Tuesday, July 30, 2013

ethos, foodies, foodie-ism, prints

There have been eras, and there have been table cloths.  After about a year, the target—to write about food and cooking—of this straightforward enterprise shifted sideways or moved obliquely, and the recipes that accompanied the earliest posts dropped away, were discarded, were stripped off like a t-shirt that has become heavy, annoying, and clingy with sweat.  Typing out recipes started to seem like an odious chore and one that had little bearing on what I wanted to do, which was to write, not so much about food but about an ethos that informed an approach to life with food at its center.  Food is a problematic word nowadays, and uttering it cannot fail to evoke so many images of so many fancy plates in so many fancy restaurants: in short, foodies and foodie-ism.  Many readers surely consider me a foodie, and I understand how such a mistake could be made, but the truth is that I am not a foodie, would never want to be a foodie, and dislike the term very much, especially where foodie-ism becomes little more than another way to demonstrate cultural participation, where said participation is so often dependent upon means to pay: to pay for the food and to pay for the phone that takes pictures of the food and posts them immediately to the internet like little pieces of sports car—flashy, edible hood ornaments that show the world the tables at which we have parked ourselves.  Where food becomes another status symbol, I depart.  Oilchanges has never dined out.  It has never been about keeping abreast of the trends or being seen in fashionable places.  It has been about respect and reverence for food, about the politics that surround our food.  Where it has been about money, it has been about not having much money, about spending as little money as possible, and about diverting what money I have to producers whose values fall in line with my own.  And of course, Oilchanges has been about my moods and telling stories.

When I was 25 I got a job in a fancy kitchen, the fanciest kitchen I'd ever seen, and the chef there introduced me to the Slow Food movement, to the importance of local and sustainable agriculture, and to a number of farmers who would bring their produce to the back door of our kitchen.  Needless to say, I was shocked when my chef returned to the restaurant with a sack of hamburgers from Burger King and invited his cooks to eat lunch.  Having listened to him speak in hushed and reverent tones about the chicken we sourced from an Amish poultry farmer and the goat cheese we sourced from a farm in the hills, I found it difficult, for a moment, to understand how he could eat and enjoy with equal but different relish, here a hamburger produced by a corporation with known, dubious practices, and there a glass of champagne, a sliver of Parmesan Reggiano, a dribble of sixty-year old balsamic vinegar, and a spear of locally grown and perfectly blanched asparagus.  Dave quickly dispelled the cognitive dissonance and said, John boy, hamburgers are good, too, which of course is true and untrue.  However sickly, there is grace in a sack of hamburgers, and we should not let our privilege blind us.  Dave was not teaching me to turn my back on the problems that beset our food system, nor was he teaching me to shun the middle of the road.  He was teaching me to take in the whole and to think about how the parts of the whole relate to one another.  I ate that hamburger eleven or twelve years ago. I dipped my french fries into a wad of Heinz ketchup and went back to my station on the line, educated.  

But of course I have turned my nose up here and there, and I have definitely become excited and ranted.  I have put down corporate food and trumpeted the importance of D.I.Y. food culture, but when presented with a Costco burger and on the side a neon green pickle made by Vlasic, I have not turned to the person offering me the food and said, Oh no, I will not eat those hideous foods.  Don't you know who I am?  Haven't you read my blog?  If there has been any misunderstanding, I hope this post has cleared it up.  Additionally, over the month of August I also hope to display some of my favorite photographs that have appeared on this blog.  I want to give my readers who have enjoyed these pictures (or any other pictures that have appeared here) a chance to order prints of them, about which I'll say more later.  

Okay, thanks as always for reading.  I'll be back again soon.  There is more I want to say before me and Oilchanges say goodbye.         

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