I used to think, back when all the foodie stuff was gathering steam (this would have been about 1994, when everyone was eating arugula and going on about, I don’t know, first-press organic broccoli rabe) that our newfound taste for food would lead, in time, to a taste for art.
Americans were discovering their senses — learning to value pleasure, distinguish subtle differences, and make fine judgments — and sensual responsiveness is the basis of artistic sensibility. Maybe we were finally on our way to Old World sophistication.
Today tapenade, tomorrow Tintoretto.
But what has happened is not that food has led to art, but that it has replaced it. Foodism has taken on the sociological characteristics of what used to be known — in the days of the rising postwar middle class, when Mortimer Adler was peddling the Great Books and Leonard Bernstein was on television — as culture. It is costly. It requires knowledge and connoisseurship, which are themselves costly to develop. It is a badge of membership in the higher classes, an ideal example of what Thorstein Veblen, the great social critic of the Gilded Age, called conspicuous consumption. It is a vehicle of status aspiration and competition, an ever-present occasion for snobbery, one-upmanship and social aggression. (My farmers’ market has bigger, better, fresher tomatoes than yours.) Nobody cares if you know about Mozart or Leonardo anymore, but you had better be able to discuss the difference between ganache and couverture.
Read the rest of this food, art and society article here: MatterofTaste
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