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Sat Nov 24, 2012, 03:49 AM

 

Aspirational eating: or why people are micro-obsessing over food

The idea that wine is sophisticated and that sophisticated foods and drinks are desirable may seem like common sense too obvious to merit further examination. However... It was not always so. From the repeal of Prohibition through the early 1960s in the U.S., wine was associated primarily with impoverished alcoholics and immigrants. Inexpensive fortified wines made up the vast majority of the commercial wine market... However, beginning in the 1960s, the consumption of table wine in the U.S.... began to increase....until 2005, when it surpassed beer as the national drink of choice....The growing popularity of table wine was accompanied by changes in the cultural significance of wine...

The case of wine is not unique. The shift in attitudes towards wine is part of a broader transformation in how people in the U.S. buy, cook, eat, and above all talk about and imagine food. In mainstream American popular culture, that transformation has happened mostly since 1980. Journalists and popular writers have sometimes hailed these trends as... the “American food revolution.” This dissertation analyzes the discourses that have emerged as a part of that revolution... and explains why all of these competing and contradictory ways of eating “better” simultaneously became mainstream beginning in the 1980s...

My central argument is that the food revolution became mainstream in the 1980s primarily because it appealed to Americans whose income and wealth began to stagnate or decline in comparison to the soaring fortunes of the super-rich. As other markers of class mobility became harder to come by, foodways constructed as more sophisticated, healthier, more ethically responsible, and more cosmopolitan became increasingly important markers of middle class status...

So to clarify: I am not arguing that the personal decisions people make about what to eat have no effects on their health, body size, climate change, biodiversity, animal welfare, labor conditions, or the pleasure they derive from food. Nor do I argue that food choices serve only to reinforce prevailing social hierarchies and never represent genuine resistance to the status quo or attempts to create social change. However, beliefs about what constitutes “superior” eating and broader societal eating trends are driven by factors other than empirical evidence, and in the last three decades, attempts to eat “better” have been driven more by anxieties about status and the pleasures of class distinction than objective, rational choice..

The story of aspirational eating is largely a story about how class anxiety and the pleasures and pressures of distinction can twist politically progressive impulses into behaviors that ultimately reinforce class hierarchy....

deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/86292/4/smargot_1.pdf


There's an interesting section on the significance of the interest in the Obamas' food choices as well....

46 replies, 3402 views

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Reply Aspirational eating: or why people are micro-obsessing over food (Original post)
HiPointDem Nov 2012 OP
Bonobo Nov 2012 #1
HiPointDem Nov 2012 #6
cali Nov 2012 #2
HiPointDem Nov 2012 #7
cali Nov 2012 #12
msanthrope Nov 2012 #17
dkf Nov 2012 #3
HiPointDem Nov 2012 #5
dkf Nov 2012 #8
Tobin S. Nov 2012 #13
exboyfil Nov 2012 #4
frazzled Nov 2012 #26
Shrike47 Nov 2012 #9
Warpy Nov 2012 #10
HiPointDem Nov 2012 #11
Warpy Nov 2012 #18
HiPointDem Nov 2012 #22
Odin2005 Nov 2012 #41
Warpy Nov 2012 #42
Starry Messenger Nov 2012 #14
HiPointDem Nov 2012 #15
hrmjustin Nov 2012 #16
Zorra Nov 2012 #19
HiPointDem Nov 2012 #20
Zorra Nov 2012 #23
HiPointDem Nov 2012 #24
Zorra Nov 2012 #33
HiPointDem Nov 2012 #34
Zorra Nov 2012 #35
HiPointDem Nov 2012 #36
Zorra Nov 2012 #37
HiPointDem Nov 2012 #39
Zorra Nov 2012 #43
HiPointDem Nov 2012 #44
Zorra Nov 2012 #46
Tobin S. Nov 2012 #25
jsr Nov 2012 #21
ProudProgressiveNow Nov 2012 #27
rrneck Nov 2012 #28
HiPointDem Nov 2012 #29
rrneck Nov 2012 #30
bhikkhu Nov 2012 #31
HiPointDem Nov 2012 #32
fishwax Nov 2012 #38
Odin2005 Nov 2012 #40
grasswire Nov 2012 #45

Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 03:58 AM

1. Does George Bush eating pork rinds count? nt

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Response to Bonobo (Reply #1)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 04:15 AM

6. In that 'pork rinds' are a signal to the bloc of voters he's trying to appeal to,

 

& a tactic to keep him from possibly being perceived as an elitist, wine-bibbing upper-class twit (which he is, actually) -- yes.

