Adam Gopnik On How We Eat

October 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to catch Adam Gopnik on “On Point” discussing the meaning of food (full audio available here). The interview opens with Gopnik telling the story of Jacques Decour, a resistance fighter, who on the morning of his execution in 1942, writes a letter to his family speaking mainly of…food. The statement Decour puts forth in his letter, “Questions of food, you see, have taken on a great importance,” is one Gopnik explores in his new book, The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food

Gopnik applies this theory to present day:

“Questions of food seem to have taken on a great importance for us now, too. An obsessive interest in food is not a rich man’s indulgence, confined to catering schools and the marginal world of recipe books. Questions of food have become the proper preoccupation of whole classes and cable networks. More people talk about food now– why they eat what they eat and what you ought to eat, too– than have ever done before. Our food has become our medicine, our source of macho adventure, and sometimes, it almost seems, our messianic material.”

And the conversation moves on to other ideas that trace back to this theme. Ideas like:

The meaning of food being a shared pleasure
Food being the most immediate way we express our values
What is going on around the table is more important that what is going on the the table and we need to make a greater balance
Physical, sensory “mouth tastes” almost always become a “moral taste” and what we eat isn’t so much what we are as how we choose to present ourselves

And even though I always immensely enjoy (almost) all my meals, through all these posts and recipes and tastings and dinners out, it’s nice to take a step back and think about the larger meaning of eating. I haven’t read Adam Gopnik’s Paris To The Moon but I will certainly add it to my list along with his new book and keep an eye out for essays in The New Yorker.


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