Tuesday, December 25, 2007


When I started this blog I figured I'd be writing a lot about food. It had been my exclusive occasion for internet interaction, aside from email. I started on Chowhound some time in the mid or late '90s? not sure when it actually came on line. But I dropped out a few years ago around the time when it was sold to Chow or whatever, because I got fed up with the fastidious censors who removed one too many of my posts, as well as the grinding and obviously sanctioned dumbing down of the conversation. I was searching for something elsewhere on the internet not long ago and came across a count of my CH posts which was somewhere around the 1,300 mark. I was a little impressed with myself. And a little appalled.

I am sorry to have lost CH outlet in some ways (especially when I'm travelling to new places and need to plan food itineraries) but my relationship to products and restaurants and so on has changed too. Maybe it's partly because the CH engagement is no longer part of the experience. I keep thinking I should report here on recent meals at Fiamma, Magnolia Grill, Watts Kitchen, JoJo, Momofuku, Angel's Share, the Palm, B&G Oysters, Savoy, Back 40, El Quinto Pino, Myth, Tadich, Tsukushi, Cho Dang Gol, twice-weekly Greenmarkets and dozens and dozens of oysters & sea urchins at the GCOB (especially, of late, the Caraquets, Ninegrets & Malaspinas);

but documentation is just not that interesting any more. I think the proliferation of amateur food critics on the web, and their photographs (this really upsets me, that people who wouldn't be caught dead behaving like Japanese tourists [actually, the Japanese are more sophisticated now; let's call them Koreans and Chinese] in the streets have no compunction about whipping out their cameras or phones to take pictures of their food), have put me off the effort to consider, describe and engage with others over what I consider to be an incredibly personal and intimate experience: the food and drink I take into my mouth and my body,the people who prepare, offer and present it, the environment in which it is consumed, the language, memory, humor, trepidation, discovery, disappointment, pacification, comparison it evokes-- these are all so fully commodified now, that I can no longer take pleasure in the act of contemplation and sharing that once was voluntary, occasion by occasion; and now has become performative, competitive.

As the productions have developed in variety and sophistication, I have become increasingly less interested in the staging of a meal. Back when it first opened, Craft was my Platonic ideal of a restaurant. Of course it was carefully calculated and executed, but the conceit of each ingredient presented separately and simply was exactly what I was looking for, and even more so now (of course Tom Colicchio has long since abandoned the original and is trading off the reputation at Craftsteaks and other cute variations on the theme in Vegas & beyond. But I digress).

I reject the ideology of authenticity. But I am repelled, now, by the very idea of Atlantic salmon, say, or tomatoes in winter (in NYC). This is not out of any reverence for the idea of 'nature' or the 'local', but because of the specific, documented implications of producing, offering and consuming such 'foods', and the cheat they offer on the plate.

No comments: