The “Changian” Revolution

Years ago, when I was but an infant in my research into why people suddenly gave a shit about chefs (with due respect to a chef I give most respect to: yes, I’m talking about the late, great Bourdain) – and by giving a shit I mean turned them into celebrities – I experienced something which pissed me off mightily, but which I now file in the (virtual) cupboard of naivety when it comes to online behaviour.

In brief, I had the gumption to delve into the comment section of a blog post I had an issue with, and which unfortunately got personal when someone decided to look me up and discovered that I was researching something called “food media”: ‘wot dat?‘ was among the commentary.

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To be or not to be (probably isn’t the question)

I have the unique privilege of being Danish when I feel like it. It’s a privilege because for the most part Denmark is a cool notion to be associated with – people from (or in?) that country are apparently “happier” than in most of rest of the world (except for Finland and Norway this year, but whatevs – also garbage in, garbage out, as the clever people say); their whole design game is pretty strong, and the street-food (ie. hotdogs) is good. Also, we know how to hygge without a book (and that if you need a book, you probably don’t get it).

Speaking the language, having (naturally) blonde hair, blue eyes, and a Danish passport also turn out to be pretty useful when travelling. I’m a big fan of Hans Christian Andersen too, who I will happily claim as my heritage when it pleases me. There’s also a family tree which essentially traces me back to Lagertha, so if you ever need a Viking queen to sort something out, Whatsapp me.

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Do we need rules for living?

Never mind particular diets for particular outcomes (losing weight, not dying, etc.), I’ve long found it ridiculous that anyone would need to send a set of “food rules” into the world, like those compiled – or collected, rather – by food “guru” Michael Pollan, as if people can’t figure out how to eat by themselves (some great responses by an international group of food scholars below to Pollan’s initial request in the New York Times for food rules they grew up with):

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Chef’s Table Season 6: Food Media Fatigue?

I don’t *dislike* food TV, even though I’ve published things about Jamie Oliver behaving like a rock star, and devoted several years to being one of its critics. In fact, one of the reasons I care about it at all is that I deeply value food and cooking, and I’ve long been curious and intrigued about the seemingly sudden spell (since circa 1990s) it’s managed to cast on popular attention spans.

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Goop and the Chronicles of Activated Charcoal

(No one else can resist a good clickbait heading – why should I?)

You’ve heard about “activated charcoal”, right? It’s fantastic stuff, that apparently absorbs all the rubbish toxins from your gut/liver/blood/spleen while delivering an excellent Instagram opportunity (image swiped from Eater):

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Achtung! (Eyes here please.)

There was a short “film” (or ‘single channel video art piece’, as defined by Wikipedia) produced in 1973 by Richard Serra and Carlota Fay Schoolman called Television Delivers People which made the then-provocative argument that commercial television essentially functioned to deliver people to advertisers, meaning the product of TV is you, rather than whatever slapstick show you happened to be watching:

Stills from “Television Delivers People” (a “film” of rolling text with no images)

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A burger is a burger… or is it?

So post Batali et al scandals, some of the “big” news in the food media world is that France has decided to ban the use of “meat-like terms for vegetarian food“, meaning you can’t call a vegan/vegetarian thing posing as a sausage or burger a “sausage” or a “burger”. Milk, too, will only be called by its name when it comes from a cow (or, presumably some other animal whose milk some of us humans favour, like a goat or a …?), rather than that from an almond, oat, or bloody soya bean, hipsters be damned.

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Noma 2.0 and what it means to be “cutting edge”

I recently had a short exchange with whomever manages the Twitter account of the acclaimed Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, Denmark (city of my birth, incidentally and completely irrelevantly). It was based on an article I recently read in Eater, which I found to be refreshingly critical of the restaurant that’s been everyone’s darling in the food media world since it nabbed the title of the “World’s Best” in 2010 – and retained it for several years thereafter, unseating the likes of Ferran Adrià and Heston Blumenthal, but that’s cool, because the emperor does need a new set of clothes every once in a while. Continue reading “Noma 2.0 and what it means to be “cutting edge””

The “culture industry”, then and now

Aeon recently published an essay about Theodor Adorno, in which the author (who has written a book about him too) claims that the “simple” reading of Adorno’s 1944 critique of the “culture industry” – the Marxist (or Marx-ish) proposition that popular culture is evil because it makes everyone “victims” of “the media” – is misguided. Instead of seeing Adorno as some “snob” who favours “high culture”, the author claims, we should understand his position as protective of the “bad art” that “stands in the way of true freedom”. He goes on to suggest some (to his mind) striking parallels between the culture Adorno despaired about and our own, more than half a century later.

I won’t disavow that as a student some twenty years ago I was taken with the ideas of the Frankfurt School, including the likes of Walter Benjamin, who penned the unfinished The Arcades Project as an homage to the charms of Paris before electric street lights destroyed the charms of being able to wander through the gas-lit arcades of the 19th century. Benjamin was (rightfully) beguiled by the idea of Baudelaire’s flâneur – the figure (generally a man, because those were the creatures who could do so in those days) who had the leisure to wander around a city with no agenda, and just let himself be guided by the whims of a city architecture not designed to compel anyone this way or that (unlike, for example, modern malls or high streets, which “drive” you towards the food court, or the cinema, or the fucken shoe shop by their wily walkways which basically force you to eat at Dros when all you’re trying to do is buy a bag of salad at Pick ‘n Pay on the way home from a delightful weekend in the country). Continue reading “The “culture industry”, then and now”