Hey, Foodie, Let’s Get Special

July 16th, 2011 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

snootyAs it has for centuries, the same answer fits both questions of what to give someone who has everything and what do the privileged need emotionally. That would be obvious and public confirmation that they are special and superior.

A sort, brilliant Simon Kuper piece in today’s FT comes at it from the food-and-status angle, leaving no snot without disdain. He notes how the high-disposable income types have lately been out-peasanting the peasants for ego thrills.

While the richest don’t bother, the social strivers and educated middle-class see peasant food as a status marker. As he writes:

By the 1970s, (Verlinvest’ direcyor Eric) Melloul said, food-processing had liberated the working woman. “Now the same working woman is finding time to go to the farmers’ market, and do the cooking herself – what her grandmother used to do. I go to dinners where probably 50 per cent of conversation centres around food.”

However, Kuper knows this is just another expression of the need to feel special, in control and trendy by choice. He adds, “But eventually strivers must abandon it too. When missionaries like Jamie Oliver and Michelle Obama succeed in spreading peasant food to the masses, it will lose its status.”

For us boomers, this comes and comes and comes like weak lake tides forever lapping societal shores. It has ranged from lower middle to upper middle classes, with each group seeking alimentary, culinary distinction and pride. In my childhood, the women’s service magazines had the new recipe and new food item, which erupted like pimples before the prom everywhere. It seemed the entire nation ate the same damn thing as soon as Redbook or Ladies Home Journal published it.

As human  foibles go, this food-as-status one is largely harmless. No matter how unthinking the herd behavior, at least it broadens the tastes, smells and colors served up on our tables. When you notice, don’t snort, you likely have your own food pretensions you assume are merely more signs of your superiority.

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