Food For Thinkers: Does Not Butter Ennoble Enough?


This post is a part of Food for Thinkers, a week-long, distributed, online conversation looking at food-writing from as wide and unusual a variety of perspectives as possible. Between January 18 and January 23, 2011, more than thirty food and non-food writers will respond to a question posed by GOOD’s newly-launched Food hub: What does—or could, or even should—it mean to write about food today? Check out the conversation in full at GOOD.is/food.

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at the risk of sounding glib, i’m inclined to say that food writing should continue meaning and being more or less what it has been for the past, oh, to play it safe, let’s say 200 years. which is to say, at its best, just as diverse and interesting and inspired as i think this Food For Thinkers project promises to be; and at its worst, boring, offensive and forgettable. i mean, Sturgeon’s Law, what are you going to do?


we are at a moment, arguably, when food has seized the cultural and commercial imagination to a remarkable degree, and one can only hope that some of this renewed interest in both the ethic and ethics of eating, in sustainable, organic, locally sourced, ‘politically responsible’ production and consumption, have a more rhizomatic* effect than just becoming another lifestyle activism laminate. it is in this respect that i think there are myriad important reasons to think and write about food, and i am happy to live in a time when food as an object of serious geographical, political, architectural, etc. inquiry is being taken up by so many very bright and talented people.


i am also happy to live at a time when such free rein has been given to the frivolous, fetishistic, pretentious, and perverse (i’d be hard pressed to convince anyone, but i really tried to avoid that alliteration) treatments of food. it is a tension that i believe to be productive. i mean, i have to, because it is very much those latter that run through my own writing. i write about food for primarily the same reason that i eat the stuff – pleasure. not sickening and dying is a welcome, albeit by no means guaranteed side-effect. Continue reading