From the paper:

The reason that Obama's food preferences and politics were scrutinized and
celebrated more than those of previous presidents or his competitors is because the beliefs and practices associated with the food revolution have become a way to distinguish the “liberal elite,” a particular demographic of Americans with left-leaning politics and college degrees who mostly live in cities and/or on the coasts and identify as “upper middle class.” Although the liberal elite is often portrayed as small and unrepresentative, their tastes are broadly influential and portrayed as “normative” in mass media.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 04:06 AM

2. there is no singular food revolution

I'm amused by the micro-obsession of the author.

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Response to cali (Reply #2)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 04:16 AM

7. i'm amused by your obsessive need to comment negatively on my posts.

 

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #7)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 05:13 AM

12. sorry, I don't post negatively or positively depending on who the OP is

You flatter yourself.

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Response to cali (Reply #2)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 03:37 PM

17. The section on the Obamas is some of the most racist shite, dressed up in

phony intellectualism, that I've ever read.

The OP rings a Bell, though, right?

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 04:06 AM

3. Earlier on in my "eat to live" stage I might have agreed with you.

 

But once I discovered how wine makes food taste amazing, I really started to love food.

Unfortunately that led to weight gain so now I am exploring in healthier areas, like Quinoa which is my new fave.

So maybe it started with some desire to go upscale with a bit of wine. But that is all in the past. Meanwhile the diet side is my driving consideration now.

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Response to dkf (Reply #3)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 04:12 AM

5. The writer breaks the 'food revolution' down to 4 pillars. Weight-loss dieting

 

is one of them, and part of the same general picture.

One of the interesting things she brings out is that "overweight" people as defined by BMI & other supposedly scientific measures live longer than "normal weight" people. How we come to believe otherwise and the oversized place that diet and dieting has in our cultural consciousness is explored in the paper also.


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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #5)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 04:18 AM

8. For me, weight loss dieting = "can't fit clothes" and "too cheap to buy a whole new wardrobe".

 

Lol.

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #5)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 06:05 AM

13. It depends on how overweight you are

20 pounds? No big deal. It might even prove to be a little healthier to carry a little extra weight. 100 pounds? Now you have a problem. You are prone to develop diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

You shouldn't be worried if you are a little overweight, but being very overweight has detrimental effects on your health. And a lot of people in America are very overweight, including me. But I'm working on it.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 04:09 AM

4. I find it interesting different families and different cultural expectations

My family drank beer - lots and lots of beer when I grew up.

My wife's family never drinks.

The wife of my brother-in-law's family drinks especially wine.

At Thanksgiving dinner with my brother-in-law and his family I noted that my brother-in-law now drinks, but I do not drink. I wonder if males have a tendency to conform to the expectations around them. It is been over 15 years since I have had alcohol in my house. My children perceive it with awe and possibly malice (not entirely sure that is healthy).

I have had maybe five beers in the last 15 years (during business functions). My daughter who is now 16 attended an engineering society function with me (she is a dual enrolled High Schooler/pre-engineering freshman). She was shocked about the amount of drinking which occurred at the function. I had a difficult time explaining it to her. I wonder if she will be ready for college in a year and a half.

I am appreciative for my wife's family. Both my parents are/were alcoholics. 3 of my 4 grandparents were alcoholics. Most of my family's associates could be characterized as alcoholics. I stay away from it because of fear for myslef. I binge drank some when I was in college and when I got out (before I met my wife).

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Response to exboyfil (Reply #4)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 06:44 PM

26. I grew up in a family that didn't drink

Except for the token small glass of (usually sweet) wine at Passover and other Jewish holidays, where the wine is part of the ritual. My parents were just not drinkers. I remember my (immigrant) grandparents occasionally bringing out a bottle of "schnapps" at Thanksgiving or whatever. But nobody really drank. They just would comment on how strong it was.

I began to drink wine and the occasional spirit (cognac usually) when I lived abroad in France as a college student in the late 60s. It was always taken with a meal (or in the case of the cognac, just after), and never to get high or drunk. I came from the generation who had drugs to get high (we were hippies), and none of us ever went to bars or had cocktails. We never binge drank: it just wasn't done back in those days, at least in my circles. I haven't had a joint or anything like that for more than 40 years, because I don't like taking things just to get high. I do, however, still love a glass or two of wine with dinner. I never get drunk, though perhaps relaxed after the tensions of the day.

