Young Foodies

New York Magazine (the lifestyle mag par excellence) ran a profile of a supposedly representative member of the young foodie class this week. Here are some relevant quotes from the piece, titled, “When Did ImageYoung People Start Spending 25% of Their Paychecks on Pickled Lamb’s Tongues?”

“I’m not a foodie, I just like what I like,” she says. “Yes, I know, it’s just like hipsters saying, ‘I’m not a hipster.’ ” (The cliché cracks her up.) “But it’s like when my boss says, ‘Oh, you’re such a foodie.’ I’m like, Oh God. When I hear the word foodie, I think of Yelp. I don’t want to be lumped in with Yelp.” 


There have, of course, always been people in this town for whom food is a serious cultural pursuit. Traditionally, they have been older, white, and affluent. Knowing the newest and finest restaurants to frequent and where to find the very best things to eat have long been essential New York status markers. One of the main hallmarks of twentysomething life, on the other hand, has typically been to not give a shit what and where you eat….

Lately, however, food has become a defining obsession among a wide swath of the young and urbane. It is not golf or opera. It’s more like indie rock. Just like the music of, say, Drag City bands on a nineties campus, food is now viewed as a legitimate option for a hobby, a topic of endless discussion, a playground for one-upmanship, and a measuring stick of cool. “It’s a badge of honor,” says Chang. “Bragging rights.”

And later, the author tries to pin down exatly what a “foodie” is (or does):

Diane Chang is a prime specimen of the new breed of restaurant-goer. The species is obsessive and omnivorous. Although they lean toward cheap ethnic food and revile pretension, they do not ultimately discriminate by price point or cuisine. They might hit a vegan joint like Sun in Bloom one day, its neighbor Bark Hot Dogs the next, then subsist on ramen for a week before blowing a paycheck on a sixteen-course lunch at Ko. They are not especially concerned with locavorism or sustainability or foraging. Sometimes nirvana simply takes the form of an authentic, ice-cold Mexican Coke. They abhor restaurant clichés (Carnegie DeliPeter Luger) and studiously avoid chains (Olive Garden, McDonald’s) but are not above the occasional ironic trip to either. They consume food media—blogs, books, Top Chef and other “quality” TV shows but definitely not Food Network—like so many veal sweetbreads. Lucky Peach, Chang’s quarterly journal, is required reading. They talk about food and restaurants incessantly, and their social lives are organized around them. Some are serious home cooks who seek to duplicate the feats of their chef-heroes in their own kitchens; others barely use a stove. Above all, they are avowed culinary agnostics whose central motivation is simply to hunt down and enjoy the next most delicious meal, all the better if no one else has yet heard of it. Dish snapshots and social-network check-ins are a given.

Chang (the profiled foodie) responded on Eater–itself a haven for the food-obsessed and industry types. Read her retort here.


Virtual Insanity?

I saw this image and wanted to reblog it here, referring to Deutsch’s book on supermarkets and shopping. It is a picture of the world’s first virtual supermarket; shoppers can look at virtual images that replicate their expectations of supermarket aisles exactly, but use their smartphones to fill their virtual shopping carts with products, to be delivered conveniently at a time of their choosing. I find supermarkets visually stunning and so this picture caught my eye.

But when I looked for a story to accompany it, I found this video: Tesco video about virtual stores. It is totally worth watching, if you are into dystopian futures run amok or an interesting illustration of “glocalization” (nice portmanteau, dudes). Tesco developed the virtual supermarket to appeal specifically to Korean shoppers, busy Seoul residents who work many hours, and who are utterly at home on their smart phones. The British giant built virtual supermarket aisles in the subway to appeal to customers (truly) on the go. It is instructive to throw corporate intent into the discussion about who has agency, and how much power local consumers have in shaping the choices available to them in creeping global capitalism.

The answer, I think, is that it’s complicated?

Looking for America in Norwich (UK)

Looking for America in Norwich (UK).

via Looking for America in Norwich (UK).

This is from my class on American Icons.  But obviously this has a link to what we are discussing this week.  In some ways, the interesting things is how the “hamburger” and other kinds of food have come to represent the US.  Is this about McDonalds or the food itself?


