Someone recommended that I see the film, One Hundred Foot Journey, a film set in an idyllic village in France that revolves around two restaurants--you guessed it-one hundred feet and a million miles from each other. It's a sweet film, nothing that profound, a light-hearted exploration of cultural difference, racism, bigotry, traditions and the benefit of learning from each other. An Indian family of cooks moves across the street from a Michelin-starred bastion of French culinary tradition-sparks fly and food is the medium.
As I watched the camera linger over eggs, the sheen of the yolk captured in a transcendental light and watched over and over as characters argued about, tasted, waxed lyrical about mushrooms, the five sauces of French cooking and the delight of Indian spices--I realized that I was watching a 90-minute food porn film! Now, I'm ok with food porn, although I must confess, much of it is lost on me, not sure if it is my lifelong fish-allergy or what, but when it comes to food it is probably the least adventurous part of my life-caution always prevails with me when it comes to food-I'm happy eating a very narrow set of foods, so food porn is watchable and enjoyable, but I am not that turned on by it and hardly a full-on particiapnt and not even much of a voyeur. I have a friend with whom I occasionally go to restaurants on her 'hot-list' and I love her reaction to the food she tastes as much, if not more than the reaction of my own taste buds.
But the film got me thinking about this love affair we are having with food. It's been building for years and in the past decade has poked above the surface of the culture and gone mainstream. it's not just the Food Channel, Cooking Channel, celebrity chef culture, there are magazines, there is a food-truck craze that shows little sign of abating, and so many other avenues down which our culture celebrates, no revels orgiastically, in food. One Hundred Foot Journey is at least the second film this summer that trades in food--Chef, Jon Favreau's homage to food truck eating opened the summer.
I have no issue at all with it, and in fact, I enjoy going to eat with people because it tends to mean that one is with people for whom you care and who care for you in return, and the occasion is usually a really enjoyable one, because food brings us together. I am just wondering what the current giddiness with food reflects about us and about culture at present.
There is no doubt in my mind that foodie-culture is connected to other shifts in our culture that are moving us more and more away from the modern world of utility and convenience. Food isn't just fuel, it is something to take delight in-it's about community, connecting with ourselves and others, connecting with the earth and with the material world in general. Cooking at home has become the new 'going-out,' building a list of go-to restaurants has become de-rigeur for many.
Slow-food movements, the increasing expansion of health food and organics into middle America (and middle-Britain for that matter), farmers markets, all these things point to a new relationship with food in our culture. And it is globally fuelled-food comes from anywhere and everywhere and the rules are broken almost everytime you go to a restaurant-in the 21st century, anything goes-old school, new school, in-between school, no school.
The other side of the equation is the counter to all this. We hear talk of food deserts, of large portions of our cities where there is little access to good food--processed and fast food remain the main diet of many poor and disadvantaged people, particulalry in the inner-city and un-gentrified parts of the urban landscape.
As always, a complicated picture, on the one hand you have a large section of the public enjoying food and exploring new eating and diet horizons in a manner that is mind-boggling, and on the other, people struggling to get access to affordable and healthy food. Food is always about access and economics-it's not that there isn't enough food to go around, it is that food, like everything exists within an economic horizon of profit and loss and it goes where the money is.
So what to make of it? Well, a couple of thoughts. Firstly, I think our new found devotion to food has something to do with a desire for a home, a sense of home anyway, that we have never had. I mean 'home' in the sense of a time in which everything felt ordered, organized and laid-out for us, in a way that we simply cannot experience in our digitally interconnected, globally shaped pluralized world. I think our time is longing, yearning even, for a rootedness and an anchoring--think about our retro-fascination for instance, and that food is a galvanizing place--all this cooking, eating, preparing, it reeks of home.
Secondly, I think it is about re-ordering the new world we find ourselves in by thinking about things that we haven't thought about for years. And food is central in that. Again, think about the 50s and 60s--processed food-tv dinners-fast-food culture-food on the run-colouring, additives, chemicals, dyes, living with little sense of where food came from, what it might represent beyond fuel for our working lives (work being another element of our world that we are reviewing). Now we are starting to think about food, enjoy it, savour it, prepare it, celebrate and take time with it.
As the modern worlds loses its grip on our lives, we are, as I just mentioned, taking the time to re-think many things and this is indicative of a huge cultural shift that we are all experiencing and we come toward the middle of the second decade of the 21st century we are beginning to re-frame our lives, our worlds, with new perspectives and ideas, letting go of ways that shaped us for much of the 20th century and finally finding our way into the 21st.
We seem to have moved past the age of mashups, those early experimentations in remixing. But the past few months have seen a couple of brilliant mashups via Amerigo Gazaway, mashing Mos Def and Marvin Gaye (hunt it down, you wont be disappointed).
The mashup of Smokey Robinson and Oasis at the top of this post works pretty well too.
Barbara McNair was signed to Motown, stripped for Playboy, was frioends with Lenny Bruce and also had a family-oriented variety show! She was a pioneer black woman in the entertainment business. She's sort of forgotten or at least overlooked. This song was popular in my Northern Soul days but it never went mainstream.
I went to a club last night for a DJ event, headlined by Flume, a 22 year-old Australian producer/DJ/musician, who began his career at age 13 with some technology that was offered free in a cereal box! I must admit to a very scant number of experiences with live DJ stuff and I wasn't sure what to expect. What I really didn't expect was the incredibly young age demographic in the audience, it was a very young crowd, but they sure were into this guy and his music.
It was a revelatory experience for me, I enjoy electronic music and dj created stuff, but I am not sure I was expecting such a rich live musical encounter.
Club music like this feels a long way from the roots of rock and roll and seeing a stage with simply a raised platform a couple of computers and some decks doesn't signal 'wild musical encounter' but that's what was served up. Flume's music, like the other djs last night, is complex and yet simple at the same time--it's a slave to the groove, and the particular groove he conjures up creates a compelling spirit in the room. He was a masterful controller of the audience and was brilliant at building momentum and changing the atmosphere in a few moves on his equipment.
There is so much in a mix--anime voices, auto-tune, beats, spoken word, noises, ethnic instrumentation, lots of effects, bits of songs you might know, and when you combine these elements with high quality visuals and pristine sound that captures the deep, deep bass notes, as well as all the highs and you get one amazing night of musical encounter.
The lesson of a night like this is that one can always stretch horizons and take in new sounds, new eperiences, new music and
Stage designer Tom Piper and ceramicist Paul Cummins collaborated on a spectacular installation to commemorate the First World War, creating 888, 246 ceramic poppies that stream from the Tower of London down into the famour dry moat surrounding it. The poppies represent the thousands of British and Colonial military fatalities. It is an on-going and evolving project with the poppies being placed by volunteers from August 5th until November 11th when the final poppy will be placed. Definitely something to see if you are in London.