9 November 2014 – John Lanchester on Food

John Lanchester has written a short article in the New Yorker. He starts by talking about his mother writing down her recipe for spaghetti bolognese to give him when he left home to be a student and he remembers the length of the closely written recipe, including the detailed instructions on how to turn on and light a gas burner. He goes on to talk about some of the ridiculous aspects associated with food and identity (is kale still compulsory? has offal gone away yet?) – for him, food used to be a way of expressing something about where you came from but now, it’s about where you want to go – and, for him, a lot of the energy we use thinking about food, isn’t about food; its about anxiety. Lanchester raises pertinent points about how the media hype surrounding food has got completely out of hand and, more seriously concludes by critiquing the idea that shopping and cooking are important political acts in his life. He says, ‘If shopping and cooking really are the most consequential, most political acts in my life, perhaps what that means is that our sense of the political has shrunk too far—shrunk so much that it fits into our recycled-hemp shopping bags.If these tiny acts of consumer choice are the most meaningful actions in our lives, perhaps we aren’t thinking and acting on a sufficiently big scale.’ Yes, he can say he is all about being ‘fresh, seasonal and local’ but, he argues, in a world predicted to reach 11 billion by the end of the century and where the majority live in cities, people won’t get fed without industrial-scale agriculture. You can read the full article here

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