Alex Beam, writing in his column in today’s Boston Globe, expresses keen views which, feeling immodest, I admit to sharing wholeheartedly. For starters, like the estimable Mr. Beam, I love Dunk’s. I love Dunk’s so much, my daughter knew that the perfect XMAS present this year would be a $10 Dunk’s card. I flash this and feel as if I’m a millionaire when moments later a hot cup of Joe is presented to me as if it is a gift, as if I haven’t paid, as if I deserve it just for being who I am. “You’re special,” that coffee says.
More broadly, Mr. Beam’s disparagement of food writing and the world of food is correct on so many counts. Chiefly, there isn’t much context. That was horribly evident this week when the disasters in Japan began. Food writers scrambled to post comments on their favorite foods and where they’d just eaten. Just go to the blogs and twitters of well-known food writers and you’ll see. Same with Chowhound sites. It’s like describing snack foods in bomb shelters.
The other issue Mr. Beam raises is pretension: Indeed, how many times does one hear of sustainable, humane, organic, and local this and that before feeling dizzy and nauseated? I mean, honestly, most people don’t have enough to eat. And while it’s good to introduce nice ways to rase and kill animals, what about human rights?
Which leads to today’s top story: Got to love it. Upper Crust, the ironically named chain of pizza stores, is now under double investigation–Exploitation of labor, unfair immigration practices. As is often true, the most interesting stories concerning food are to be found in the Business sections of the media.
Too often, writing about food is a distraction from what matters. It comes down to the triviality of writing about a pleasurable activity without analyzing the why, the who, and the what of it. In that way, the facile writing about food, the cultishness of it, serves as a relief from stress and life’s challenges.
Certain food writers transcend that: Gold, Reichl, Ruhlman, Richman are among them. The king? That was A.J. Leibling.
But few attain their levels of humor, insight, and humility.
What a refuge from ideas.