Gary Rhodes and the problem with attention

I need not tell anyone tuned into the food media world that Gary Rhodes passed away a few days ago.

Outpourings from fellow chefs have been prolific (including an apparently ill-judged tweet – since deleted – from Jamie Oliver mentioning a “tragic fall” before the official cause of death had been confirmed as a “brain bleed”).

Rhodes (or Gary?) was always on my radar as an early TV chef as I was trying to figure out what on earth made people who knew how to cook food into celebrities – plus, I enjoyed his spiky hair and funky trousers.

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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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Food and Social Media: ‘Highly Recommended’

From the review journal Choice:

Food Social Media‘This brief book illustrates how social media (Twitter, Facebook, and Yelp, among other sites) have strongly influenced food culture. Rousseau (Univ. of Cape Town, South Africa; Food Media, 2012) invites readers to participate in a multilayered discussion of a wide range of issues related to the topic. These include plagiarism and copyright/fair use issues, restaurant reviews and the ethics of reviewing food establishments, marketing ethics, research strategies to locate authoritative recipes, and health information. This discourse is an entertaining, accessible analysis of an ordinary occurrence: sharing food with others through cyberspace. It is an incredibly engaging, fast read for such a dense, well-researched text. Foodies and academics in many disciplines will appreciate this book; it is also suitable for general readers, students, and anyone in the restaurant/hospitality industries. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All levels of students, general readers, researchers/faculty, and professionals.’

Get it here, or here, etc.

Thoughts on televising the revolution

Talking about the surprising popular success in 1988 of a near-700 page book called The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500-2000, Francis Wheen cites the New Republic’s comment that ‘When a serious work of history with more than a 1000 footnotes starts selling in Stephen King-like quantities, you can be sure it has touched something in the public mood’ (you’ll find this in Wheen’s very amusing – and sometimes scary – How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered The World, p.66).

Let’s edit that a bit and apply it to Jamie Oliver’s American “Food Revolution” for a near-perfect description of what’s going on – ‘When a smutty work of Reality TV about a very serious issue gets the world talking ad nauseum, you can be sure it has touched something in the public mood’.

The ambiguity of “something in the public mood” is apt too, because even the fast-talking public can’t seem to figure out what exactly the issue is. The series is about “fighting obesity”. But the gamut of responses gives the lie to the possibility that it is about any one thing, which is exactly what most commentators seem to miss.

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