I can understand why someone who grew up in a family of alcoholics would want to stay away from wine or beer. But I don't consider them either "snobbish" or dangerous, when taken in the right context and in moderation. In many cultures, wine was the drink of choice because fresh, safe water was not available. It's been a part of life for thousands of years, and when

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 04:20 AM

9. I think people are inclined to obsess.

Some on wine, others on food. Many on tangible objects like rocks, bottles, salt and pepper shakers and almost anything else you can think of, including silhouettes of the Virgin Mary on a piece of toast.

I think it's left over from our hunter-gatherer past.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 04:54 AM

10. Actually, we all became food snobs because

we'd survived a childhood scarred by this: http://www.lileks.com/institute/gallery/

Check out Meat! Meat! Meat! and don't forget to read the commentary.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #10)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 05:10 AM

11. i read it. but i don't get the point. it's someone making fun of 'golden age'

 

Last edited Sat Nov 24, 2012, 06:10 AM - Edit history (1)

cookery.


After the Civil War—especially during the period from 1880-1920
—the elites who served as national taste leaders began holding dinner parties with plated courses modeled on the cuisine developed by the Second Estate in France (also known as “dining à la Russe”), following slimming diets in pursuit of the new bodily ideal of thinness, dabbling in the “natural” diets developed by people like John Harvey Kellogg to promote spiritual and physical well-being, and hosting “exotic entertainments” showcasing their increasing knowledge about the fringes of the expanding American empire. These practices were emulated by the emerging professional-managerial class and portrayed as superior to the foods and practices associated with the working classes.

All four trends and discourses receded in popularity during the Great Depression as the plain foods associated with the Home Economics movement were established as the national cuisine. Thus, they (the four trends) seemed new when they re-emerged in the 1980s...

During periods of greater income inequality and relatively low mobility, interest in and anxiety about eating “better” becomes more important to the middle classes. Although they are a minority, their tastes are normative and reflected in mass media and market trends. “Enlightened” eating not only serves to distinguish the middle class from the working and lower classes in the Bourdieuian or Veblenian sense of cultural capital and conspicuous consumption, it also operates as a form of compensatory mobility. The four pillars elevate certain foods and practices over others without reliable evidence, but they nevertheless offer real pleasures and rewards that make them especially compelling for the middle classes when they are not advancing
materially.


deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/86292/4/smargot_1.pdf


One of the similarities between the gilded age through the 20s and the 80s through the present is rising inequality and thus, status anxiety.

'plain foods' were a reflection of the depression and war-time/post-war relative equality/mass society.







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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #11)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 04:42 PM

18. We became food snobs in the late 60s and early 70s

and the reverse is actually true starting in the 80s, the uber rich dining on lights instead of loin, offal being presented as gourmet food while the ordinary workers had to content themselves with muscle meats.

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Response to Warpy (Reply #18)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 05:08 PM

22. seems to be in accordance with the thesis to me. except for the 'we'.

 

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Response to Warpy (Reply #10)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 05:01 PM

41. We have some of those cookbooks at the thrift store!

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Response to Odin2005 (Reply #41)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 10:50 PM

42. I saw the whole bunch of them at a thrift shop near me

shortly after the website went up. I resisted the impulse to buy them for joke gifts to serious foodie friends. Barely.

I don't know how a lot of us lived through them. My Dad's two favorite sentences were "should I or did I?" closely followed by "Uh, let's go out to dinner!"

My mother's Gayelord Hauser period was the absolute worst.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 09:33 AM

14. K&R

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 03:15 PM

15. kick

 

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 03:16 PM

16. K&R!

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 04:45 PM

19. Eating smart makes perfect logical common sense to me.

Eat clean healthy food and drink pure water and healthy liquids, with no poisons in or on them, and your body won't have to work hard to filter out the crap.



It's a total rational choice for me, and I don't give a rat's ass what anyone thinks of me, especially for what I do or don't have.

I feel great.

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Response to Zorra (Reply #19)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 04:59 PM

20. not a question of what anyone thinks of you personally. just that the

 

category 'healthy' is a socially-determined one, and the degree to which people exhibit concern over healthy food ebbs and flows in relation to other socio-economic factors.

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #20)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 05:55 PM

23. I can only buy that to a certain extent. Some foods have been scientifically determined to healther

for us than others.

