***Continued from Part 1. I’m sober now.***
Speaking of elitism: I don’t know where Myers lives, but it’s wherever this claim can be made without eye-blinks or back-ups: “Restaurant reviews are notorious for touting $100 lunches as great value for money.”
Among whom are they “notorious”? The same “foodies” who actually read them, whom the entire article otherwise indicates are brainwashed to swallow them whole? Implicit contradiction aside, I’ve never read, back in Boston or here in Denver, a review calling a $100 lunch a “great value.” Even assuming there are 1 or 2 such write-ups out there, they’re far from the rule. So what’s his point? Well, mainly it’s just a segue for the claim that such “doublespeak now comes in more pious tones, especially when foodies feign concern for animals.”
Myers takes to task postindustrial “foodies'” newfound appreciation for/attempt to understand the cycle of food production by, for example, choosing to experience the slaughter & preparation of animals firsthand. His take is that it’s at once a bloodthirsty & self-congratulatory celebration of “the biblical idea of man as born lord of the world.” Why? Because Bourdain, the ultimate tongue-in-cheek controversy-courter, gleefully says as much. Because according to Pollan, “We have eaten them for so long that meat-eating has shaped our souls.” (This quotation is offered completely out of context; never mind that Pollan’s entire body of work is shaped by his struggle with the limits of carnivorous behavior.) Because he’s read an essay that portrays “children clamoring to kill their own cow—or wanting to see a pig shot, then ripped open with a chain saw: ‘YEEEEAAAAH!’”
Not once does Myers entertain the notion, except sarcastically, that bearing witness to an animal’s death might, in fact, furnish a mature adult, capable of thinking for him/herself—or even a child who reaches a point of retro/introspection—with a valid opportunity to reflect on the meaning of meat-eating, to develop new respect for the process & the creature’s role therein. The very real possibility that such moments might indeed be teachable ones, leading to a reduction in meat consumption &/or a determination to consume more ethically & sustainably, receives only this pooh-pooh: “Note that the foodies’ pride in eating ‘nose to tail’ is no different from factory-farm boasts of ‘using everything but the oink.’ As if such token frugality could make up for the caloric wastefulness & environmental damage that result from meat farming!”
Again, I’m not sure what his point is—implicitly he’s pro-vegetarian, but he doesn’t bother to construct any thesis to that end. He’s also of course implying that “foodies” choose to remain blissfully unaware or defensively stubborn regarding the consequences of their carnivorous practices—which simply isn’t the case. But the ambivalence central to Pollan’s work, the concerns expressed by interested eaters in all manner of forms & forums about balancing the welfare of animals with the practice of eating them, don’t fit his narrative, so he simply ignores them. As for conscious nose-to-tail eating: just because he says it’s no different than the factory method of throwing every last bit of carcass into processed meat products doesn’t make it so. The qualitative differences—the way the animals are fed, housed & butchered, the way they’re treated in every sense of the word, alive & dead, medically & chemically—are quite simply & obviously enormous. In short, he’s not arguing, he’s just bitching.
Another specious excuse for meat-eating, Myers says, involves its association with tradition—with concern for & interest in traditional foodways: “Enjoinders to put the food provider’s feelings above all else are just part of the greater effort to sanctify food itself.” To prove it, he cites a few works by authors (again, the ones he has chosen to represent “us”) who claim to put food before faith—including an essay by Dana Goodyear that “tells how a restaurant served head cheese (meat jelly made from an animal’s head) to an unwitting Jew:
One woman, when [chef Jon] Shook finally had a chance to explain, spat it out on the table and said, ‘Oh my fucking God, I’ve been kosher for thirty-two years.’ Shook giggled, recollecting. ‘Not any more you ain’t!’
We are meant to chuckle too; the woman (who I am sure expressed herself in less profane terms) got what she deserved. Most of us consider it a virtue to maintain our principles in the face of social pressure, but in the involuted world of gourmet morals, constancy is rudeness. One must never spoil a dinner party for mere religious or ethical reasons.”
Now, I haven’t read this essay; I don’t know what readers are “meant” to do in context. But personally, I find the deception portrayed therein horrifying, not funny. I suspect if one surveyed any group of people, “foodie” or otherwise, one would find that some deem the scenario comical, some appalling, depending on the sociocultural mores to which they adhere. Do I sympathize in general with Bourdain’s cited observation that “taking your belief system on the road—or to other people’s houses—makes me angry”? Yes. Does that mean I don’t recognize exceptions to the rule, even if Bourdain doesn’t? Absolutely not. (Yet again, much of Myers’ argument depends on the assumption that all “foodies” agree with every word ever written by the authors he has chosen to represent our views.) And one major exception to the rule would involve deception. There’s a huge difference between deciding of one’s own volition to break a dietary law—for the sake of experience, for the sake of communion with another human being, etc.—& learning after the fact that one was tricked into doing so. But Myers doesn’t acknowledge that he’s conflating the two scenarios with the above example.
To return to his ultimate point that “foodies” are single-minded, shallow, lacking the “self-critical [nature] & “dazzlingly wide range of interests” that, um, Motley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx shows in Heroin Diaries (this, by the way, is the guy who tweets such deep thoughts as “As we head towards midnight i ask you this: What do you want out of your life. Write it down…Make it happen…..So,what is it?”). In response, I can only to return to mine: relying on the words of a few food writers—for whom food is, yes, a living—as evidence that all “foodies” (whose careers may or may not be food-related) care only about food at any cost is just silly & pointless. Next time, Myers, try interviewing & researching the people you’re profiling, not reading a few articles you—not “we”—take as gospel. You might find that they’re as heterogenous as—get this!—any other group of people you could paint with a broad brush after reading a couple of books written by people with a particular agenda.