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Food Fight

Have It Your Way

Is anyone who thinks, as I do, that “dim sum” is Chinese for “damn soon” or that “sushi” is Japanese for “bait” even remotely qualified to write on food?  Actually, I often volunteer unsolicited comments, more or less printable, as the case may be.  I have noticed that the most thoughtful people I know prefer to talk about food rather than about ideas, and I regard that cultivated shortcoming as a point of wisdom.  I think that what might seem to be an excessive preoccupation with food is a political statement of a kind.  The politics of food is a register of history and “dialectical materialism,” and we would need a Karl Marx and a Max Weber and a Thorstein Veblen, as well as a Marvin Harris, even to begin to account for it.

Food became, as we passed the hunter-gatherer period, an index of human relations.  Ancient societies were organized around food production (as well they should have been), and I enjoy thinking about traces of Chaldean beer, foodstuffs in the tombs of the pharaohs, and the amphorae that litter the floor of the Mediterranean.  Food has been attached to religion and to magical rituals, as well as to mere self-indulgence.  A few of the more notorious Roman emperors liked ice, hand-delivered from the Alps, to cool their drinks, and who can blame them?  Capri is, after all, rather warm in August.  The...

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