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Things we are bothered about

Food bloggers, listen up. The following must stop immediately:

1. Referring to food as naughty, sinful, etc. This isn’t the Dark Ages: I think we can stop tying values of good and evil to the freaking bread basket. These value judgements are not useful. Fer Christ’s sake — no, scratch that: for the sake of compassion, decency and, oh, hey, let’s go crazy, maturity, let’s chuck the whole “naughty” thing, okay? It’s twee, stupid, and gets me into a big angry foam. What’s that? Why? Well, I’ll tell you.

  1. Guilt and eating. We can do with less of that. Unless you’ve been living at the bottom of a compost heap for the past thirty-odd years, you might have heard that there’s a few people out there with food hangups. Even if you dodge full-blown anorexia, orthorexia or bulimia, it’s possible to be pretty disordered about food, following unhealthy patterns of bingeing, self-loathing, self-reproach and jumbled thinking that leaves you frizzy with anxiety about the avocado on your sandwich. “I nearly ate a Milky Bar earlier today, but instead I went to my dubstep-treadmill class, so I’m a better person.” Food shouldn’t be about how valuable you are as a person, unless you’re Lucrezia Borgia. It’s hard enough to chill out in the middle of a crazy-busy working day without somebody looking pointedly at your goddamn morning tea and hinting that you’re a bad, less-than-worthy person because you happen to want a Tim-Freaking-Tam.
  2. Identifying something as a sin means another agent is in the position of forgiving. If your eating is a sin, it’s because some external agent has identified it as such. So some external force also has to forgive you. No. No way, José. It is not up to another external agent to tell me whether my eating is right or wrong, morally acceptable or morally condemnable. I don’t require another person to accept what I’m eating. I eat it because I want to eat it and this shouldn’t be an issue. Driving your car to work is, arguably, a greater moral concern than eating a carton of caramels every day, but nobody calls that sinful, indulgent or naughty.
  3. Branding particular foods gives people the social sanction to negatively judge you. If you see someone eating a wedge of cake, suddenly you’ve got the right to assume that action is an illuminating example of their weakness and overall poorer social worth as a person because cake is naughty or wicked. Stop that, it isn’t nice. What a rotten way to talk about people.
  4. Equating pleasure with sin is weird. Unless you’re a seventeenth-century European Puritan, you’ve probably figured out that pleasure and living ethically are not mutually exclusive. Love playing soccer? Reading a good book? Jet-skiing? Playing with your kids? Why are those pleasures not wicked, sinful, indulgent? And if the foods that are wicked and sinful are so good — and let’s face it, you’re unlikely to ever see a recipe for a Truly Sinful Dressing-Free Cabbage Slaw, are you? — what are the morally acceptable foods? Is it bran? Vitamin supplements altogether removed from food sources?

This is a feminist issue — not exclusively, but significantly. Look at it this way: what kinds of foods are usually marketed and labelled as naughty and sinful? Chocolate, ice cream, cakes, desserts. Less frequently: cheese platters, mashed potatoes, filet mignon, risotto. None of those are particularly scanty on the calorie side of things, but it’s the girly treats that are branded sinful, wicked, etc.

C’mon, food bloggers: referring to something tasty as wicked is just stupid, cheap and immature. You can do better.

2. The expression “you won’t even miss the meat” (usually with an astonished exclamation mark). Here’s a news flash, broadcast on all channels: some people can struggle through life without the meat. Sometimes they even go without meat for, oh, days at a time. Some true freakazoids go years – YEARS – without meat. Somehow they still manage to cobble together a meaningful existence. Sometimes they even seem happy with their food, even take pleasure in cooking and eating. How do you think they manage? I’ll tell you: meat, frankly, is not obligatory. Even most dedicated meat-lover types don’t eat meat with every meal. You don’t see Cocoa Pops with “tasty enough to make up for lack of meat” on the side of the box, do you? Cheese boards don’t come with whispered apologies for the absence of sausages, do they? Fruit salad doesn’t need a “WARNING DOES NOT CONTAIN MEATS” byline on the menu, does it? What about apple pie? Guacamole? Crackers? It’s not just vegetarian foods that cop this kind of talk: you also see “you won’t believe it’s healthy!” on anything not-horrifically bad for you, which suggests that healthy food is never anything but some sort of drear obligation, endless chewing on flavourless chaff. For crying out loud, people, can we lighten up on this sheer amazement that something could not contain pork chops and still somehow manage to be enjoyable?

I have other quibbles, such as the ubiquitousness of bacon and sriracha in every single food-related discussion anywhere on the Internet and the swarm of Oreo-stuffed baked treats that seems to be sweeping across the blog-o-world (seriously: how busy are you that you can’t take the time to eat your cupcake and then your Oreo?) — but honestly, those are quibbles about other people’s preferences and they don’t really impact me, except my slightly increased risk of eye-roll strain. But the other two are seriously bothering me. If you’re writing about food, think about the language you’re using: think about the messages you’re sending and the judgements you’re making. Yeesh.

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