Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Different Kind Of Food Group

I’ve noticed recently that when we get tired of talking about the antics of the outside world, more often than not discussion of food follows. In its own way this common denominator can be just as passionate as politics or religion, but totally free of the peripheral fallout. And I like that.

Frankly, I’ve never been able to understand those folks that regard eating as a necessary ritual and food solely as fuel. They never admit it, you know. But in conversation I hear the catatonic, Thorazine-laden tone of their responses after I ask an innocent question like what they had for lunch. At that point I decide they’re missing out on life and attempt to find another dreary topic. That may have lost me some friends along the way but jimmy crack corn, and I don’t care.

And because food discussion for the most part is inoffensive, it has become the darling du jour of the contemporary media. Bobby Flay and Anthony Bourdain are discussed in the same breath as Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were in the seventies. Even the politicians get into the act. Here’s a clip from 2001 showing a younger, slimmer State Senator Barack Obama waxing poetic about a favorite Chicago restaurant on a pilot episode of WTTW’s “Check, Please!”, one of the early TV pioneers of ‘foodie’ discourse:


Truth be told, it’s reported that the station had to scrap this show because of the unintentional domination by Obama of most of the show’s dialogue, and it lay dormant in the station’s archives for eight years. But, to take advantage of Inauguration ’09, WTTW is finally airing the episode this Friday night for Chicagoans, so that our President-Elect can extol the virtues of johnnycakes.

But I’m not immune from this either. I regularly contribute to an engaging food forum where scoring great tips on obscure restaurants is commonplace, but the conversation is sometimes reminiscent of this delightfully inane dialogue from the 1991 movie ‘City Slickers’:

'Barry can pick out the exact right flavor of ice cream to follow any meal. Go ahead. Challenge him.'

‘OK…Macaroni & Cheese.’

‘Scoop of Chocolate, Scoop of Vanilla. Don't waste my time. Come on, challenge me.!’

‘OK…Sea Bass!’

‘Grilled…or Baked?’


‘With Asparagus…and Potatoes au Gratin!

(pregnant pause)

……………………Butter Pecan!!




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