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In America and England, you are what you think about eating. Tell me where you stand on Michelle Obama’s organic White House garden and (with the exception of a handful of “Crunchy Cons” and another handful of grumpy left-wing nostalgists for whiskey and cigarettes) I can tell what the rest of your politics are. People who are in favor of a new approach to food–even if that approach involves a return to heritage breeds and discarded farming methods–are in favor of a new approach to social life. But in France the philosophy of food does not break on such neat party lines. Many reactionary traditionalists today cluster on the left, while some of those most open to reform are on the right. (Of course, those on the left think that what those on the right call reform is not reform at all but merely ruination.) Alexandre, who says that he now regrets his vote for the centrist François Bayrou in the last Presidential election, cannot, as a rule, count on a reliable base of supporters, which may be why Le Fooding constantly needs to whip up new bases at its events. The politics of food in France cuts haphazardly and unpredictably across party lines and allegiances; tell me what you think about eating, and I will tell you only that you are French.
M. Gopnik is correct: I adore the First Lady’s garden.
His piece is an interesting look at Le Fooding, a French movement designed to bring a new, informal atittude toward food in France. According to Le Fooding’s leaders, France is stuck in musty culinary traditions that desperately need to change. Gopnik can’t make much sense of this at first, until he hits on a good analogy from cinematic history. Read the whole thing to find out what he’s talking about.
I must say that I can’t see the need for Le Fooding in America. I agree with Salon’s Thomas Rogers:
If Le Fooding manages to convince the French to think more democratically and less snobbishly about their food choices, that’s fantastic; though given the globalization of food culture in general, that was probably inevitable anyway. But as far as America is concerned, the French have something far more useful to send our way than a culturally non-specific food revolution: the attitude, whether hierarchical or not, that good food should play a central role in everybody’s life.