A recentish New York Times opinion piece mused on the fact that food has replaced culture. “Foodism has taken on the sociological characteristics of what used to be known … as culture,” says William Deresiewizc. “It is costly. It requires knowledge and connoisseurship, which are themselves costly to develop. It is a badge of membership in the higher classes ….”
Oh the guilt.
To be sure, I’m a rather boring cook, but I do tend to wax incessantly about how vast hordes of Americans don’t cook anymore and sniff that I make everything from scratch. This evening, for instance, I made beet soup: sautee onions and a whiff of celery and garlic in butter, add turkey stock from the tail end of the soup I simmered on and off for three days, chop up roasted beets and whizbang with a stick blender. Having replenished the spice drawer at PFI this weekend and feeling adventurous, a few crushed juniper berries and some anise wended their way into the pot too.
In my defense, however, it wasn’t served in blindingly white ironstone a la food blog to showcase its beety red glory; Steve wasn’t hungry so I slurped it out of a chipped blue and white rice bowl at my desk, where I watched a 20 year old documentary about an inner city public school, and let the spoon, which was too big, tip out of the bowl at the end. We like to think we’re all different, but we’re not. Dirty dishes are always just dirty, in the end. And our schools haven’t gotten better in the past 20 years either.
Aside from this one piece, I have grown tired of newspapers, so I cancelled my kindle subscription to the NYT for now. On the phone a few days ago, my mother confessed that she had resubscribed to The New Yorker. “All my friends take it and want to talk about the articles,” she explained, “so I succumbed.”
“You can subscribe on your kindle,” I told her. (I gave her one for Christmas last year.) But she had gotten one of those special offers in the mail, and had already sent it off, and misery loves company so I succumbed too. And oh, serendipity, how we love thee, apparently the current issue, the one I downloaded this morning is … get it … the Food Issue. Tina Brown has a lot to answer for when it comes to The New Yorker, and the themed issue is one of them. Themed issues are just one step above books of quotations.
Nevertheless, a lot of the writing is really good. I haven’t finished yet, but Daniel Mueenuddin’s Sameer and the Samosas was fantastic. There’s hope yet; what have I missed? It made me nostalgic for the Mount Holyoke library; one winter, I spent long days in the stacks reading old bound New Yorkers sitting cross-legged between bookcases. There were timers on the end of each row and every so often, I had to get up and crank the timer back up to 30 minutes. Or was it 45 minutes, or an hour? I can’t remember. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that seeming expanse of time, no ping of email, nobody else around, just lots and lots of pages that I could never in a million years get through and the sense that it didn’t really matter.
There are lots of ways I’m ambivalent about the kindle (and I won’t enumerate them here), but lately, I’ve been wondering whether the kindle is changing the way I read. I have less patience. I often have this niggling sense that there’s other stuff I should be reading, and hey, look, just clicking the home button will take me there. Or I get caught up in reading the Amazon reviews because they can be vastly entertaining. In other words, I wonder whether the kindle is shrinking my own attention span. The next thing you know, I’ll be embracing the themed issue.
Or reading nothing but cookbooks.