Fat acceptance

Recently, someone clued me in to the burgeoning fat acceptance movement–apparently, they are a huge force on feminist blog comment rolls.

Here’s one of the blogs in this vein and here’s another.

Tasha Fierce wrote a personal essay  attacking fat shamers that got some play on Jezebel:

“When someone is fat shamed, the person doing the shaming often justifies it as them being concerned for the fat person’s health. Of course we know that’s bullshit. Fatphobia has nothing to do with health, if someone was really concerned they wouldn’t harp on it to the detriment of fat people’s self esteem. And a ton of fat people can attest that they eat healthily and exercise. I however, cannot. So is the health argument justified in my case? Well, no, because fat also has nothing to do with health. It’s the food I eat that’s the issue. It’s the fact that I eat when I’m definitely not physically hungry. It’s my lack of exercise.”


Foodie Manifestos

I wouldn’t want to overshadow Carly’s really interesting (if spoiler-ific) post on fat.

But I thought that since it’s mentioned so frequently in Foodies, I should post the Chowhound Manifesto in its entirety. It’s interesting how Chowhound, the consummate foodie gathering-place, denies its very foodie-ness (see below).

(For the uninitiated: Chowhound is one of the earliest/longest-running forums for the food-obsessed to debate esoterica. Users argue over topics like “where’s the best barbeque in Eastern North Carolina,” or “where can I satisfy my dim sum craving?” As Henry Kissinger once remarked about academia–a similarly navel-gazing bunch–“the debates are so fierce because the stakes are so low.”) Here’s the Manifesto:

Everyone has one in his life: the brother-in-law with a collection of 800 takeout menus, the co-worker who’s late from lunch because she HAD to trek to one end of town for soup and to the other for a sandwich. Chowhounds know where the good stuff is, and they never settle for less than optimal deliciousness, whether dining in splendor or grabbing a quick slice.


We’re not talking about foodies. Foodies eat where they’re told. Chowhounds blaze trails. They comb through neighborhoods for culinary treasure. They despise hype. And while they appreciate ambiance and service, they can’t be fooled by flash.


No media outlets serve Chowhounds. They’ve never had a place to gather and exchange information. This discerning, passionate crowd has long been completely invisible and utterly disenfranchised… until now.


If you, too, fret endlessly about making every bite count; if you’d grow weak from hunger rather than willingly eat something less than delicious, this place is for you! Welcome to our community. Let’s talk. Let’s swap tips.


You needn’t be an expert to participate. If you’re less food-obsessed than the rest of us, but have a yen for egg creams, gazpacho, or Quisp Cereal, let the resident hounds guide you to the best stuff. Follow (and chime in on) the rollicking discussion — featuring thousands of messages from characters all over the world.

After turning up this, I looked around for other foodie manifestos; they’re (un)suprisingly common. Here’s  one from the blog Leek Geeks:

I have been thinking about what it means to be a foodie lately. More than one of our introductory posts on here have taken a definite stance – either we are and embrace it or are not – and shun it? feel sheepish about it? I am unsure of the tone. So it got me thinking – is being a “foodie” seen as a snobby thing? I certainly hope not.


To me – my life kind of revolves around food. From parties or breastfeeding, tea breaks to hospitality tips, the Eucharist to community supported agriculture and “beyond organic” theory, from the whole foods movement to gardening, from food photography to penitential fasting, from butter-love to fresh veggies to wandering through the market in summer… to picnics, to co-ops… yeah, my life essentially revolves around food, and I think that’s fine. I think food and eating are major natural sacraments. I think health and wellness come first from eating right and treating the earth, the animals, and our farmers with respect.


I love to eat. I love to learn to appreciate what I am eating better. I love food. To me, that’s what being a foodie means.


What about you? Why do you say you are or are not a foodie?

Foodie Travel

Found this ad from the Taiwan Tourism Bureau while thumbing through an old-ish “food” issue of the New Yorker.  The Bureau assumes that foodies (especially well-off, culturally literate foodies) travel in hopes of  finding the next “authentic culinary voyage.” They’re probably right.

It’s also a good example of the simple exoticism and apolitical stance we read about in Foodies. The ad doesn’t bother to complicate the notion of an “authentic” Taiwanese cuisine–in fact, the ad ignores the whole issue of the island’s mainland Chinese ancestry and recent political strife. Of course, its very placement and orientation is implicitly anti-democratic: not everyone has the cultural capital to enjoy the New Yorker, much less the capital capital to jet over the Pacific for a cup of tea.

