Enough already! I am so tired of reading about food. Mine, I realize, will not be a popular attitude in an era when everyone and the pizza delivery boy are writing about what they made for dinner last night.
It was fresh and cute when Nora Ephron popularized it by including recipes for comfort food in her roman a clef and subsequent movie, Heartburn. Thirty years later, all this writing about cooking has become tedious. Yes, most of us like to eat, and I am suspicious of that slim (in all senses) minority of people who don't. In my experience, not liking to eat is associated with an ungenerous spirit or with the physical and psychological pathologies of anorexia. But I do not care to read about your adventures in the kitchen because, in the end, it's just food; and try as you might, cooking is not art — that is, a meal does not mean, it simply is: food does not signify anything beyond itself.
And here is where things get interesting: a lot of the conversations around food assume that it does signify something larger than itself. Usually it serves as a status signifier, i.e., "My food choices demonstrate that I have more refined sensibilities and/or am morally superior.” You can see this in wine or gastronomy snobs, and in that small, obnoxious minority of fundamentalist vegans who condemn with religious enthusiasm the depravity of everyone but themselves, consigning even cottage cheese-nibbling vegetarians to perdition right along with the hopeless omnivore.
Cooking is like plumbing: both are necessary and admirable skills. One is dismayed to see them done poorly, and gratified to have them done well. But as subjects for extended conversation, searching questions, deep thought, the give and take of philosophical dialogue? Not so much. Food is just food.
I think a lot of people write about food simply because it is easy — let’s be honest: you really don’t have to think too hard to write about cooking — and because interest in food is universal. Food can be used as a quick sociological indicator: if I tell you that I’ve developed a passion for organic maple-flavored almond butter or that my diet depends on finding wild nettles, you have some critical information.
Sometimes I wonder what people used to do before all this food writing, and what we’ll be writing about when it finally wanes. The thing that sticks in my craw, a half-formed notion I can only poorly express, is the sense that writing about food has become an easy substitute for grappling with more difficult aspects of our lives.