The recent debate (and today’s Smackdown subject) on whether “food is the new rock” has sparked some very strong feelings, with charges that foodie culture has “fetishized” the making and eating of food.
Obviously, there are very strong parallels between music and food. Our responses to both, for example. Some people find something they like, and stick with it. For others, it’s the sheer, unending diversity that makes it so important.
Personally, I have no problem with the recent fetishization of food and chefs that some bloggers have complained about. If you don’t like it, don’t watch those food shows on TV ( I don’t). Don’t read the foodie blogs or go to their gastropubs. I would just like to point out one thing:
This is exactly what we’ve done with music.
Think of it: for most of human history, music was just a fact of life – you sang in the fields to pass the time, or you sang rhythmically while you and your mates tried to move something heavy (and as if by magic, you all worked better, because your actions were now coordinated), or you sang to your baby to get her to sleep. For thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of years, we have sung and danced and created instruments, and enjoyed music without worrying about who wrote it, and who owns it, and who borrowed it from whom. As recently as Mozart’s time, music was still used as background for affairs as grand as a coronation and as humble as dinner.
With Beethoven, we get to the idea of the Composer, the Promethean artist wrestling with universal emotions and personal demons. With recordings, we get the idea of music as a commodity, as something to be held onto, as something to be bought, sold, and owned.
All of the things that some have decried in the rise of foodie culture – where food becomes an obsession, a commodity, and a visible part of our wider culture, and where its creators are lionized and turned into major pop-star figures – have already happened in music culture. I don’t see too many people complaining that music is too diverse, too important, too pervasive. So let’s all relax and let the foodie thing happen. Yes, it’s something basic that we’ve always done, and now we’re exploring new ways of doing it that may seem kind of weird. But this is apparently what we humans do. We’ve done it to music, we’ve done it with sports. (The “play” instinct made into a huge cultural thing.) Now it’s eating’s turn. Don’t worry – people still hum lullabies to their kids, and kick a ball for the sheer joy of it. We’ll still be eating burgers even when our kitchens are routinely equipped with sous vide cookers and liquid nitrogen.