Sucking down massive amounts of cokes, Milky Ways, and pork rinds while smoking 3 packs of cigarettes a day probably isn't as good for you as eating organic avocados, drinking pure water, and getting some exercise.

I've never lived in a populated area, so maybe this is some type of yuppie urban/suburban thing that I'm not understanding. I eat what I eat because it has proven to keep me healthy and feeling awesome all the time.

End of story.

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Response to Zorra (Reply #23)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 06:06 PM

24. well...of course, we should never buy anything except to a certain extent.

 

because all things have their limitations, including science and the box of our cultural and personal world views.

that's not a comment on your personal situation, eating habits or views, just a comment on the overall picture.

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #24)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 11:14 PM

33. True. And from the perspective of my cultural background, most anyone who

"eats better" because of some surveillance induced neurosis, rather than rational choice, would be somewhat an object of pity. Kind of like eating to keep up with the Jones's, in a way

The dissertation is interesting, but leads to many questions, one of these is how is "eating better" defined, and there are certainly many different reasons why people may wish to "eat better" that challenge the premise that "the food revolution became mainstream in the 1980s primarily because it appealed to Americans whose income and wealth began to stagnate or decline in comparison to the soaring fortunes of the super-rich."

As a witness to, and later a participant in, the "back to the land movement" of the 60's and 70's, I probably have a much different perspective on the "food revolution", and a different take on what the primary reason is for why people started "eating better" in the 80's.

Again, it depends on how "eating better" is defined for that era; are we talking about farm stand organic beets, or Petrossian caviar?



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Response to Zorra (Reply #33)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 11:24 PM

34. if you read the diss, the 'food revolution' she's talking about actually has

 

4 aspects, and they're not necessarily all harmonious. 1) gourmet food, 2) weight-loss dieting 3) “natural” food, 4) cosmopolitan eating.

so it covers both the beets and the caviar.

in line with her 'inequality' thesis, she compares the present to an earlier period of rising inequality, roughly post-civil war to 1920s, and finds similarities:

The movement for less-adulterated, better-regulated food became popular in the last decades of the nineteenth century fell from popularity around the beginning of the Great Depression, and remained a niche practice generally regarded (note: by the mainstream culture) as strange at best and possibly dangerously un-American at worst until the 1980s

This trajectory challenges the idea that Americans became concerned about “natural” foods primarily because of actual changes in the food system. The industrialization of food production logn preceded the Pure Foods movement and continued, even intensifying, during the decades between 1930 and 1980 when pure and “natural” foods largely dropped off the mainstream radar. Again, the correspondence between the middle-class concern with this form of eating “better” and the changing patterns in income distribution is more than coincidental....



ps: she's not saying anything about 'surveillance-induced neurosis,' nor in 'keeping up with the jones' in any simplistic/consumerist way -- like buying a TV because your neighbor has one.

It's more of a (somewhat unconscious) struggle for social power in eras in which power distributions are shifting:

In Age of Reform, Hofstadter argues that Progressivism was led primarily by “Mugwumps”—the college educated class of doctors, lawyers, and business owners who were active members in societies for civic betterment and local political leaders.

In the last decades of the nineteenth century, they found themselves eclipsed by the rise of a new super-elite:

In their personal careers, as in their community activities, they found themselves checked, hampered, and overridden by the agents of new
corporations, the corrupters of legislatures, the buyers of franchises, the
allies of political bosses.... In a strictly economic sense these men were not
growing poorer as a class, but their wealth and power were being dwarfed
by comparison with the new eminences of wealth and power. They were
less important and they knew it.


Men who were used to being big fish in small ponds suddenly found themselves in an ocean full of sharks. According to Hofstadter, they responded to the expropriation of their moral authority by becoming active in reform movements that challenged the new corporations and the new social order that had disenfranchised them.


and she has an entire section about counter-culture etc...

By the time the freaks and hippies of the 1960s counterculture discovered natural foods, the quest for purity in whole grains and meat-free diets had been firmly relegated to the cultural margins. Warren Belasco describes how “young bohemians often shared the conventional view of 'heath food nuts' as hypochondriacs who dipped desiccated wheat germ crackers into yeast carrot juice cocktails”182 when they first began to venture into natural food stores in the late 1960s. By now the association between hippies and natural food is so pervasive, some people assume that it was inevitable that politically left-leaning freaks would come to question and ultimately reject the fast food, TV-dinner,
Wonderbread cuisine developed by the industrial food system. However, the few people in the counterculture who attempted to call attention to food before 1969 had had little success...