Here’s the full text of the copy at the bottom. (Do you think they intended that instructions-on-the-back-of-Chinese-chopsticks malapropism and iffy syntax?):

“Built around a tradition of preparing and serving the freshest food, and with a reputation exceeding the best alternatives in Asia, Taiwan charts an authentic culinary voyage. Be astonished, challenged and charmed, but everywhere well-fed–with old favorites and new interpretations of the classics. And when it comes to tea, it’s no small testament to centuries of diligent cultivation that we’re renowned for producing some of the world’s finest leases. From planting to plate, the heart of Taiwan is celebrated in sharing with you our unique cuisine.”

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.

Bittman on “chicken”

Mark Bittman went to a research lab/factory prototype where they’re making “chicken” out of veggie protein.

Nope--it isn’t made out of human.

It shreds like the real thing, and it’s got much of the blandness and stringy texture of boneless, skinless breast. I mean, if we’re just going to put this nearly tasteless stuff in all of our salads, wraps, etc, why not make it out of vegetables? Best of all, unlike other meat substitutes (soy burgers, quorn), it’ll cost less than meat at retail. (And that’s before you figure in chicken’s externalized costs–environmental, human, etc.)

Watch the video and read the article here.

School lunches around the world



Reading Levine, I was surprised to find that “beginning in the late eighteenth century…local governments in Germany and France provided food…to needy children.” (p. 33)

On that note, check out the pictures of (modern) school lunches from around the world on this blog. That’s a South Korean lunch pictured above. Mmm, kimchi. 

Sunday barbacoa: Ethnic eating in the cosmopolitan metropolis

Outside Acapulco restaurant on 9th Street, below Washington Ave.

It’s Sunday morning. You’re a bit hungover: bleary, maybe, but above all, hungry. You pull on your jacket, then scrounge for your wallet and sunglasses before taking those first tentative steps down 9th Street.

Walking south–just before you get a whiff of the storefronts where Vietnamese customers buy live chickens and doves (but well south of the throngs of yuppies waiting for a gratuitously overpriced frittata at Sabrina’s on Christian Street)–you’ll hear the thud of ranchera music blasting out of street-facing speakers. Even hungrier now, the earthy fragrance of fresh masa and blackened guajillo peppers beckons you southward…


(Thanks for letting me indulge in some second-person novelistic pretension.)


But seriously, take a walk through the putative “Italian Market,” south of Washington Ave, until you hit the section now dominated by Mexican restaurants, tiendas, distance-calling/internet shops and paleterias.

If you can, go on a Sunday, when the tacquerias run by immigrants from Puebla (in south-central Mexico) are selling barbacoa–slow-braised goat that’s been seasoned with cumin, garlic and ground chiles. Eat it with a stack of warm tortillas, dipping little bundles into a soup made rich from the goat’s juices. Garnish with roasted poblanos (rajas) and some lime or just with a bit of onion, cilantro and salsa verde. Repeat.

While you’re eating, think deeply about why, exactly, you’re there. It may have started with an off-hand tip from Drew Lazor  (the City Paper food writer), but consider why you thought a curious lack of Yelp reviews might bode well. Could this be the new spot, one step ahead of the more adventurous South Philly foodies?


But that question begs still more: What kind of authenticity-seeking are you up to–and what are the costs? What type of erasures–of the chef’s ethnic and regional origins, of her own experience of modernity, of the complicated history behind supposed “original” and “pure” food–are you endorsing?

Above all, which privileges (class, education, cosmopolitanism) are you re-affirming by looking for the next-most-authentic-place?

Is the ability to taste, enjoy (and talk about) such a range of cuisines–from this barbacoa feast to the fishy stank of Cambodian porridge–just the post-modern equivalent of Victorian bourgeois self-superiority? Are you no better than the English couple from the illustration in Diner’s book, mocking an Irish woman for serving “undressed tomatoes”? Or are you something different altogether?

Taking another sip of horchata only muddles the issue.

Thinking about Italian-American Food

Parm's interior

This week, the NY Times reviewed Parm, the new lunchy offshoot of Torisi Italian Specialties (itself a very interesting and widely-adored cultural mash-up of Lower East Side immigrant food traditions: think Jewish pickles, Chinese dried scallops and durian finding their way into classic red-sauce Italian-American dishes.)

As the name implies, Parm tries to resurrect and elevate declasse Italian-American foods. (Who said a meatball parm sandwich can’t be made into a bourgeois status item?) Pete Wells (the reviewer) has some fun pointing out the malleablity of meanings surrounding this oft-overlooked cuisine.

Fried Calamari, Cantonese style (from Torisi): with fried hot peppers

“Grilled Chicken, That Temperamental Star”

Here’s the NY Times on the primping (and outright manipulation) that goes into food advertising. Give it a read; I guarantee you won’t be able to look at “flying shrimp” on TV afterwords without thinking of these folks…


“Few outside the business know their names. But given the more than $4 billion in television air time bought by restaurant chains and food conglomerates each year, these directors arguably have some of the widest exposure of any commercial artists in the country. In a typical week, tens of millions of viewers see their work.”