intend to expand upon tomorrow, is that everyone should learn to cook. And cook at least something well. It's not only a measure of self-sufficiency, but - like I said - food is an integral part of being human. Not learning how to cook is a little bit like short-changing yourself on sleep; you're probably going to enjoy your days a lot less if you do. Tomorrow, I'll tell you how my role model in this regard was the [fictional] Nate the Great.

Until then, goodnight and good eating.


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