Just an internet thing to aid in our McDonaldization conversation. And no disrespect intended – as Kottak says, McDonalds has taken on some attributes of a sacred place.

Q & A with Nick Cullather

Thanks Kim for the terrific questions.  And thanks to Nick for the smart and insightful.

Q-What do you think are the biggest roadblocks to ending world hunger today?

The low price of food.  The recession has been edging food prices up, and the consequence has been a decline in malnutrition around the world.  Many of the world’s poorest make a living from agriculture, and policy and technology have been used for the last fifty years to push down prices of agricultural goods, taking money out of their pockets.  The consequence is an exodus from the farms and increasing poverty.  I write about the problem here.

Q-Two weeks ago on March 13th Hiroyuki Konuma, regional assistant director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), speaking to a conference of agriculture ministers in Hanoi, Vietnam said, “We have to move beyond the Green Revolution to an Evergreen Revolution, by adopting an approach called Save and Grow,” said senior officials.  The methods outlined in Save and Grow, formally known as Sustainable Crop Production Intensification, are presented as a paradigm shift in advocating that food production must work in harmony with the ecosystem rather than attempting to transform or master it, and that agriculture can be more productive by doing so. What do you think of this proposed ‘Evergreen Revolution’? Could these policies be a positive step towards eliminating world hunger?

It’s a new one on me, but that’s not surprising.  As a historian, I’ll be able to comment on the success or failure of the Evergreen Revolution in about fifty years.  One warning to come from my research, however, is that the one-slogan-fits-all solutions usually have unexpected and idiosyncratic effects when applied in the varied historical and environmental circumstances of different places.  This sounds like one of those, so I’m suspicious.

Q-The past four decades have seen two waves of agricultural technology development and
diffusion to developing countries. The first wave was initiated by the Green Revolution in
which an explicit strategy for technology development and diffusion targeting poor farmers in
poor countries. The second wave has been called the Gene Revolution in which a global and largely private agricultural has focused on improving agricultural technologies that flow to developing countries primarily through market transactions. Will the poor benefit from any of the technological advances that are taking place today
in and through the private sector? If public-private partnerships could be developed, do you think the resulting technologies would ever get to the poor and starving?
Technology has to be thought of as an effect, rather than a solution.  When the politics is right, when governments encourage farmers to grow more rather than to abandon their farms as is now the case, new technologies will become feasible.  Borlaug was explicit about this:  the technology is just a placebo; it gives the farmer and the government a feeling that things are getting better.  The real changes have to come in the form of policy and prices, and right now the terms of trade are structurally disadvantageous to farmers in the rural South.  A real policy change will begin with ending crop subsidies in Europe and the United States.

Q- Your book is incredibly well-researched, did you ever consider conducting any ethnographic research as part of this project?  I.e. interviews or focus groups with farmers in Afghanistan or India to tap into their lived experiences, thoughts and perspectives with ‘miracle rice’ and hybrid strains.

There was a huge ethnographic literature that I was able to draw on.  In the 1960s social scientists fanned out across Asia to witness the transformation of rural societies.  They wrote papers, reports and books that fill many miles of shelves.  The literature on “early adopters” of miracle rice alone runs to many volumes, and one of the works that first interested me in this topic was James Scott’s observations on change in Malaysian villages.  Louis Dupree’s classic ethnographic work on Afghanistan gave me the nomad’s eye view of the dam projects.  All these books were indispensable, because I was interested especially in the sense of wonder and movement that the new technologies instilled.  What was missing from the literature was the overarching story, which as I say in the intro, generally took the form of a superficial and mythic narrative.  So I concentrated on that.

Q- Since the book, have you seen any policies(domestic, U.N., etc.) that are heading in the right direction? 

No policies yet, but some good talk.  The G8 at least have the issue of agricultural subsidies on the table.

– How long did it take you to research and write The Hungry World? What advice would you give students interested in conducting similar research and or studying the globalization of agro-production?

About 7 years.  There were a lot of archives to visit and my concept of the project changed a lot in that time.  I would urge students not to start with the big global question, but instead to find a particular place, a particular thing, and a particular character.  A small story can lead to large conclusions, whereas a big story rarely leads anywhere.

