A Taste of Things to Come

This post originally appeared on my old blog on September 21, 2009. I’m copying it here as it summed up a lot of why I wanted to blog about food, class, eating and cultural norms.

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I think a lot about food.

I like to eat. I like feeling full after feeling hungry. I like the way certain foods feel in my mouth, the taste they leave on my tongue, the way they scent my kitchen and my hands while I cook. Now that I have a really good kitchen for cooking, I think even more about what I cook and how. My recipe collection is expanding by leaps and bounds. I think about menus and kinds of beans and if it will be too hot to cook when the Santa Anas blow and how to use the left overs.

I think a lot about food.

I think about what it was like to grow up not being able to afford the kind of food “normal” people ate. I think about cans from charity. I think about having to shop at cut-rate food stores, buy day-old (“used” in my family’s lexicon) bread, have only non-fat dry milk on the shelf, cheap off-brand margarines on sandwiches, big cans of peanut butter we had to stir to keep the oil from separating, and lunch boxes that had books in them because sometimes there wasn’t lunch. I think about a mother too far gone in depression to care what she served her family. I think proudly about eating Hamburger Helper because I could make it myself and have it ready when Dad got home. I think about the way our meals improved as Dad finally got seniority at his job and his pay inched up. I look at the pantry shelf and wonder if I’m hoarding again.

I think a lot about food.

I think about the varying quality of produce between the IGA, the Trader Joe’s the Ralph’s and the Henry’s Market where I live. I remember, living in New York as a grad student, walking around Balducci’s, eyeing the perfect red bell peppers, then sighing and going to D’Agostino’s or the A&P. I remember bunches of fresh arugula at the little Korean grocery down the block near the corner of Prince and Mulberry. I think nothing of buying off brands of pantry staples and splurging on bulbs of fresh fennel. I grin when the check out clerk at the IGA just says “Three today?” as she pushes the plastic bag past her because she knows I always buy that many bunches of radishes each week. I think I need a new container as I prepare a small plastic tub of cut-up vegetables and a single hard-boiled egg every morning for lunch, but don’t want to spend the money.

I think a lot about food.

I think about the way in which grocery stores and shopping lists become political markers of having “made it.” I think about socio-economic classes in terms of where they buy their potatoes and what color they are – red, white, gold, purple. I read the comments on food blogs and ponder the arrogance of the people who write almost as much as I wonder whether they know what they sound like. I think about why food allergies are so chic. I wonder where the hell do I get sherry vinegar because no store I go to carries it. I think about rewards cards and tracking purchases. I think about union busting at grocery stores.

I think about food a lot.

I think about the gendering of our interactions with food – real men eat meat, real women watch their weight, famous chefs, unpaid housework, hunters and gatherers. I think about the way a woman’s mouth is regarded when she puts something into it. I think about stepping on a scale and having my worth reduced to three digits. I think about beefcake and cheesecake. I think about the bones in shoulders and clavicles. I think about preparing dishes you don’t dare consume, fearful of what it will say about you, both the making and the consuming.

I think a lot about food.

I think about the desire to tax “junk food”. I think about the industry of shaming fat people. I think about scarfing down ice cream, ashamed I am doing so because I’m fat. I think about the self-indulgence of watching rock concerts to stop hunger. I think of the anxiety about not ingesting the courant food of the month. I think about the miracle elixers that will save us all from the heartbreak of some obscure condition. I look at case after case of frozen convenience foods and their bar codes. I think about quaint little groceries in the Oakland Hills with prices written by hand onto the shelf tags. I think of relatives who sneer at stores I rely on. I think about the medicalization of food, turning eating as such into a pathology. I think about the transformation of food into a visible sign of personal rectitude.

And because I think about food a lot, I think I’ll be writing about it quite a bit.

Anglachel

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Posted in Economics, Food, Health, Obesity, Politics

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