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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #34)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 01:52 AM

35. From my perspective, this is a form of surveillance induced neurosis ~

"attempts to eat “better” have been driven more by anxieties about status and the pleasures of class distinction than objective, rational choice."

"It's more of a (somewhat unconscious) struggle for social power in eras in which power distributions are shifting":

This seems to mean: "eating better" because you are anxious due to the possibility that if you don't "eat better" you might not be, or look, hip or flush if you don't eat what's vogue among the group you want be a member of and/or to impress, rather than "eating better" because of objective rational choice.

That seems kind of like a surveillance based neurosis to me. Anxiety based irrationality stemming from distress over perceived status. That's what I meant.

Anyway, back in the 60's in 70's, there was this major back to the land movement:

By the late 1960s, many people had recognized that, living their city or suburban lives, they completely lacked any familiarity with such basics of life as food sources (for instance, what a potato plant looks like, or the act of milking a cow) — and they felt out of touch with nature, in general. While the back-to-the-land movement was not strictly part of the counterculture of the 1960s, the two movements had some overlap in participation.

Many people were attracted to getting more in touch with the basics just mentioned, but the movement was also fueled by the negatives of modern life: rampant consumerism, the failings of government and society, including the Vietnam War, and a perceived general urban deterioration, including a growing public concern about air and water pollution. Events such as the Watergate scandal and the 1973 energy crisis contributed to these views. Some people rejected the struggle and boredom of "moving up the company ladder." Paralleling the desire for reconnection with nature was a desire to reconnect with physical work. Farmer and author Gene Logsdon expressed the aim aptly as: "the kind of independence that defines success in terms of how much food, clothing, shelter, and contentment I could produce for myself rather than how much I could buy."

There was also a segment within the movement who already had a familiarity with rural life and farming, who already had skills, and who wanted land of their own on which they could demonstrate that organic farming could be made practical and economically successful.

Many of the North American back-to-the-landers of the 1960s and 1970s made use of the Mother Earth News, the Whole Earth Catalogs and derivative publications. But as time went on, the movement itself drew more people into it, more or less independently of impetus from the publishing world.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Back-to-the-land_movement


It has always appeared to me that the whole natural/ethnic/gourmet food trip the yuppies of the 80's got into was spawned by hippies making natural food cool. Yuppies picked up on a lot of hippie shit. Hippies would move into an area and do a crafts thing and the yuppies would come and think it was cool and hip and want to be there but their whole trip was about buying it and not really being it, so they bought the things the hippies grew or made, and eventually they bought the hippies out and turned the art/craft/music/organic food communities into commercialized pseudo art/craft/music/organic food communities.

I was raised in the country and was already there when the hippies moved in. So I became part of the family.

The 60's and early 70's were a cultural revolution. We were starting food coops and barter fairs and doing the whole natural food thing en masse, trying out as many new and different and exotic things as we could. Many of us were traveling around the country and the world looking for new and different experiences, and bringing back unique and tasty foods and food ideas from everywhere. There was a very large and pretty amazing subculture, and so much of the organic or ethnic food and drink that we were trying out later got institutionalized and mainstreamed by the yuppies. Organic food, ethnic foods, craft beer, exotic coffees, chai teas, etc, we were doing all of it way before the 80's, and power and status or declining fortunes was exactly what we did not need, want, or care about, and our eating habits had nothing to do with them whatsoever, except that they were part of our way of not supporting the corporate system and corporate foods, and we wanted to feed ourselves and our kids healthy natural food.

The yuppies picked up on all our cool music and stuff and food, but they didn't pick up on the ideals. So they incorporated (pun intended) our shit into their materialistic corporate trips, and a large part of the whole natural and gourmet food thing in the 80's was yuppies trying to be cool with the fine and unique grazes they picked up from us. But then again, all that good shit tastes really awesome, and much of it is extremely nutritious also, so who can blame them?

As the for the power trips mentioned in her central argument, I dunno. It seemed to me that the yuppies were making money hand over fist in the 80's, and through the 90's.

The "me generation" sure didn't seem at all concerned about comparing any declining or stagnating fortunes to the super rich to me during those days.

I'm a vegetarian, and I still eat a diet of wholesome, natural foods. I know what I like, and I know what is right for me, and I've known it for quite a long time.



