Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Matter of Taste?

“A good risotto is a fine thing, but it isn’t going to give you insight into other people, allow you to see the world in a new way, or force you to take an inventory of your soul,” says the venerable essayist William Deresiewicz in the Sunday Review section of the Times (“A Matter of Taste," NYT, 10/26/12). Escoffier may have propounded a philosophy of eating, but he was no Epicurus for whom the understanding of the senses led to philosophical notions like “the golden mean.”  Earlier in his essay Deresiewicz remarks about America’s growing obsession with food as a form of high culture, “what has happened is not that food has led to art, but that it has replaced it. Foodism has taken on the sociological characteristics of what used to be known—in the days of the rising postwar middle class…as culture. It’s costly. It requires knowledge and connoisseuership…It is a badge of membership into the higher classes …Nobody cares if you know about Mozart or Leonardo anymore, but you had better be able to discuss the difference between ganache and couverture.” The fact is that “foodism” is just  the latest manifestation of the middle brow and ersatz in American culture that Dwight MacDonald identified when he coined the term “mid cult." If you were seeking  entree into the realms of the cultivated you could subscribe to a tony magazine like The New Yorker, which provided not only a baedeker of what was good or bad, but excerpts and abridgements which afforded short cuts. Why read all of David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King when you could read the excerpt? But of the ways to arrive, food is the most reprehensible. Yes, it’s work to become educated, but having to pay exorbitant prices for meager portions of heartless food (that is also not hearty) is likely to make you feel empty in more ways then one. Get a horse.

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