The Age of Kool

Kool-Aid has recently been making headlines in the The New York Times. The latest story is of pickles flavoured with Kool-Aid (apparently a hit with the kiddies). This worries the author: ‘Kool-Aid pickles violate tradition, maybe even propriety. Depending on your palate and perspective, they are either the worst thing to happen to pickles since plastic brining barrels or a brave new taste sensation to be celebrated.’

Fortunately globalisation has not (yet) transported the Kool-Aid pickle to my side of the world, but when it does, it will be no more difficult to avoid than any of the other luminous foods out there. And, apropos tradition, I recently read a great line by Siri Hustvedt: ‘Legends can live and breathe only on verbal terrain’. So, as long as us traditionalists keep talking about (and eating) the revered pickle, I am sure its longevity will be secured. Let our words be your brine, oh pickle!

The previous story was about how food blogging has enabled the sharing of whacky ideas, like substituting orange Kool-Aid for orange zest, should you find yourself in a kitchen without real fruit. This has understandably caused some consternation among editors of foodie magazines, whose job it is to print tried and tested recipes. The suggestion is that the great democratic internet – full, now, of amateur cooks pretending to be pros and, worse, sharing their amateurish tips – jeopardises the jobs of real people who are paid to help/tell us how to cook.

There is also anxiety about the appreciation of professionalism: ‘“You see Emeril [Lagasse], the most genial guy in the world, making a U-turn in the middle of a recipe, and people think they should cook like that, too,” said Ms. Stewart of Gourmet. “They forget that he’s a highly trained chef.”’

The debate has some merit, but I don’t think that either blogging or Kool-Aid is seriously going to affect any part of the Food (Media) business. On the contrary; people will continue to watch and buy Emeril, the pro, as fervently as they do Rachael Ray, the amateur, who probably earns more money. And people will continue to put whacky spins on old classics, as they have been doing for much longer than they’ve been able to blog about it. The only difference is that kitchens are no longer private.

Much more disturbing is the idea of a next generation being unable to cook without the internet. From “My Dinner with Google“: ‘Printout in hand, we cooked, ate and delighted in a concoction we never would have conjured without Google. Then, dessert caught my eye — a blackening banana sitting on the countertop, one day away from the compost heap. So I dashed to the computer to cook it.’