Alexandra Lange | Essays

Sometimes You Just Want to Eat

From Elif Bautman, Letter from Istanbul: The Memory Kitchen, in the New Yorker:

“The people’s” lost food is rescued not only from disappearance or mechanization but from foodie fetishism… Musa, who read Hegel as a young man, sees the plight of food culture in Marxist terms. The forces of industrialization and commodification have alienated people from what they eat, and labels like “organic,” while seeming to offer the promise of overcoming alienation, end up as yet another market-imposed barrier between people and food. Musa’s parsley suppliers, a family who have been growing parsley from their own seeds since 1909, recently asked him how they could go about making their product “organic.”

From Julia Moskin, Can the Jewish Deli Be Reformed?, in the Times:

Many deli die-hards were present, the kind of people who have found Saul’s matzo brei with green garlic and mission figs to be a poor substitute for salami and eggs. “When I go to a deli, it’s because I don’t want to think about local or sustainable or fattening,” said Karen Rosenthal, a lawyer in the Bay Area who attended. Rewriting the deli menu, it seems, is rife with pitfalls. Ms. Adelman said: “Everyone feels like they own this cuisine. It’s connected to nostalgia, to comfort, to religion.”

I have been thinking recently that food fetishism is eating our culture. Food seems to be the only thing we care about, from the top down, and it is being raised to a high art even as it is being removed from our plates. I see in these articles the seeds of a counter-revolution. My uncle, a Vermont strawberry and vegetable farmer, struggles with the same issues as the Turkish parsley grower: to be “organic” is to subscribe to a set of rules invented by the government and industrialized farmers. Isn’t his way, his father’s way, the better bet?

Sometimes you just want to eat.

Posted in: Arts + Culture

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