The Politics of Food and the Historian’s Work: Where the Twain Shall Meet, Part 3 of 3

Part One — Part Two — Part Three 

Want to hear something even sadder? I’ve not even finished writing this new book, and I’ve already been accused of being a mouthpiece for Corporate Food.

I’m not. I’m a historian who has chosen to write about a complicated, contentious issue. (Again, I was more or less oblivious to this “food fight” until I was well into the project.) I don’t know where the “story” will go.

Why? Because I’m still researching its contents and, like any historian, I let the facts guide me toward clarity and understanding. But I doubt it will be a “story” one that either side wants to hear. It’ll be too complex. It won’t toe the party line. It won’t conform to the mythology that is the underpinning of both sides’ arguments.

Hey, that’s the nature of real life: it’s complicated and it almost never fits into the either/or, black/white scenario that we’d like it to. That’s also the curse, and the blessing, of the historian’s work.

All this leads to an obvious question: When I’m finished with the book, will I have an opinion about the “food fight”?

Answer: Certainly. By then I’ll know something about the issues, ideas, and events that led to this moment in American history, and I’ll have enough facts to make an informed judgment about this debate and to take a stance on it.

Put another way, I’ll be a more educated, informed citizen. With luck, you’ll read my book and you, too, will have enough information to make your own judgment. And you, too, will be a more informed citizen. At least that’s my hope.

2 thoughts on “The Politics of Food and the Historian’s Work: Where the Twain Shall Meet, Part 3 of 3

  1. When you break next time from the book research, would you take a request for you blog? As America’s future most prominent food writer, I’d love to read your thoughts on the film/book Julie and Julia, and also on Julia Child’s resurgence in popularity. :0)

  2. I’m always up for requests for the blog! And if only I were the nation’s “future most prominent food writer”? I think Pollan has a stranglehold on that title (sadly).I have not yet seen the film (although I will because I’m a huge Streep fan), and I didn’t read the book — and to tell you the truth, I’d hadn’t given much thought to how this may/may not affect Child’s influence.But of course now that’s you’ve asked, my brain will start pondering that last issue and no doubt I’ll realize I have something to say.But I’ll say for now that I’ve had a copy of “Mastering the Art” for decades (and yes, I’ve used it; the binding is trashed). I’ll also say that what I loved most about Child was that she was no food snob. For example, she thought McDonald’s french fries were sublime, and so do I.In fact, both she and Pierre Franey were decidedly unsnobby in their tastes. I remember once reading an interview with either Craig Claiborne or Pierre Franey in which he mentioned he drank a very inexpensive Romanian table wine, the same brand I drank every day at the time.My guess is that all of them love FoodTv. And hate “Top Chef,” which pretty much epitomizes narrow food elitism.


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