- - Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Food snobs

“Even if gourmets’ rejection of factory farms and fast food is largely motivated by their traditional elitism, it has left them, for the first time in the history of their community, feeling more moral, spiritual even, than the man on the street. Food writing reflects the change. Since the late 1990s, the guilty smirkiness that once marked its default style has been losing ever more ground to pomposity and sermonizing. References to cooks as ‘gods,’ to restaurants as ‘temples,’ to biting into ‘heaven,’ etc., used to be meant as jokes. …

“The moral logic in [Michael] Pollan’s hugely successful book [‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’] now informs all food writing: the refined palate rejects the taste of factory-farmed meat, of the corn-syrupy junk food that sickens the poor, of frozen fruits and vegetables transported wastefully across oceans — from which it follows that to serve one’s palate is to do right by small farmers, factory-abused cows, Earth itself. This affectation of piety does not keep foodies from vaunting their penchant for obscenely priced meals, for gorging themselves, even for dining on endangered animals — but only rarely is public attention drawn to the contradiction. This has much to do with the fact that the nation’s media tend to leave the national food discourse to the foodies in their ranks. To people like Pollan himself.”

B.R. Myers, writing on “The Moral Crusade Against Foodies” in the March issue of the Atlantic

God and country

“An examination of the sixty most popular country songs of 2010 reveals that faith and family are recurring themes within the musical genre: Fathers are mentioned in ten of the songs, mothers in seven, and children in five; six of the songs allude to marriage; mentions of prayer, preachers, church, heaven, and God are heard discussed in three songs; and the Bible is named in one. Altogether, twenty-three of the sixty songs include at least one of these themes. …

“And yet, the music world still considers it peculiar. The willingness of country musicians to talk about God, family, and other topics counted among the most important in people’s lives, is considered aberrant. Compared to other pop music genres, this strain of country is definitely eccentric. Out of the five-dozen songs that topped the pop chart last year, none of them mentioned mothers. Or children. And while there are a few ‘daddys,’ they aren’t referring to fathers. There are, of course, endless references to the union of bodies in sexual intercourse, though not a single mention of the union of souls in marriage. In pop songs, sex never leads to babies or matrimony.

“Faith is also wholly absent. You’ll search in vain for a single reference to terms related to religious belief. However, the word ‘God’ does make a few appearances — as an interjection, an expletive, or, in one song, a being who does not exist. (‘Break Even,’ the twenty-seventh most popular song on the charts, includes the line: ‘Just prayed to a god I don’t believe in. …’)”

Joe Carter, writing on “Finding God in the Gaps of Country Music,” on Feb. 9 at the First Things blog On the Square

God and film

“To me, the most explicitly Christian film ever made is Billy Bob Thornton’s ‘Sling Blade.’ Consider: the central figure is Karl, who in today’s parlance [would] be described as mentally challenged or autistic. … We meet Karl as he sits in an institution to which he has been consigned for murdering his own mother. Yet this strange, dangerous man with this creepy affect is about to be let loose on an unsuspecting society. Unsuspecting because Karl is by far the most enlightened person in any room he walks into. And that is for one good reason: he has a keen appreciation for his own capacity for evil. He is not self-deluded. …

“But this self-knowledge is not born of hubris but of humility. When Karl realizes that he must commit another crime, and thus forsake his hard-won freedom for the sake of another — a little boy who is being tormented by his mother’s boyfriend and their self-destructive lifestyle — the first thing he does is ask to be baptized. He is identifying himself with the crucified Christ because he is about to sacrifice his own ‘righteousness’ (i.e., that fragile social acceptance that permits him to live in civil society) for the sake of another, to save another. … And so we leave Karl just as we found him. Incarcerated, but strangely free.”

Anthony Sacramone, writing on “What’s a Christian Film?” on Feb. 9 at his blog Strange Herring

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