press dinner no. 3

what does it mean to be a foodie?

a discussion of the rise and recent ubiquitousness of this term could easily escalate into a hate fest. some people very much dislike this term. i, personally, am not a fan, and i’ll tell you why as briefly as possible, and then i’ll tell you why i’m bringing up a somewhat outmoded debate (search <foodie hate> on google and note that nearly all of the top results are no newer than 2013).

to me, the use of the word “foodie” as a lifestyle label is, like “clean eating,” just another way for people to feel smug about something that is ultimately unimpressive. a self-described foodie considers their mild and trendy interest in the gastronomical arts as something socially or personally edifying – they feel cultural by eating at a hot, new restaurant run by a celebrity chef or from a food truck or from chipotle. this interest, as many interests, is considered void unless it is shared for others to observe on social media platforms. thus, “foodieism” is a cultural expression of the appreciation of all manners of edible goods.

mis en place

someone who has been reading this blog might protest: “but what difference is there, notwithstanding the terminological one, between a foodie and Brillat-Savarin’s gastronome?”

a-glug

the difference lies in my aforementioned smugness in unimpressive appreciations. there is a certain gravitas that an outspoken appreciation for figpeckers brings, or for pheasants hung “well” (two freaking weeks – a cook would age a whole, unbutchered pheasant for two weeks before dressing and roasting it) that an appreciation for pork tortas from a truck does not, even if you took a picture of it. the thing is, the food that self-declared foodies are appreciating isn’t very special, and, furthermore, really isn’t the point of the exercise. a gastronome lives for exquisite dining experiences and is renowned for their discerning taste. a foodie takes decent pictures of their lunch and waits for the likes.

starfruit

why am i talking about foodies? i direct your attention to this amazing interview with Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol. there, Niccol discusses what he considers to be “foodie experiences:” Starburst smoothies, something called “Cap’n Crunch Delights,” and the Sriracha Quesarito. according to niccol,

“Some people may think a foodie experience is some fancy ingredient you can’t pronounce. The millennials think that putting Cap’n Crunch into a new form is a foodie experience. Serving a Sriracha Quesarito is a foodie experience”

combining mundane, however nostalgic and trendy, ingredients in new and confusing ways isn’t classy. it further muddles a vague term by gussying up the ordinary and the practice is an easy target for ridicule.

and of course, it is exactly what i did at the latest dinner party.

partay

this month’s theme was “tiki.” for those who aren’t aware of the origins of tiki culture, it was developed in the 1930’s as an utterly inauthentic and commercialized appropriation of a Polynesian and Hawaiian aesthetic served with “americanized” Chinese food and Caribbean rum. and it is quite a bit of fun. Martin Denny’s “Hawaiian” music is delightfully corny, rum cocktails are always delicious (especially when they are bright blue) and the mid-century Californian idea of Chinese cuisine is a wonderfully nostalgic predecessor to dirt-cheap takeout.

here is the menu. i’ll post some some recipes soon:

jackfruit rangoon with sweet and sour dipping sauce
vegetable spring rolls with duck sauce
avocado mousse with wonton strips
oyster mushroom char siu
hot and sour soup
sweet and sour tofu with pineapple and bell pepper
seitan “soya” with water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, and baby corn
vegetable fried rice
kahlua coconut ice cream with baked bananas and macadamia nuts
mai tais, blue hawaiians, and blue lagoons

 utterly mundane and made utterly hip by making everything plant-based and utterly delicious. i was initially embarrassed by my plans when we were sending invitations – this is not a “fancy” dinner by any means. however, everyone enjoyed everything, and why wouldn’t they? this was the chinese menu of our childhood, and little is more enjoyable than guiltlessly reliving delicious memories and drinking brightly-colored drinks.

plate o' goodies

deep-fried Cap’n Crunch balls? neon-colored Starburst milkshakes? maybe Brian Niccol is a genius.

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