I made a few New Years resolutions as the clock struck twelve last Wednesday. Have better posture, call my mom more often, counteract all that charcuterie and pho by getting off my lazy butt and exercising, and so on. I’ve……]]>
As noted in Michael’s comments above, being well-heeled is not the only access point to fine dining. Like Michael, early in my working career, I saved all year for an annual pilgrimage to Le Français. If you looked at my income, you’d say I couldn’t afford it — but I chose to afford it.
Food is not the only thing that has been attacked as classist in recent times. Books have come under attack, as well. (John Simon offers a brilliantly funny essay on how imbecilic it is to view books as elitist and computers as populist in his book Paradigms Lost.)
All this attacking things as elitist reminds me of a comment in C.S. Lewis’s “Screwtape Proposes a Toast,” a piece written after The Screwtape Letters had proven so successful. Screwtape toasts the infernal powers for the successfully divisive idea that somehow excelling at anything is inherently undemocratic and needs to be shot down as elitist.
Ultimately, it seems that certain people view whatever doesn’t interest them as elitist. “If I don’t like it, it must be because I’m better than you somehow.” So I’d say that, at heart, a person who dismisses others for liking intriguing food is more of an elitist than the person eating that food.]]>
The food deconstructionists, molecular gastronomes, post-modern culinarians……all part of the sweep of history and because of that….they’re all a bit ephemeral.
We forget the turn of the century chic practice of gluttony at Delmonico’s eat-athons, the images of court feats with all manner of decorative nonsense, not to mention the “Emperor’s New Clothes” of gastronomy…Cuisine Minceur of the 1980’s….all have come and gone. I trust that there were a few charlatans among them. The rest were likely quite sincere.
Though I haven’t dined on these latest creations, I can certainly understand the concept and goals. It’s quite a feat to deconstruct food with elegance, meaning and grace. Having recently read through sections of the Alinea Cookbook and a few essays about Thomas Keller, I can certainly appreciate the level of vision and technique involved.
It’s a bit unfair to lump the current virtuosos with the other end of the deconstructionist spectrum………the Kraft chemists and the gnomes at Beatrice Foods.
The current trends do not rule out more traditional takes on food nor do they imply that we’re all headed for the foam buffet or the mega mart’s ‘ Abstract Cuisine section.
Food is too broad and compelling.It can take a few hits here & there.]]>
I don’t see this stuff percolating down to the masses precisely because I think it already percolated up from the masses– molecular gastronomy was happening in a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos long before it ever happened at El Bulli. I just had a meal like this that came a little too close to dehydrated space food for my taste, left me wishing for the this-far-and-no-farther modern approach of Blackbird, say, by comparison.
But sure, when it works, it’s magical. I just don’t think the way to defend it is on Marxist grounds– soon, all peoples will eat foam like decadent Western speculators! In fact, dining like this IS already within the grasp of the reasonably capable working person, choose to own a slightly less nice car and you can, if you want, afford a meal like this which you can still be talking about 5 years later. (Compare that to the decadent pleasures of a century ago, when the admission fee alone to the Everleigh Club was more than the average worker made in a week. To compare, Alinea would have to charge you a $3000 cover, and $20,000 for dinner.) Most people would find it crazy to spend their money that way, but they COULD.
For me these arguments from a utilitarian perspective are depressing– if our choices in life really ought to be so purely rational, then just hook us all up to feeding tubes in the Matrix and be done with it. We should all have something we get a little crazy about, or else we’re not alive. I wish I could draw as well as Chris Ware but part of the reason I can’t is because he’s spent 10 gazillion hours honing his craft and I never will. In fact, it seems crazy to me. Pass the deconstructed pork rinds with oyster foam.]]>