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January 21, 2008

Fun with Foodies

Filed under: American Food,Philosophy — Mr. Henry @ 7:14 pm

Stuck at home with a winter cold, Mr. Henry has been drinking tea, eating Carr’s whole wheat crackers topped with goat cheese and honey (lots of honey), and sipping unsweetened Meyer lemonade. He drank every drop of Scotch and Cognac and is down to his last finger of gin. Nothing tastes right. Red wine tastes sour and meat tastes minerally. He chooses foods principally for texture. Consequently, in place of eating, he reads.

Sleeplessness accompanying this particular strain of grippe thankfully permitted Mr. Henry to read David Kamp’s The United States of Arugula, a romp through the American food culture revolution of the past 50 years. Here you will find the history of chefs, food, and food writers, as well as the finest gourmet gossip, well-researched and brightly told.


Salted among the accounts of sexual peccadillos at Chez Panisse is the note that Alice Waters, doyenne of American locally-sourced cuisine, once studied to become a Montessori teacher. For Mr. Henry, the penny dropped.

The American food revolution, therefore, was all about letting toddlers loose in the kitchen to freely use knives and fire. Alice Waters, the Montessori instructor, might have gently offered some direction, but chefs were encouraged to play on their own and to follow whatever creative outlets they might discover – a cuisine fresh from the kindergarten!

The best (and worst) aspect of America culture is its perpetually hopeful, and profoundly revolutionary, culture of personal re-invention, the cult of think-for-yourself-ism. As cultural expectation, it’s exciting but exhausting. The other, deeper American cultural trait is conformity, the butt-headed mob mentality. For the most part, however, the new American man is not fired with ambition. He’s not headed for the stratosphere, he’s headed for the strato-lounger. Only now, thanks to the food revolution, he’s comfortable sitting and eating arugula.

Essential reading for the food-obsessed, David Kamp’s other food book, The Food Snob’s Dictionary, sits on Mr. Henry’s most important bookshelf, the one in the bathroom.

Self-minted “experts” such as the new American foodie provide a ripe harvest for Mr. Kamp who seizes on their pioneering jargon and adroitly skewers it. His choices of adjectives include “poncey,” “weird-ass,” and “twee.” Mr. Henry defies you to read it without hooting, one more reason for a closed bathroom door.


  1. This woman bears an uncanny resemblance to Hillary, nes pas? I shall get the Food Snob’s Dictionary and while reading in the sanctuary, I shall blame the unusual cackles on disgestive upsets…

    Comment by Jennie — January 26, 2008 @ 2:29 am

  2. I have to thank you for this: “Carr’s whole wheat crackers topped with goat cheese and honey.” Yum!

    Comment by :: Suzanne :: — January 28, 2008 @ 5:13 pm

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