Q- Why do you think food is good to think with?   Why, more specifically, is agriculture and production good to think with when it comes to globalization?

I was interested in modernization as a political tool, how the US came to see itself as responsible for bringing development to Asia and what that meant.  Food (and agriculture) brought that large, diffuse but consequential process down to the real life experiences of people.  American nation builders talked about hearts and minds, but their point of contact with Asians was stomachs and hands.  They knew how central food was to politics, and somehow history had lost sight of that.

Sugar (again!)!

I couldn’t help but post this even though it’s more relevant to School Lunch and Sweetness and Power.

Best part about the return of Mad Men might just be the return of Footnotes of Mad Men …

Chicken Nuggets

What Are Chicken Nuggets Made Of?

This is more related to our previous readings but I thought of sharing this with you anyway especially because, as this clip mentions, McDonald’s business with Chicken Nuggets influences on the entire chicken industry deeply. It is sadly kind of grouse so I give you a warning in advance who are sensitive about it.

Mos Burger: Japanese Fine Burger and Coffee

I will start by sharing some pictures of food provided at Japanese hamburger stores Mos Burger mentioned in Ritzer’s piece.  The shop concept is “Japanese Fine Burger & Coffee”, which I did not really realize written underneath the name of the brand on their name board until recently. Mos Burger was founded in 1972 in Japan.  They adopt the “after order system”, meaning they make burgers only after they take orders from customers so that customers have to wait for a while at the store until they get items or they can eat inside of the restaurant. Since they take issues of food security, health and reliability seriously, they have contracts with domestic local farms and serve “safe” and “organic” vegetables as much as they can.

These are some burgers referred by Ritzer: Teriyaki Chicken Burger with soy sauce and miso (fermented bean paste) and Korean BBQ Rice Burger made of Japanese domestic rice. Rice is pressed into round buns like shapes and two rice cakes sandwich ingredients like Korean BBQ beef, stirred gobo or chicken balls flavored with soy sauce. Surprisingly they hold food pretty well. Korean BBQ is just so popular in Japan that people really don’t really think it ethnic food anymore. It’s almost like tacos in the US and it of course comes with some kind of modifications from the original recipes.

They also serve some hot dogs such as chili dogs and seafood dogs below. Chili dog is actually not bad I think.

They are some desserts served during winter. “Hot puddings” (cheese soufflé and chocolate)  and red bean soup with mochi.  They frequently change menus of burgers as well as desserts depending on seasons. Currently, they serve frozen cube cakes made of black sesame and green tea.

Is this still part of McDonaldization? Or Americanized way of eating adapted locally to Japan? Among some other similar Japanese burger stores, Mos Burgers is one of the most popular and successful ones. Recently they have extended their business to Asian countries aiming to be “Mos of Asia”. They run business in Taiwan, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, China, and Australia (Malaysia one was closed). Can burgers be a representation of Asia and appeal to international markets??

Buy a bag, feed a kid

This week’s book reminded me of the proliferation of ‘good’, ‘conscious’ consumption that has emerged over the past decade, undeniably a symbol of our ‘development-minded’ culture. From bags to bracelets to chocolate bars conscious consumers can give and get simultaneously..yes, the America we know and love, buy a bag and feed an impoverished child!

Founded by , Lauren Bush and Ellen Gustafson a UN World Food Program advisor, the “FEED Projects’ mission is to create good products that help FEED the world”. For example, the FEED 1 bag (shown above) has a donation of $20 (1/3 of the retail cost) included in every bag purchase, which FEED then donates to the World Food Program(WFP). So, you pay $135 for the bag and $20 goes to WFP to feed the children.  Hmm, interesting..wouldn’t it just be better to make a $135 contribution directly to the program ??

Norman Borlaug and “The West Wing”

Because we haven’t posted a relevant TV clip in a while, I thought I put one up.  Sadly, I can’t seem to find the clip I’m looking for.  The first time I heard about Norman Borlaug was on “The West Wing,” sometime in the second season I think, when the president of a fictional African republic comes to the White House to negotiate for AIDS medication for his country.  In the context of explaining how the seemingly impossible has happened in the past, he references Norman Borlaug and the numerous lives he saved.  The “myth” of the Green Revolution goes Hollywood …