What's New in Food?
There is nothing new in food.
Scratch that, there's not that much new in food, and what there is new could be classified as disgusting and a waste of time. After reading this infamous article on Food and Wine for the second time, I was disgusted by the pretentiousness of the author's attitude toward the world of food, specifically the world of food blogging. But I really don't want to focus on Pete Wells so much. I'm sure he's a good guy and means well. He's taken a lot of guff for that article, and I don't feel like harping on it any longer.
What bothers me about that article is something that irritates me about food snobs in general. It's the way that they get about the eternal questions "what's new?" They're always looking for what's new in food or what's exciting and ground-breaking. Wells cites a special food blog called Deep End Dining, and all about the pleasures of eating White Sea Worms.
If white sea worm cuisine is what's new in food, then nothing is left to call new. I'm sure we could all find some species of animal on this planet that has never been cooked before and call it "cuisine." I hear that in South Texas, eating sauteed wolf spider is a delicacy, and sometimes considered an aphrodesiac by the natives. Most of what you see on shows like Iron Chef is just a mish-mash of different cuisines, or different (and sometimes effed-up) ways of preparing certain foods.
For now, the concept of "new" is done. It's down for the count, and the only way to ressurect food is the reboot and start from the beginning.
All bitching aside, I believe there are a few things new in food, and they exist right here. New media is what is new in food. Weblogs, podcasts, and web sites are what is new in food, and it just might bring haute cuisine to the masses. What's good about that is the content of blog and podcasts are user-generated. We are the people generating the content and we are the ones devouring it.
Let me put it to you this way: I love the food network, but after a while it gets stale. And I get tired of overpaid, overhyped celebrity chefs pushing their wares and themselves onto me. I love blogs and podcasts because they are home grown and home made. There are a lot of extremely talented food bloggers out here, and I hope that we can compete with traditional media for food, cooking, and food-based entertainment.
The other thing that I think is new in food is what is old in food: instruction. The past 10 years have seen explosive growth in food-based entertainment with the Food Network channel, Travel Channel, Home and Garden TV, and increased food programming on public television stations. But as we Americans sit down and watch our shows, we're not following up that viewing by getting in the kitchen and trying to replicate what we've seen. Part of this is due to the sensationalistic nature of food programming, but the other part is that a lot of what we see on television is edited so heavily, we get an unrealistic concept of the amount of time and effort that goes into making one dish.
Another part of this problem is an issue that I wrote about in March: the culinary dumbing-down of America. As more Americans lean toward eating out and preparing quick meals, the concepts of cooking are getting lost. Skills are non-exisistent, and companies are writing instructions as if we were 4 year olds.
So the idea of teaching people how to cook rather than just entertaining them is a rather new concept in food. Bringing that instruction to the masses is what we bloggers and podcasters are doing. I think that's what is new in food .... teaching people how to cook, teaching them basic terminology and concepts. Even just explaining basic things like Why Does Water Boil Over When Pasta Cooks is something that helps people out. It's those kinds of explanations that can be a "light bulb moment" and help a person improve their skills.
Not to make this a shameless self-promotion, but instruction and elightenment is what Men in Aprons is all about. Sure, not everyone cares why pasta water boils over, but there are some who may find the information useful and interesting. I count on that every time I write an Ask MIA article, a food dictionary piece, or anything to shed some light on grilling. I'm not an expert, nor am I a trained chef. But I do believe I have a lot of information to share.
What's new in food? Not much. Perhaps you'd like to find out how to cook white sea worms in a sauce of black scorpion intestines. I suppose there are an infinitely number of "new" possibilities. But that's not for me. What's new for me is learning how to improve my skills and teach others to do the same.