The Food Pendulum Has Swung


Last night I posted an article from Lucky Peach about Guy Fieri. The writer took the “brave” position that Mr. Frosted Tips’ show, Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives is not just a guilty pleasure, it’s pretty good, actually soothing to watch. The author, Julia Turshen, makes sure to get her virtue signaling in, she identifies him as  a “famous, wealthy, white, straight, cisgender guy.” Just in case there was any doubt about who you are supposed to hate.

I can’t imagine anyone who’s ever seen Fieri’s show needed to be told that, but it’s not about identifying him. It’s about identifying Turshen’s politics.

This morning I read an essay in The Best Food Writing 2016 called The Case for Bad Coffee by Keith Pandolfi. It’s an autobiographical walk through his career in fancy coffee framed by his ultimate rejection of single origin snobbery in favor of the gloriously plebeian Maxwell House. The essay closes out with a story about an older family friend, presumably a Republican, who he used to enjoy conversations about life with over cheap diner coffee.

Pandolfi and Turshen’s essays both do the same thing. They inform the audience about what sort of special snowflakes they are while simultaneously demonstrating how different they are from the other special snowflakes by their nostalgically driven rejection of foodie values. In the same anthology Pandolfi’s essay appears in, there’s a lovingly written piece about the joy of basic ass chicken tenders.

You can’t simply reject what nerds are into, though. You have to have come through the epicurean fire first. It’s like when someone makes millions in some awful, dreary business and then quits to go build orphanages in the third world. You need the money first.

It’s not enough to say “I like cheap coffee, I never cared for the expensive stuff.” The foodie can only appreciate the cheap stuff by demonstrating their hard won knowledge of obscurity first. Only with a true education can you enjoy what the proles enjoy. It’s almost like foodie Marxism.

I knew this would be coming because the world seems to operate in cycles. Comic book writer Grant Morrison’s book Super Gods makes the argument that all of culture simply swings back and forth between the radical and the conservative. The rhythm seems to be about 8-12 years. The real money to be made off of society is from watching this ebb and flow and being slightly in front of it. Awareness of this cycle grants a smart person power over it. At least that’s Morrison’s theory.

The moment I knew the pendulum was swinging back was when Chef Sean Brock took Anthony Bourdain to The Waffle House. They sat drinking cheap coffee and ate  Southern cuisine perfected by the machines of capitalism. And they enjoyed it.

These two seasoned celebrity chefs rejected the anti-Waffle House hipsterdom I first heard in comedian Bill Hicks’ Waffle House bit. Hicks’s bit is about anti-intellectualism in the flyover states, which I believe is over.

The idea that the country is no longer full of uneducated bumpkins is a topic of conversation that keeps coming up on Joe Rogan’s podcast. He and his fellow comedian Bill Burr often remark that the middle of the country is full of really smart people now because of the internet.

I think there is also something to do with the rejection of coastal cities and their high prices going on here. In an article called How Every City Became Brooklyn, writer John Birdsall explores the excellent, but familiar, food scenes of out of the way fly-over cities. These places benefit from low rents and enthusiastic customers who want the kind of food they’ve seen on Bourdain and Fieri’s shows. Chefs who are done with the bullshit of $3000 a month studios with no parking are bringing their skill and ideas to places where they might actually thrive.

You’re going to see a lot more of this kind of thing. Cities like San Francisco and New York are always going to attract top-talent, but I believe they will not have the monopoly on culinary genius any more. There is going to be an exchange of sorts.

This brings me to my 2017 food predictions. I have only one: food hipsters are going to turn every thing normal people love to eat into the food version of PBR. They will act like they discovered fried chicken and lasagna. Maxwell House will appear on menus written in Helvetica. And these asshole food dorks are going to eat it up.



1 Comment

  1. Ha! “Reminding us what sort of special snowflakes they are.” Priceless. Now I have to figure out how to profit from the political swing that’s gone so far…

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