I went for a ride over the Williamsburg Bridge and into the city. Down the east side, into South Street Seaport, Wall Street, TriBeCa, and up through the West Village. It’s bad. That’s the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. And that’s the building that had its entire facade sheared off. There were so many random things washed up on the sidewalk. It was as if the waters looted Ann Taylor. South Street Seaport and lower Manhattan was ravished. It’s going to take a long, long time for this city to get back to normal. So much water damage.
Sherpaa’s office is in the building just to the right of the edge of the photograph. This was taken last night. Luckily, we’re on the 5th floor. The city is a mess.
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.
Young men once headed to the Ivy League to acquire the patina of high culture that would allow them to move in the circles of power — or if they were to the manner born, to assert their place at the top of the social heap by flashing what they already knew. Now kids at elite schools are inducted, through campus farmlets, the local/organic/sustainable fare in dining halls and osmotic absorption via their classmates from Manhattan or the San Francisco Bay Area, into the ways of food. More and more of them also look to the expressive possibilities of careers in food: the cupcake shop, the pop-up restaurant, the high-end cookie business. Food, for young people now, is creativity, commerce, politics, health, almost religion.
It took me some effort to explain to a former student recently that no, my peers did not talk about food all the time when we were her age, unless she meant which diner we were going to for breakfast. “But food is everything!” she said.
Like art, food is also a genuine passion that people like to share with their friends. Many try their hands at it as amateurs — the weekend chef is what the Sunday painter used to be — while avowing their respect for the professionals and their veneration for the geniuses. It has developed, of late, an elaborate cultural apparatus that parallels the one that exists for art, a whole literature of criticism, journalism, appreciation, memoir and theoretical debate. It has its awards, its maestros, its televised performances. It has become a matter of local and national pride, while maintaining, as culture did in the old days, a sense of deference toward the European centers and traditions — enriched at a later stage, in both cases, by a globally minded eclecticism.
interesting thoughts on food taking the cultural center stage. the author neglects to explore the ‘why’ behind our growing interest in food: to eat food that is healthier for us and the ecosystems we live in; to build resilient local economies; to connect with our communities. the cultural elitism around food is a detail, a side-effect of these larger currents pushing us towards a better world.
The Sherpaa team went to tumblr yesterday to give some flu shots. All in all, it was an excellent time. There were two main choices you had to make as a flu shot recipient:
- What kind of band-aid do you want? (Curious George, Help!, Cynthia Rowley)
- What kind of lollipop do you want? (Tootsie Pop or Jolly Rancher)
I’m happy to report that nobody cried. The tumblr crew is tough. But the results of the very scientific bandaid question showed the tumblr folks are into beautiful bandaid design (Help makes awesome bandaids) even more so than Curious George and fashion.
Even more importantly, herd immunity is running full steam in the tumblr offices. Wonderful stuff.
I went for a walk around the park with Buddy tonight as I always do. But as I was walking, I saw something blue glowing in the grass. I got closer and realized it was someone’s iPhone. I had just missed a call to this stranger’s phone. I picked it up and unlocked it so I could email the owner that I had their phone. However, it was passcode protected. So I had to wait for a call to come through.
There needs to be a button that you can press that circumvents passcode protection that creates an email to the owner saying you have their phone. It’s interesting that security presumes that an unauthorized user only wants to do harm, not good. But I’d bet that 95% of us, if not more, would return a found iPhone if we had the opportunity. I get it though…security is only as good as its weakest link.
The story has a happy ending. He got his phone back about 20 minutes after I found it.
Sherpaa is in the November issue of Fast Company in an article entitled Facing the Techy Youthful Future of Healthcare, including that funny little drawing that looks about 20% like me. Favorite quote:
“Whenever health care is run by our generation, it’s going to look much different. That’s pretty exciting.”