Fast Food Better Food. Idea of the Day in the New York Times.

Nice, very nice actually, to be idea of the day in the New York Times blog.  The idea, in a nutshell, is that modern food is great, a huge improvement on the last 10,000 years.  Not perfect.  But reason to go forward, not wallow in nostalgia.

Not exactly revolutionary you might think.  Well lots do.  I am just relishing the thought of responding to the flood of hostile comments.  I love controversy.

Nor is it a new idea of mine. Here’s a link to the original article A Plea for Culinary Modernism: Why We should Love Fast, New, Processed Food which appeared nine years ago!

Back story.  Darra Goldstein asked me to write something for the first issue of Gastronomica, the food journal for grownups that was then just a gleam in her eye.  And she included it in the lovely volume, The Gastronomica Reader published by the University of California Press which celebrated 10 years of the journal.  And from there it went to Utne Reader. And from there to the NYT.

That’s called legs.

Edit.

For those of you coming from SF Weekly Blogs, welcome. I hope you have a moment to look at the original article.  And perhaps even to browse the blog.

For those who would like to see the posts there, here’s the link to John Birdsall’s article, “We Evolved to Eat Processed Food. No, Really.” No really indeed. Rachel

End edit.

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24 thoughts on “Fast Food Better Food. Idea of the Day in the New York Times.

  1. Kay Curtis

    Yeah!
    A voice of reason, balance and historic reality.
    Congratulations!
    Most Americans don’t understand or believe the first page of “Tobacco Road” and the importance of a small bag of turnips which might be stolen by relatives if set down.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Michael, your comments would be most welcome. I am in the middle of preparing a re-statement of my position. So please fire away.

      Reply
  2. Cooking in Mexico

    I read the NYT bit, and was surprised at the negative reactions. Interestingly, a historian’s comment was more understanding. Nostalgia is nice, but not if you’re poor and hungry.

    Thanks for a different perspective.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Thanks for the comments, Kathleen. Yes, historians do have a different perspective, I think.

      Reply
  3. Ji-Young Park

    The negative reactions are interesting, even a bit amusing. But I think they many of them have to seen from a relative stand point. I know a lot of people who will make similar comments while happily noshing away on processed foods. They are eating more expensive processed foods, but they are still processed and relatively fast. When they think of “fast processed food” they are often thinking of the worst examples of it.

    Reply
  4. Ji-Young Park

    Yup, charcuterie or salumi, not SPAM or ball park franks.

    I also think it helps certain kinds of people express latent classicism, because it can be cloaked with an air of moral superiority.

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Forgotten Recipes and Forgotten Cooks « Gherkins & Tomatoes

  6. benedict kiely

    Thank you so much for your blog, I read it all the time i feel like I am learning so much about different points of view and sparking very interesting discussions.

    Reply
  7. Mae

    I’m looking forward to the reworking of your article. I hope you don’t dumb it down for the knee-jerk commenters who only read two or three excerpted paragraphs. I just read the whole article and I admire the depth of the point you are making, as well as the wide sweep of history as you presented it.

    best,
    maefood.blogspot.com

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Thanks Mae. And never fear, I am not intending to dumb it down, just to extend the argument in various ways. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and enjoy debate.

      Reply
  8. Tom Thatcher

    My daughter Izzie has just cottoned on to the culinary delight that is the spam fritter, hugely popular in Scotland, home of wild salmon, venison and processed offal. No dissing Spam! Kept me alive at University and used to be called “pork luncheon meat” when we had it in sandwiches out riding, Rachel! That, and “chicken and ham paste!” Remember? It used to squeeze through our jodhpurs on wet days. Mmmmmmm!

    Reply
  9. Tom Thatcher

    PS On the “natural” side of things, you may mention that when we were young on the farm, botulism, glanders and ergotism were common, as were diphtheria and tuberculosis, the latter often transmitted by dairy products. Lockjaw/tetanus lives in the joints of male cattle. It is probably true that ergot, an hallucinogenic poisonous fungus that lives in and in cereal grains, was responsible for many of the world’s so-called mystics, not least Joan of Arc. I suspect that a few handfuls of badly cooked barley bread would have made her not see God, but instead be out of her head on the exact equivalent of an LSD trip. Now that’s natural. PS 2: How many of the contributors to the New York Times have English as their first language? Hardly any, one would guess from the standard of literacy.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      Thanks Tom. I don’t remember Spam sandwiches out hunting but I did love chicken and ham paste. Well that and Spam are just other names for pate, right? And as to disease on the farm, you’ve left out anthrax and ringworm.

      Reply
  10. Tom Thatcher

    Yes, anthrax and ringworm. I had ringworm once, caught from my shed full of calves, and God, did it itch. The only really cure is one of the penicillin complex by name of Fulvomycin. I had absolutely no joy at all with “natural” remedies, although I think that neem may be pretty effective in its newer forms. Contrary to what most folk think, it’s a fungus with some viral assistance, slightly like verrucas. I am pleased to say that ringworm is nothing like as common as it was, thanks to the aforementioned antibiotic and the cleaning of sheds with caustic soda to dissolve the fatty residues (left by cattle rubbing) that house the disease when the sheds are empty. Natural!

    Reply
    1. Rachel Laudan Post author

      You make me very glad I never got it, given the hours I spent around the calves. Horrid, even if not life threatening.

      Reply
  11. Duika

    On your Luca Simonetti article and plea for culinary modernism. Its fascinated me that the birth place of carlos pedrini and slow food is also the the home of molecular gastronomy and Feran Adria. Simonetti reinvigorates Bordieu to suggest ‘non-standard consumption confers disctinction’ and it strikes me that this is exlanatory. The Italian reaction to ‘fast food’ and construction of ‘new food’ may be less about the food than the quest a (competitive) distinctive identity in global food culture. Only as this article shows, there is a battle in Italy over which of these models is the right one. The possibility is that both could co-exist – but I guess your culinary modernism article hasn’t yet had a big enough audience in Italy… Thanks for your work Rachel. It is thought provoking and of great importance in supporting and enabling critique of traditional’ism’.

    Reply

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