In ELV News…

ELV has been feeling a bit under the weather lately, so his postings have been few and far between over the past few days.

And by “few and far between” he means non-existent.

So while we are getting back into the swing of things, we thought we’d post this link to an anti-food, anti-foodie, anti-food-writing, anti-Michael Pollan, just-about-anti-everything-related-to-good-food-diatribe in this month’s Atlantic Monthly.

Its author, B.R. Myers, will never be mistaken for B. R. Guest, but does make a number of valid points about the boorishness of Bourdain and the pretentiousness of Pollan (and their acolytes), along with cold-eyed stare and the general elitist nature of much of the current generation’s fascination with food (Celebrity butchers? Pul-eeze), and offers up a number of zingers that are dead on, such as: “…grilled loin and rack of Magruder Ranch veal as a typical (Chez Panisse) offering which is sustainable only because so few people can afford it.”

As if to drive the point home,’s Francis Lam posted this article yesterday about how much business Applebee’s, Olive Garden, and Red Lobster do on Valentine’s Day.

Because nothing says “I love you” like a Never Ending Pasta Bowl, or a passel of Southeast Asian fetid frozen shrimp.

Here is Lam’s somewhat over-reactive/defensive review of Myers’ essay. Both authors make a number of valid points, whether it’s Myers’ faux-populist rantings or Lam’s jihad against the jihadist, but both fail to capture, discuss, illuminate or appreciate the personal romance many people have with food — be it a Hostess Twinkie, caviar, or a perfectly roast chicken.

Bottom line: A vast majority of Amuricans just want to eat cheap and fast, and it’s tilting at windmills to think otherwise.

PS: If you’re wondering why ELV didn’t do anything about Valentine’s Day or Valentine’s Day dining out, or romantic meals or whatever yesterday, it’s because Valentine’s Day is the ultimate cliché…and ELV doesn’t do clichés…even ones that will get him laid.

5 thoughts on “In ELV News…

  1. Good job in mentioning this article, ELV.

    The first thing to remember is that it’s B.R. Meyers, and I expect anyone who has ever read any of his literary criticism will be quite familiar with the style he displays in this article. Basically, this is the sort of person who upon seeing a pile of stones will instinctively begin flinging them at whomever is nearby without letting the thought of building something with them enter his head.

    This is too bad, because as ELV points out, there are a couple of points in the article that could be turned into an interesting debate, if only one wished to put in the work rather than just flinging mud for the enjoyment of it. For example, there is room for a “what if” piece on what the country would look like if the sustainable food movement won a decisive victory over the agribusiness sector. What would tomatoes cost in Winnipeg if they were all locally grown? Is there enough land available for all beef to be free range? Is life without pineapple worth living? This is fair game, but instead Myers wants to hurl insults at those he considers sanctimonious. Please. Cooking vessel, other cooking vessel, color or shape.

    The big problem with refuting Myers is that he’s so long winded, and throws out such a vast quantity of poorly constructed arguments, that it takes more space to demonstrate their inadequacy than it does to toss them out in the first place, so nobody who realizes just how refutable his claims are can be bothered to expend the energy necessary to demonstrate just how silly the whole thing is. However, I’ll take on two points he makes directly.

    First, in paragraph nine he rails against foodies as gluttons. There is room for this, as overeating and overindulgence in especially unhealthy foods are real problems, and real problems among many in the foodie community. However, these problems aren’t exclusive to those communities. I’ve glanced at the waistlines of those in Chez Panisse and those in Applebees, and I gotta tell ya, if there’s a group with a bigger problem with their diet, it’s not the Alice Waters crowd. So, it seems to me to be a silly issue to point out that some foodies are unhealthy eaters when one hasn’t even demonstrated that within that community, a community one would consider at special risk, that they are more prone to actually be unhealthy eaters.

    Myers also makes reference to an unsupported Catholic dictum that the sin of gluttony is more about preoccupation with food than overindulgence. Leaving aside the question of support for this statement, and the questions of whether the “seven deadly sins” have any canonical basis, let’s just look at the implication.

    So, in one sentence the author has tossed off Catholic admonition as a justifiable authority for these matters. I don’t accept this, so why should I care? Argument refuted. But, let’s dig a little deeper. Clearly Myers *does* accept this as moral authority, so I eagerly look forward to his similar admonition against masturbation and birth control in successive future issues of the Atlantic. If he’s really going to go down that road without taking the time to justify or qualify, then I assume he really means what he is implying. If those articles don’t show up, then I’ll just assume he’s making an arbitrary appeal to authority for the sake of sophistry rather than constructing a argument that’s worthy of consideration. I’d bet on the latter.

    The second issue is Myers’ scorn in paragraph five for those flying to far-off lands to eat that region’s cuisine rather than show an interest in what the author considers to be more worthy arts. By what reason is it more noble to fly to Barcelona to see the Sagrada Familia than to dine at El Bulli? We have only the author’s assertion that this is so. Try to come up for a basis for it. Not so easy, is it? Might this be a reason why Myers doesn’t bother to provide one?

    Myers is an intellectual nihilist. He doesn’t argue that the work-a-day food preferences are any better, he’s merely arguing *against* the hobby of one group of people. There’s no ethic here. There’s no “right way” to approach food. He’s just interested in taking a virtual dump in someone else’s punchbowl. Sorry, but I find that hard to respect, especially when there’s room for real criticism. I’d be more disappointed if I found evidence that he’s capable of it.

  2. Jeez, (and I say this with the upmost love and respect ELV), MAN UP dude, even sick people eat.
    But, if you feel the unimaginable need to take a couple of sick days please don’t spend it reading some diatribe over something as socially inconsequential as criticism of food writers. Face it, in the big scheme of things, food writers (as well as tax accountants) don’t add or subtract much to the moral fiber of our society.
    They do add is a certain level of education and enthusiasm to those that are interested. But why on earth would anyone care if they weren’t interested.

    For instance, I dont’ get NASCAR. I know a lot of people, very good friends from all walks of life, that are true fans but it just doesn’t get my engine humming (sorry, bad joke). The only reason for me to sit down and write a scathing criticism about car racing would be if there was a socially or morally significant reason for doing so OR because I was jealous or felt inadequate for just not understanding or caring about it like others seem to.

    Look, food is food, it sustains us. Some people appreciate a beauty or art in it’s production, preparation and the final product more than others. Those that do care, listen, either agreeably or dismissively, to what others with similar interests have to say. Some criticize or comment just to get their brief moment of notoriety. I fear that is what has happened here. Unless people feel they have a moral imperative, find some comic hilarity or just love to write about food I see no reason to give others any more time or attention than they have already received.

    Let’s talk about food!!

    PS Would this be an inappropriate time to mention that the Menu Elegance at Guy Savoy last night rocked.

    Enjoy every sandwich!

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