How Much Can Writing And Talking About Food Really Change Food Culture?
I am bored with food writing.
There, I said it. Bored.
Why? Because I continually ask myself: how much more is there to say? And with whatever we say, how much impact do we really have?
I look through food magazines and books, and it all seems to be slight variations on things that have already been written. So little of what we do as food writers is revolutionary. And yet, we keep doing it.
Some people write about how to make the best pie or what the ultimate way to boil an egg is, but I am not one of them. I write about food because I believe that what we eat is important, not just for ourselves but also for our community and our planet. And so I ask myself, how much change can we hope to have with our words?
In the face of all the things that happen around the world every single day – war, conflicts, oppression, natural disasters, death and destruction – writing about food can sometimes seem, well, a bit trivial. That’s because food writing is after all an activity of luxury; if we write about food then we have already managed to put food on the table. This puts us leaps and bounds ahead of the general global population. There’s no wonder some people call food writing elitist. Maybe it’s not so much that I am bored, but this conscious focus on food actually makes me a little uneasy and uncomfortable with my own role in all of it. And beyond that, I feel like I get repetitive, and question what my own power is to make real, positive change.
Maybe in our modern world we put too much value on food. Everyone needs to eat, but for those of us that can put food on the table, often there is an interest in food that verges on obsession. If we are all consumed with our everyday eating choices, if we are enthralled with reading about new restaurant openings and the latest and greatest kitchen gadget that is going to revolutionize our lives, does it keep us from putting energy into other topics that matter just as much, if not more?
I don’t want glossy magazines. I want dirt beneath my nails. I want real food. I want stuff that doesn’t come in plastic. I want food made with actual ingredients, not synthetic compounds with long names that I can’t pronounce. I want the food world to not be about the latest trend, but to be about feeding people – all people – with good whole ingredients. I can only hope that in writing about all of these things that there is some little contribution to tipping to the scale, so that we get to a place where everyone around the world has access to clean water and enough food.
The world doesn’t need an avocado toast recipe. But it does need advocates for change.
Being an advocate for change can be as simple as having a conversation. There is so much in our world that is out of our control, and yet, there is a lot that is in our control. We can control what we eat. We can make a neighbor a meal. We can build a planter box and grow a garden. We can volunteer with an organization that teaches other people to garden.
In my opinion, if as food writers we are going to change the food world, then we have to focus on the dirty stuff instead of the shiny, glamorous stuff. The world does not need more Michelin-star restaurants. But it does need more gardens in at-risk communities. It does need more activists protesting big agribusiness. It does need people working at soup kitchens to ensure that families don’t go hungry.
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