Thursday, October 14, 2010

Food Communities

Rob Walker began his current NY Times column "Consumed" --
"For some, the old cliché that you are what you eat has taken on increasingly complex implications: food choices can be a stand-in for social, ideological, even political identity and beliefs. Eaters can form communities of a sort, and businesses are built catering to them."
I think this is a useful observation about one current view of food, and helped me to expand my recent thoughts on how we decide what to eat. I think this helps to understand the recent trend towards making arbitrary commitments that select food for a single reason (such as limiting one's diet to local food or so-called unprocessed food). Interesting idea.

Walker's article, Shared Tastes, continued with a discussion of "incubators," that is, communal kitchens where small-scale entrepreneurs can begin a business of food preparation and sales. He offers examples from a number of cities where women (especially) without investment capital can begin to produce and market food items. He makes the point that the usual motives for food purchases -- taste, familiarity, cost... -- are often more important to buyers than the theoretical ideas of the incubator founders: "the most successful food entrepreneurs put the least emphasis on the societal impact of their mission." For example, he cites one cook from such a project "telling an interviewer that she didn’t use organic ingredients. She finally admitted that, actually, she does — but avoids saying so because to many of her customers it simply 'sounds expensive.'"

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