I can already tell that this is a better year. It is so much easier to write '11 than it ever was writing '10.
And though it seems impossible to believe that the New Year is only 10 days old (feels more like a month or two), it is brand new and filled with the hope of better times ahead. I remember the first weeks after the Crash of '08, when we all tried to visualize, imagine, or fantasize about when the economy would be rebounding. Just the sound of '2011' sounded so far into the future that it seemed that if we could only make it till then, things would surely be back to normal. (We didn't know that normal was never coming back.)
The end of 2010 in the Great Performances world was dominated by two relentless news streams; surveys of the top food and eating trends from the past year and predictions of new culinary hits for 2011. It must have been a slow news month because the obsession with mindless trivia about what people ate or didn't eat in restaurants from food trucks or on the run was superficial. Yes, we love our food fashion, but should we not expect -- or even demand -- coverage of the more substantive issues surrounding food, especially given the increased focus on the connection between what we are eating as a nation and how it affects our health?
Granted, food is fashion and I earn a living being sensitive to food trends, but as food has become an enormous political and health issue, my tolerance of narrow-minded list making foodies only wears thin. The conversation needs to broaden. What is food -- a commodity? A privilege? Entertainment? Is pork in or out or in again? Have we never eaten hamburgers before the current slider frenzy? Was there ever a food market before Eataly?
Here is my own list of food thoughts as we go into the New Year in these uncertain times. I welcome your additions. Lets get the conversation going about real food issues in addition to the fun food.
1. Thankfully, eating will remain in vogue, in affirmation of my favorite mantra -- Life happens around food. Most often, it is not what you eat or how it was cooked, it is the presence of people you feel connected to that really matters.
2. The food industry will continue to be one of the best examples of trickle down economy, in spite of a multitude of overpaid 'celebrity' chefs. The backbone of the culinary industry is hard working men and women of great economic and ethnic diversity.
3. The food industry offers the possibility of entry-level employment to under-skilled men and women. It is a magnificent source of jobs for a wide range of skill levels.
4. Thankfully, our farmers are dedicated to growing food in spite of our urban foodie obsessions (I wonder if celeb farmers are not next!) and we will continue to depend on them for good, healthy food and their stewardship of our earth, as city people have for centuries.
5. The same industry that feeds us kills us by flooding the market with cheap sickening food so that stockholders can get plump quarterly earnings while other Americans get sick and fat.
6. The phenomena of obesity coupled with hunger will continue to plague our country and all recipients of the western diet.
7. The increased demand for food at shelters and pantries will not be diminished this year.
8. Food deserts will persist in spite of government efforts to address the problem. In most underserved communities, finding a variety of fresh green vegetables in a bodega is almost impossible.
9. Children, parents and the elderly will continue to go to sleep hungry -- a failure of our system.
10. And finally, in a nod to superficiality -- the food fashion world has discovered foraging. Isn't that how it all began?
The fashion and trendsetting aspect of food is part of our culture like skinny jeans and ubiquitous boots. We see food as an object; source of competition; something to talk about like art; a financial puzzle with maximum profit the end goal. We lose sight of its sustenance and connection to wellness and survival. It borders on the obscene. We live in a world with parallel universes. We cross sometimes to see how the other 'half' lives, inadvertently or purposefully.
A collection of surveys about trendy food styles:
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