(Note: I know some folks don't like the term hippie. I don't particularly like it either, it's just easy. Sorry.)

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Response to Zorra (Reply #35)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 03:10 AM

36. the 'hippie' thing is included in the diss. it's interesting to hear about your

 

Last edited Sun Nov 25, 2012, 03:51 AM - Edit history (2)

personal experiences, but i don't get your use of 'surveillance' unless you just mean the way we're all generally surveilled by others, i.e. we exist in a comparative space.

but i think you're not quite getting the point of the paper: it's not that some people consciously say, "omg, if i don't eat granola, people won't think i'm hip!" (though sometimes some do) while other, more level-headed people, eat granola out of objective rational choice (for health reasons, for anti-corporate reasons, for ecological reasons or whatever). No.

She is unpacking the validity of this 'rational choice' explanation itself.

A lot of the folks who brought 'natural' food into the mainstream -- were 'hippies' -- who gradually became ex-hippies & capitalists, sometimes extremely so.

CEO of Whole Foods, for example, started out as a college kid/democratic socialist living in a vegetarian co-op, for example. Somewhere in his journey he mutated into an anti-union, libertarian, animal welfare, yoga-posing kinda guy. Who likely still eats vegetarian. No doubt for objective reasons.

And the former 'ideals' are still on display in corporate policy & practice, advertising, etc. -- green/environmental & animal welfare concerns, local purchasing, fair trade, sustainability, buying clean power, reducing plastic, donating to farmworkers, blah blah. How that all actually works out in practice may be another story.

Most of the big 'natural' companies were started by people who at the time were "living the dream" you describe. I can't think of any right off the bat who were started by yuppies (maybe they were secret yuppies, but you wouldn't have known it at the time).

So I don't think the story is so clearcut as you make it: some 'pure' hippies trying out these new ways v. some evil 'yuppies' who stole the ideas and coopted them.

By painting in broad strokes, I have undoubtedly oversimplified many aspects... However, only by taking a long and broad view does the pattern emerge...

The central pillars of the food revolution were not new in the 1960s when they were fringe preoccupations in the counterculture or super-elite. Nor was the 1980s the first moment when suburban consumers expressed an interest in eating “better” food.

Instead, the mainstream popularity of all four pillars corresponds closely to the pattern in income inequality: high in the postbellum period and first Gilded Age, low during the mid-twentieth century “Great Compression,” and high again during the return to an bifurcated income structure in the last three decades.

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #36)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 01:50 PM

37. Yes, we are generally surveilled by others from infancy, and this surveillance regulates our

behavior.

The CEO of Whole Foods was never really a "hippie". He just modeled a dress in the fashion show. Like Occupy, it's a consciousness, not some external thing, although the consciousness manifests in the external. Identifying as a "hippie" was vogue in those days. There were were a good number of poseurs, we watched as they came, and wished them the best when they went.

Yes, some of the big natural companies were started by "hippies". They engage in fair trade in a conscious and honest manner. That's not an abandonment of the "hippie" consciousness.

True, the story is not as clearcut as I made it; I don't have the time or inclination to write a dissertation on DU and like you said, "we should never buy anything except to a certain extent".

I'm aware of how history very often has a tendency to cycle, and it is no surprise that "The central pillars of the food revolution were not new in the 1960s ". however, the conditions that exist in later cyclical manifestations of phenomena are most often very different from the previous manifestations. So while there might be appear to be an identifiable connection to a primary cause of a manifestation of these phenomena, the different conditions present under which each new manifestation comes into being makes claims of a primary cause being based on cyclical mass class loss off self-esteem kind of suspect.

The self described central argument of her dissertation is really interesting to me, and while I believe that she has a case, I am not convinced that her assertion that "the food revolution became mainstream in the 1980s primarily because it appealed to Americans whose income and wealth began to stagnate or decline in comparison to the soaring fortunes of the super-rich is accurate.

Naturally, food has been a primary concern of human beings since the dawn of our existence. In these times, incidences of cancer, diabetes, and other diseases and syndromes such as autism appear to be increasing. It just seems like common sense to me that people might suspect that what they take into their bodies, and the external environment, may be causing the increasing manifestation of these pathologies and syndromes. Many of the "ingredients" present in our food and water supply are relatively new to the human condition. Much of the content of our environment contains elements that are relatively new to the human condition. Some of these substances may be toxic, but have not been around long enough to be identified as toxic.

