Twitter highlights the banal in food

food writers on Twitter, here with mini-donutsAre you a food writer? Do you tweet? Josh Ozersky, Time food writer, has something to say to you.

You’re boring. Your tweets suck. Food writers on Twitter suck. There. Phew, done. Said. Finally.

It’s refreshing to hear a food writer say this aloud. Ozersky has essentially highlighted all the absurdity of a culture saturated in food media. Under the microscopic glare of a twitter feed, it don’t look so pretty.

An avid reader of food everything, he was first excited to peek Ruth Reichl’s life via Twitter—”On Twitter, Celebrity Chefs and Foodies Must Spice It Up“. Turns out, there’s not much going on there. The immediacy of Twitter turns the fooderati into, well, bores. Gone are the thoughtful musings of Gourmet columns. Instead, it’s a cacophony of “Right now I’m eating…” and “Let me tell you what’s tasty today…”. Twitter takes the worst of food blogging and squeezes it into 140 characters.

But I think all that’s happening here is that Twitter reveals the truth about food writing and our endless consumption of food media. A lot of it is banal. We were never meant to talk about food 24/7. The pressure to tweet squeezes every additional drop of creativity out of people. Maybe Reichl just wanted to eat the matzah brei and not think or talk about it.

There’s a reason we remember the words (or, as it’s now trendy to say of historical quotes, Tweets) of people like Brillat-Savarin (he of “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you who you are” fame). The filtering process provided by time hasn’t been applied to Twitter. And it probably never will be, because who wants to wade through 1000s of Ruth Reichl tweets to find her best ones? Some poor PhD will though, no doubt.

Food writing is inherently self-indulgent, and Twitter just encourages its worst tendencies. Of course it’s shocking to see it all laid out that way in a Twitter feed. It became especially obvious to me during the G20 in June, as my feed filled up with a mix of “Ooh, asparagus at the farmers’ market” with “I’ve just been arrested by police in riot gear” tweets. When you read food writing on its own, in magazines or books, you’re not disrupted by a constant reminder of the other, weightier things going on in the world.

But what can you expect in a culture where it’s become received wisdom to declare, as Ozersky does:

If food is worth eating, it’s worth thinking about, and if it’s worth thinking about, it’s worth saying, and saying well.

Well, no. Sometimes it’s just worth eating and enjoying. In silence. Like reading a book, alone, on the couch. In silence. It doesn’t have to be transformed into a memorable moment for all to savour.

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