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”

“Ultra-processed” foods and cancer

So there’s a “study” making the rounds claiming to have found evidence of a link between consuming “ultra-processed foods” and developing cancer. It’s not the first time we’ve heard that processed stuff like bacon and pastrami leads to cancer, but this one expands the range of “processed” to the more scary “ultra-processed” to include the following (handily summarised by the BBC):

Leaving aside what exactly even are “foods made mostly or entirely from sugar, oils and fats”, it’s an excellent example of the kind of rubbish headlines that lead to the worst outcomes of social media, and of the resulting issue of people being rightly confused about what, or what not, to eat,  because it’s so beautifully tweetable, but mostly bullshit (scientifically speaking):

The main issue here is fairly simple to explain, but it unfortunately comes with consequences that are less simple to undo with a few words on Twitter. Continue reading ““Ultra-processed” foods and cancer”

Snail porridge not by Heston: homage or plagiarism?

I’ve recently confessed my confusion about how to make sense of the case of the homophobic baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple (because it’s obviously wrong. Unless it’s not, because one could grudgingly respect an asshole who’s willing to forego money for the sake of sticking to his (wrong) beliefs?). Apart from the philosophical conundrum it presents, I was intrigued by the legal implications of the case, which seemed to rely on whether the (non-existent) cake in question could be considered a work of art, in which case it would magically be protected by the rights to freedom of speech. Or not baking. Whatever floats your homophobic boat. Continue reading “Snail porridge not by Heston: homage or plagiarism?”

The problem with cake

Cake has been getting attention lately, not because it’s delicious and should be enjoyed by all (which it is, and should be), but because it’s the subject of a controversial hearing about free speech. Specifically, whether it’s OK or not for a homophobic baker to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple. The baker in question, the Washington Post informs us, also refuses to make Halloween cakes for religious reasons:

To be compelled to do so would, he says, violate his constitutional right to speak freely. This, he says, includes the right not to be compelled to contribute his expressive cake artistry to a ceremony or occasion celebrating ideas or practices he does not condone. Well.

The First Amendment speaks of speech; its presence in a political document establishes its core purpose as the protection of speech intended for public persuasion. The amendment has, however, been rightly construed broadly to protect many expressive activities . Many, but there must be limits.

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Theatre of Life: Massimo Bottura’s plan for wasted food

The documentary Theatre of Life is a lovely film about a lovely initiative, started by a lovely man. (Yes, most sentences are impoverished by adjectives, and the worst sentences contain three repetitions of the same adjective. Not off to a good start then.)

It’s a film about what started as chef Massimo Botturo’s idea to deal with all the wasted food at the 2015 Milan Expo (that tagline of which was rather ironically “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”). It was (and remains) a fantastic initiative – everyone’s favourite Danish chef René Redzepi after all told Massimo that he’s now “in it for life!” (ie. Robert De Niro, below) – which basically involves getting star chef buddies from around the globe (hello Ferran Adrià, Joan Rocca, Mario Batali, Alex Atala, Daniel Humm, et al.) to fashion amazing food out of stuff like stale bread and veggies no one (who’s paying) wants to eat.

Massimo and Bob planning their next strike

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When food porn got boring

Oops, I think I just made one of those clickbait titles. But what else do you call the demise of the thing that’s gotten everyone salivating up till now?

It started with the announcement that (the generally excellent) Lucky Peach is folding after their final issue is published in May. Confession: I have a subscription (though my pile does not include the elusive first copy that apparently sells for upwards of $175), and my first thought was will I get my money back for the issues I won’t be getting? ☹️

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