Now, she posits ~ "The story of aspirational eating is largely a story about how class anxiety and the pleasures and pressures of distinction can twist politically progressive impulses into behaviors that ultimately reinforce class hierarchy" ~ however, with respect to what I wrote in the previous paragraph, isn't it possible that simply a higher degree of literacy, and/or cognitive ability/intelligence, is the primary cause of desiring to eat a more natural diet, rather than "class anxiety and the pleasures and pressures of distinction"?

I do recognize that "aspirational eating", which I believe kind of means "eating to appear materially successful", is a factor in the "food revolution", but don't see it as the primary factor in why many people are choosing to abandon food and drink products that contain ingredients that cumulatively over time may possibly cause disease/other.

I'm no quite clear on what you meant by "She is unpacking the validity of this 'rational choice' explanation itself. Can you succinctly explain how she reveals the validity of the rational choice explanation?

Sorry if this was only partly finished at your first reading; somehow I mistakenly posted it while still in process. I am enjoying discussing this idea, and if I seem overly critical, it's only because I am interested and have questions. Thanks for your very thoughtful responses to my "musings".

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Response to Zorra (Reply #37)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 04:50 PM

39. thank *you* for *your* thoughtful responses. i enjoy discussing the ideas

 

too (& so often on DU it's impossible!)

- CEO Mackey was living in that milieu & following its practices. What he was in his consciousness when he began the store can't be determined, but from all outward appearances he was a 'hippie' (or the 1970s equivalent, which was a little different...by the 70s, counterculture was already moving toward the 'lifestyle' thing & away from the 'political' thing...).

- I dunno, I can't see that any of the 'hippie' companies that went big have stayed true to their ideals.

- Of course there are differences in cyclical manifestations of phenomena, but that history doesn't repeat itself exactly doesn't constitute evidence against the existence of similar underlying pressures. Status concerns are a constant of human life & are found in every level of human organization in history, & reflected in cultural practices.

- 'eating to appear materially successful' isn't quite it, i think. it's not only what one appears to be to others; it's also about what one conceives oneself to be (internal self-image); sense of power & efficacy; etc. And not a conscious process mostly. There's no contradiction between people thinking on one level "This is healthier" & unconscious status concerns, for example -- first, because "healthier" is itself culturally constructed.

- "isn't it possible a higher degree of literacy, and/or cognitive ability/intelligence, is the primary cause of desiring to eat a more natural diet" is a question that already presumes what it questions and carries implicit class-bound assumptions. That's not just you; those assumptions are the sea we swim in & everyone makes them. It's hard to step back from them.

- "She is unpacking the validity of this 'rational choice' explanation itself." For example, you mentioned the higher incidence of diabetes. This is taken as hard fact demanding an explanation, and poorer diet seems a good one. So clearly, a literate, intelligent person will try to eat a diet that doesn't induce diabetes.

But our awareness of this fact is generated by the larger culture, which is (among other things) class-bound, ruled by an elite which dominates information flow, scientific research, medical practices, etc. We hear about increased incidence of diabetes, loudly and often. And it's already an established 'fact' that diabetes is unhealthy, thus diabetics are unhealthy, etc etc. -- there's a chain of assumptions that follow.

But we're less likely to hear about other 'facts' which call that one into question. For example, as the author mentions, the diagnostic criteria for diabetes changed in the same time period as this increase in diabetes, "a
change that resulted in millions of Americans becoming “diabetic” overnight."

Similarly, with weight: most people believe 'normal' weight or even thin people are the 'healthiest,' and there's a huge amount of prejudice against fat people & a self-loathing associated with it as well. But: "NHANES analyses have repeatedly shown that the lowest mortality rates are associated with people whose BMI is defined as “overweight,” or even “obese” for some demographics (especially racial minorities)."

So that and other "counterfacts" call into question cultural narratives about weight and health, & related narratives constructed on top of them -- for example, the 'healthy = natural eating" narrative.

This isn't to say that one kind of diet might not be healthier, in some sense, than another, or that science is bunk, that pesticides are good for you etc. It's more that there are other things operating as well; without them, the dominant narrative becomes rigid and punishing.

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #39)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 01:48 AM

43. This is what find most difficult process:

"Status concerns are a constant of human life & are found in every level of human organization in history, & reflected in cultural practices."

That's true. most likely. But the idea of being so concerned with status that large numbers of people would obsess over eating certain kinds of foods because of status concerns is so foreign to me that I can barely comprehend it. Seriously, I was just LMAO while imagining pretentious scenarios.

