But where's the joy?

In my last blog post, I mentioned this week's New York Times Magazine, which is the "Food Issue." Last year's issue starred Michael Pollan, and this year it was Jamie Oliver. Oliver is taking on the town that has been unflatteringly deemed the Unhealthiest In America. It was an interesting article because Oliver really is doing some wonderful work on behalf of promoting healthy eating and cooking - certainly more than most celebrity chefs - and yet there is still some smoke and mirrors about how he goes about it. He's going into a town that doesn't necessarily want him there, a proud group of people that won't take too kindly to some good-looking Brit coming in and telling them that they're bad parents and irresponsible people. There's the idea that obese people don't necessarily want to change their ways.

There is also a more scientific and, honestly, more snooze-worthy article about calorie restriction in aging humans, rats, and primates. Seriously, it was rather boring. I skimmed it. Not my cup of tea.

I really like Mark Bittman's short article about online food shopping. As a weekly devotee to Fresh Direct, I agreed with everything he had to say about how the experience in no way caters to the consumer; instead, online food shopping is all about pushing products to the consumer, whether he wants them or not. It seems ludicrous that the process isn't more user-friendly, especially when you consider sites like iTunes and Amazon. Both of those sites allow the user/client/customer to really tailor the selections to what he is interested in. Why not online food shopping?

"No Polenta, No Cry" offered a voyeuristic look at all the little rules and restrictions we give ourselves as eaters. I felt like the author was unhinged at first...but then I realized that I think everyone eats like this a little bit. Whether it makes good sense or not.

But here's the thing: where was the joy? The "Food Issue", eh? I get that we need to talk about calories and locavorism and the ethics of meat. Important topics, all. But where was the article about the wonder and beauty and happiness in food and meals and cooking?

I remember how much I loved watching Julie and Julia because it captured how magical food can be in forging relationships and making connections. Today, on this sunny and cool autumn Sunday, I feel exhausted and maxed out on all the politics and science and showmanship of the "Food Issue." I eschew it with a firm hand and, instead, I'm looking forward to dinner tonight with my family: we've been looking forward to duck fat fries all week. I'll pour wine, and I'll play music while I'm cooking. Adam will pop in and out of the kitchen, kissing my cheek as he walks by. Bug will occasionally come in to dance to a song. We'll gather together at the table and, instead of saying a prayer, we'll raise our glasses to toast. Most likely we'll be toasting "a wonderful family weekend." That is what food is about.

For articles that really capture this feeling, I refer you to Saveur's "Dinner in the Piazza" by Beth Elon, Food and Wine's "Farm-Fresh French" by Rebecca Rose, and - one of my all-time favorite food articles EVER - Saveur's "Soulful Crepes of Brittany" by Nancy Coons* (unfortunately, this article is not available through Saveur's website so you miss the take-your-breath-away photography by Jorg Brockmann). THIS is good food writing. These are examples of how food affects our lives, affects real people, inspires cooks of every skill level. Read these before you go reading the "Food Issue."

Eat, drink, and find the joy in both.

*I loved this article so much when I read it from my library's copy that I called Saveur and tried to buy the back issue. It wasn't available. So I "lost" my library's copy. Lest you think that is ethically wrong, hopefully you'll think better of me when you find out that it cost me $20 to buy it from the library.

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