Food Is the New Tone Deaf

Food has become more than one of life's great pleasures. It has become a signifier of style, too. The notion that "you are what you eat" extends beyond the the virtues of a nutritious, well-balanced diet. These days, it often seems that you are what you purchase in the supermarket or at the farmer's market; your grocery list is a reflection of your values and your identity. Chefs are as celebrated as designers (move over, Armani, here's Batali!) and eating and entertaining have become haute couture: Food is the new fashion.
--Martha Stewart, writing in the Huffington Post

Leave it to Martha Stewart to say something as preposterously tone deaf as the above quote. There are already far too many ways to show off and compete for status. Must we add food to the “conspicuous consumption” list too--and give consumers yet one more way to separate themselves from their money?

Most readers here at Casual Kitchen would prefer to put healthy food on our tables without worrying if our grocery list is a reflection of our “identity.” We’d also like to eat well without it costing an arm and a leg.

The problem is, there’s a false mentality embedded in Martha’s quote above that produces, in my opinion, three gigantic misconceptions people ingest when they watch food shows and read food media:

* The presumption that healthy food has to be expensive.
* The presumption that your food is a signifier of your social status.
* That presumption that there is some “style barrier” to eating well: that a simple meal, made capably in your home, somehow isn't enough anymore.

None of the above statements is true. Not even close.

Look, I understand that, as human beings, we naturally compete for status among our peers. But could we maybe try and leave food out of it?

Readers, what do you think? 

Related Posts:
The Paradox of Cooking Shows
Consumer Empowerment: How To Self-Fund Your Consumer Products Purchases
How To Be Fooled By Expensive Wine
Rules For Thee, But Not For Me

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chacha1 said...

I'm generally not a consumer of what I think of as "aspirational" media (e.g. Martha Stewart Living). Went through that phase, but grew out of it. :-)

Now I'm more utilitarian, and I agree that thinking of your everyday meal planning-cooking-eating continuum as some kind of performance is ridiculous.

ESPECIALLY given that population-wide, it is still by far more common for these tasks to be undertaken by "the woman" in the household, meaning it's just one more item for us to add to the list of Things We Get Judged On.

All that said, Ms. Stewart has a really long history of being completely oblivious to the realities of life for the majority of American women. I take her about as seriously on social issues as I take Rush Limbaugh.

Anonymous said...

ditto! :)

Guy T. said...

I get the impression that she is writing about this as a phenomenon she has noticed, not necessarily one she endorses or deplores. As she notes later in the article, "Great food doesn't need to be complicated or expensive. It is meant to be enjoyed, ideally with family and friends in celebration of good times...."

chacha1 said...

Yeah, but even that is tone deaf. Food prep for the average woman is three times a day, every day. That is not a celebration; it is a chore.

I don't "enjoy" prepping dinner every day and I certainly don't try to make it more than it is: conveying decent nutrition to two people who work. Just because I cook well enough that we can enjoy the food does not magically make the whole process fun, let alone celebratory.

My personal observation is that most men in opposite-sex relationships who say they like to cook actually do it less than 10% of the time. :-) The rest of the time it is the woman. We would have more fun with it too if we only had to do it one day out of ten!