You know what is a hoot? The only people I have ever seen seriously (and I do mean very seriously) micro-obsessing over food were a couple of completely broke, dirty, skinny rainbow kids who were vegans. And I don't think they were too concerned with status, because at that time I believe they were getting most of their food out of dumpsters.

I think we'll have to just agree to disagree on some of this, although you have succeeded in making me a bit more cynical about life in America.

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Response to Zorra (Reply #43)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 04:11 AM

44. It's not a conscious process, as I said before. We may be talking past each other.

 

It may be that what I call "obsessing about food" you'd call normal conversation about food based on objective rational concerns.

So we'll agree to disagree, but thanks for the civil discussion.

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #44)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 03:02 PM

46. I imagine so. Thanks, backatcha! nt

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Response to Zorra (Reply #23)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 06:22 PM

25. From the article

"However, beliefs about what constitutes “superior” eating and broader societal eating trends are driven by factors other than empirical evidence, and in the last three decades, attempts to eat “better” have been driven more by anxieties about status and the pleasures of class distinction than objective, rational choice.."

That seems to be the central argument of the piece. I don't know anybody who does that and we're lower middle class. Most people I know will eat at McDonalds in a pinch. We don't have the time or the money to get too fancy with food. We're not too proud for meatloaf. A fancy restaurant for us is $15-$20 a plate.

If you are concerned that chowing down on a hamburger will lower your status in the eyes of society, then you probably have more money than most people.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 05:07 PM

21. Very informative.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 06:51 PM

27. K&R nt

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 06:55 PM

28. While eating healthy food is preferable

the trend toward healthy eating is also driven by consumerism. Thus, we get virtue through recycling, hybrid cars, and labels on products that trumpet their "greenness". Here's a stock tip - buy stock in companies that make green pigment for car paint.

While reducing consumption and regular exercise is the real solution for good health, it's hard to sell. So we get "sweatless" exercese gadgets, gimmicky diets and Olestra.

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Response to rrneck (Reply #28)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 07:00 PM

29. but the main reason consumption is high while exercise is low is that the

 

environment is 'designed' that way: living patterns, commuting patterns, shopping patterns, working patterns, etc.

no single person laid the design, but it works out so that the average person eats more and expends less energy than his peer 50 years ago.

thus exhorting people as individuals to consume less and work out more is unlikely to yield any statistical change; the environment works against that: in its totality it's like trying to fight gravity, as it were.

rather, change the environment. but that of course takes a collective will, which is no stronger than anyone's individual will.

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #29)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 07:10 PM

30. Yep.

We don't know how to manage abundance. But that abundance is artificial by virtue of our ability to adapt it to our use. Our big brains may be our own worst enemy.

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 09:16 PM

31. There is no food revolution, any more than there is a clothes revolution

People eat food and people wear clothes; in both cases we tend to have much more now than people in the past, but the coming and going of fashion is continual.

The article is crap, based ona whole set of very shaky presumptions. Maybe in the cultural environment of the author it all holds together, but its hard to get far into the piece without wishing to question the assumptions. If it were a thesis paper, I doubt he'd make it past two paragraphs in peer review. Define "mainstream American popular culture", for instance!

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Response to bhikkhu (Reply #31)

Sat Nov 24, 2012, 09:31 PM

32. not an article. a dissertation. it includes definitions, pages of them.

 

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 02:25 PM

38. sounds like an interesting dissertation

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Sun Nov 25, 2012, 04:58 PM

40. "Since 1980" = The Yuppies.

However, beliefs about what constitutes “superior” eating and broader societal eating trends are driven by factors other than empirical evidence, and in the last three decades, attempts to eat “better” have been driven more by anxieties about status and the pleasures of class distinction than objective, rational choice..

The story of aspirational eating is largely a story about how class anxiety and the pleasures and pressures of distinction can twist politically progressive impulses into behaviors that ultimately reinforce class hierarchy....


Bingo! This is more evidence for what I call the hypocrisy of the Upper-Middle Class "Latte Liberals".

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Response to HiPointDem (Original post)

Mon Nov 26, 2012, 02:48 PM

45. fascinating topic, thanks

I'd like to send it to a few family members, but I suspect they would not take it kindly. In my experience, many *egalitarian* progressives are the most aspirational eaters. Wow. And I'm a foodie from a foodie family. Wow.

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