Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Politics of Food - Part I



 There have been a couple of circumstances lately where people have gotten into personal and political troubles, with food in the middle of it. I feel a need to share my thoughts about them both.

 The first is, of course, the fury over the Food Network not renewing Paula Deen’s contract, over alleged racist comments.  In addition, some of her sponsors are also now dropping Paula like a hot baked potato.

 Let me get some things out of the way, first:  It’s a free country.  Paula Deen can say whatever she wants, for whatever reason she has, and the Food Network can hire or fire whoever they want, for whatever reason they have.  Neither impacts my life in any direct way.  I’m not writing about whether or not they’re allowed to do either one.  Whether or not they SHOULD do what they’ve done is also an interesting question, but not one that I am going to deal with.  Each decision will have consequences.

 In fact, I suspect that Paula Deen’s TV demise has much less to do with outrage over racism, and more to do with the trends and directions of the Food Network.  For quite a long time, they’ve been moving away from traditional cooking instruction shows, and more toward competitions and restaurant reality shows.  That Paula Deen happened to come across in a bad light simply gave them a good excuse to cut her off.

 And if that isn’t enough, there’s this, just in: Nabisco’s new watermelon Oreos are “racist”.  That is, of course, if you didn’t already make all kinds of race-related jokes and metaphors out of the original chocolate and cream flavor.

 One thing that came up in my mind, however, was a part of the bigger food culture picture. Racism, in all it’s forms, occurs when two cultures meet, and one or both is unaccepting of the other.  America has a longstanding tradition of welcoming people of different heritages.  That’s why we’ve been called the melting pot.  We’ve historically had lots of problems with that, too, as worlds and cultures clashed.  It seems, however, that in the culinary world, we like getting along.  American food culture is a delicious blend of many many cultures.

 I’d like to think of us more as a stew pot.  A good stew is made of lots of ingredients.  As it cooks, each gives its own flavor to the whole, while receiving flavors from around it, and retaining its own tastes and characteristics.  There is a homogenous overall taste, but the individuality of each ingredient also shines through.

 We need to develop that stew mentality.  Each culture can retain and celebrate their own uniqueness, while all becoming American.

 Don’t you wish it were all that easy?

Mark has discovered a love of Dutch Oven Cooking. Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

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