New York magazine asked 27-year-old food lover Diane Chang to photograph everything she ate for a month. (Illustrations by Gluekit. Photographs courtesy of Diane Chang.)
As a recovering glutton—the word “foodie” is a tad too innocuous—I could hardly resist posting on this story by Michael Idov in New York magazine. It’s probably a good sign that I found it alternately boring and horrifying instead of entertaining. The lengthy (by internet standards) four-page essay on New York foodie—er… glutton -- culture begins:
On the Tuesday before we meet, Diane Chang sends me a list of places where she wants to eat in the coming week.
Then follows, in alphabetical order, a list of twenty restaurants. Yes, twenty. In a week. I don’t go out that often in a year. But clearly I am neither in Diane’s disposable income nor her disposable time brackets. I’ve never spent three hours eating a lunch worth $160, and I hope I never will.
Chang earns about $70,000 a year; her rent… runs $1,100 a month. As for the rest, “I spend it all on food,” she says flatly.
My husband and I spend a lot on food too, but then there are currently seven people living in our house, and one away at university, whose groceries we are also subsidizing.
Chang is adamant that she is not a “foodie,” which begs the question of what the word actually means. NYMag author Idov had these observations to make in the weeks he spent with Chang and her friends.
“They talk about food and restaurants incessantly, and their social lives are organized around them. […] Above all, they are avowed culinary agnostics whose central motivation is simply to hunt down and enjoy the next most delicious meal, all the better if no one else has yet heard of it.”
He observes that while there have always been wealthy folk for whom interest in good food has been a “serious cultural pursuit,” it has not traditionally been so for the urban young.
An abiding interest in food was something for old people or snobs, like golf or opera. The notion of idolizing chefs, filling notebooks with restaurant “life lists,” or talking about candied foie gras on a date was out-and-out bizarre.
Lately, however, food has become a defining obsession among a wide swath of the young and urbane… like indie rock.
Idov chronicles the New York foodie movement’s history literally restaurant by restaurant, which (sorry) I found incredibly dull. And he lists daily minutiae of Chang and her ilk, which I found incredibly sad: which eating experiences to pursue; which to avoid; lists of restaurants, food-related media (blogs, websites, magazines, TV shows); writing in journals, photographing dishes; using social media to publish bragging rights that go along with it all. How else to feel at Chang’s recollection of her first dinner-date in New York with her (now-Ex) boyfriend: “Since food was a major part of our relationship, we knew we had to pick somewhere delicious for dinner.”
Too much choice, however, can be a bad thing: for Chang, deciding where to go for dinner …turns into an oft-tortuous multistep process. […] Last night, she had three options, she tells me. “And I was just stressing out and stressing out about it.”
Isn’t that just the tiniest bit obscene in a world where some people are equally (if not much more) stressed wondering where their kids’ next meal is coming from?
Hobbies are great, but I’ve always thought that a well-rounded person should have at least a few different interests—and that possibly one of them might be how we can make this world a better place for those less fortunate. Is it unfair to venture that people whose lives revolve solely around tantalized taste buds and a full belly are symptomatic of a culture that has lost a deeper sense of purpose -- but still hungers for it?
Comparatively speaking (if you ignore that whole outmoded “deadly sin” thing, to say nothing of obesity issues), gluttony is probably a better hobby than say, doing drugs, using porn, or engaging in risky sex. And hey, all that restaurant-hopping supports the economy. But over the course of a lifetime, or maybe even at the end of the day, it must leave these folks empty. No irony intended.