Why Food Is 'The New Indie Rock' -- And Why That's Not Necessarily a Bad Thing
An indie-music festival in Austin, Texas. Photo: Jennifer Hattam.
With foodies getting flack for being elitist, fad-focused, and out of touch with how and what people really eat, The Guardian's "Ask the indie professor" columnist comes along with a piece comparing them to indie-rock fans -- an analogy that, somewhat surprisingly, brings out some of the best qualities in both groups.Sure, anthropology professor Wendy Fonarow points out, trendy consumption patterns of both music and food can encourage a greater focus on documenting (and bragging about) obscure finds than actually enjoying what you're hearing or eating, but both also share a set of healthy and positive core values:
The indie music scene finds ownership and means of production to be ethical issues, preferring small independent local operations to large corporations. Indie values include DIY aesthetics, simplicity, purity, an antipathy to the synthetic and manufactured, a desire for authenticity, a longing for the past...
These concerns are shared by new hip food obsessives who want to know how food is made, where it comes from, how far it travels and how much integrity it has.... If you are paying attention to food production and consumption isn't that similar to paying attention to how your music is made, who owns it, and how it is delivered to you?
Shared Values of Independence, Authenticity
This is not to say, of course, that every person listening to the latest underground band or searching for the next food fad is concerned about the "indie values" Fonarow identifies in artisanal food: "locally sourced, independently owned, limited quantities, traditional methods, purity, simple ingredients, and most of all organic, uncontaminated by additives.... Food entrepreneurs should be small and local, producing food with methods you could do yourself if you chose to."
But in that last part lies the promise -- just as independent bands and musicians have shown that you don't have to have label backing to create great (and popular) music, inspiring lots of people to go out and make their own, foodie-ism has the potential to bring people closer to food, cooking what they like instead of eating what's dished out for them by the big conglomerates of the world.
Stop Cycling Through Food Trends
Focusing on the underlying values rather than the flavor of the month could help people who care about food do what chef Eddie Huang suggests in a thought-provoking anti-foodie rant for Salon: be "slower to absorb new ingredients into the canon so that they have staying power" rather than cycling through food trends "running from new ingredient to new ingredient."
If you don't get people to "buy into the culture" rather than just the fad, he writes, there's no longevity, "no lasting effect on national eating habits, on getting people to be open-minded about what they eat." After all, to paraphrase Huang, a few dedicated people can eat all the obscure organic greens and sustainable fish they want, but if everyone else is still eating McDonald's, we all go down together.
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