When you have gatekeepers the stories are obviously much more controlled
March 30, 2015 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Oh, honey, food is ALL about power!
I used to joke that Saveur magazine had three basic narratives for their features:

1) Back in college, I visited this completely alien country and fell in love with it immediately. I wandered the alleyways and discovered amazing places with real people serving real food. I revisit as often as I can, and I now consider it a second home. Here’s a great recipe for paella.

2) When we fled the war, the only thing we took were the clothes on our backs and our grandmother’s recipe book. Now, join me as I return to my homeland and learn how to make dumplings while reconciling with past devastation and modern development. [Insert requisite description of boy using cell phone while riding a water buffalo.]

3) When I was little, our nanny/cook/farm hand would let me sit on a stool in the kitchen and she’d sing while grinding corn. Here is her recipe for tamales.
Thy Tran is a San Francisco-based writer and chef-instructor who specializes in the history and culture of food and is a founder of the Asian Culinary Forum. Bani Amor is a queer mestiza travel writer, zine-maker and photographer from Brooklyn by way of Ecuador whose mission is to decolonize travel media.
posted by Lexica (12 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
...they fight crime?
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 1:16 PM on March 30, 2015 [9 favorites]

I think the privilege of being a blank slate — that any interest can become an expertise (and one that earns you money) — is something still very much taken for granted. On the other hand, I can assure you that there isn’t a single editor who would sign me up for an article on traditional uses of olives, even if I traveled in the Middle East for a summer and read a few cookbooks — which is what many white writers can get away with.

This is true for so much non-fiction writing, not just food writing.
posted by betweenthebars at 1:23 PM on March 30, 2015 [9 favorites]

The Culinary World is Flat. Just the other day, I asked my taxi driver if he had been to any good Four Star restaurants lately..
posted by charlie don't surf at 1:24 PM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Wow, the example at the end of an editor changing numbers from 90,000 to 9,000 and having Tran talk in a context where everyone would have been silent in the name of "authenticity" is jaw-droppingly offensive!
posted by Deoridhe at 2:03 PM on March 30, 2015 [7 favorites]

Is...is that dumplings she is cooking in the photo? I have been craving dumplings. Now I know what I'm having for dinner.

Seriously - great post. Thank you.
posted by harrietthespy at 3:48 PM on March 30, 2015

Monsanto called to say ixnay on the owerpay
posted by Fupped Duck at 5:20 PM on March 30, 2015

Nobody wants to hear food stories that start with "I got into cooking because a friend of my parents had a restaurant that would let underaged kids have under the table jobs, sweat my ass off in a kitchen with a bunch of dudes who would huff air conditioners for fun (usually good people though), took up smoking just to get extra breaks, had to talk down bosses from insane cocaine fueled ideas, and then slowly worked my way up the chain into better establishments in a grueling slog. Now here's a recipe for something I learned at job X then improved at home"

Nobody wants to know how the sausage is made.
posted by Ferreous at 7:24 PM on March 30, 2015 [6 favorites]

Ferreous, that is not only an insanely compelling comment/story, it's also the backbone of Anthony Bourdain's entire career. Who is ofc a white man; the "privilege of being a blank slate" [who can talk about all the drugs he did in his kitchens] v much applies.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 6:00 AM on March 31, 2015 [3 favorites]

While I agree with moonlight on vermont on a visceral and personal level, i think Ferrous' point is still true in a larger context. I think about the people I know who like "food writing", and they are not looking for stories that start with, "When it's 6am and you're at the tail end of a two day bender fueled by amphetamines and whiskey, your body becomes very uncompromising about what it wants you to eat. Inspired by that nearly Zen clarity of focus and vision, I want to share my personal recipe for eggs benedict."
posted by Poppa Bear at 6:31 AM on March 31, 2015 [9 favorites]

Poppa Bear, I would read the FUCK out of that food magazine.
posted by zinful at 11:04 AM on March 31, 2015 [5 favorites]

I could write their dessert section periodically, honestly.
posted by zinful at 11:05 AM on March 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

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