Having recently seen both Food, Inc. and Julie and Julia, I’ve been thinking about the connections between the politics of food (in the first movie) and the joy of food (and of eating) in the second.
Food, Inc. is a wake-up call for ill-informed consumers (pretty much all of us) about the horrors–for both animals and workers–in the industrial food system. It is disturbing on a great many levels, as is the system it exposes. It will inspire, hopefully, a good deal of personal, social and political change.
Julie and Julia is a movie about the sheer joy of food, of cooking, and of eating–with good friends, especially. At least from the perspective of the great Julia Child. The Julie of the film (played by the always winning Amy Adams) is neurotic enough to take quite a bit of joy out of the whole experience. But for Julia Child, eating was a sensual experience; cooking was an art (and something of a science); and the pleasures of the meal–from beginning to end–were always something to savor as much as the food on the plate.
Julie and Julia is a also a pop meditation on the elitism of foodie culture, past and present–of the kinds of meals that only the well-to-do can regularly enjoy. I suspect that the enormous popularity of the food channel in the last decade is explainable, in part, by the democratization of cooking: anyone can do this, they preach; you don’t have to be a chef. (Though my hunch is that the food network “stars” create more fans than actual competent cooks).
But while TV cooks after Julia have tried to cheer us on in the kitchen, none can match the joy that seemed to exude from her large frame and that she conveyed through the drabness of 60s black and white TV and beyond.
For those concerned about the politics of food, highlighted so expertly in Food, Inc., we need to remember the pleasures of eating and of sharing good food with good friends. Wendell Berry has said that “the pleasure of eating should be an extensive pleasure, not that of the mere gourmet.”
As I was writing this post, a new friend and neighbor came to the back door with some fresh local peaches, tomatoes, and cucumbers. He’s a dear man and a generous sharer of his garden’s bounty. Thanks to Bill, we will eat well over the next few days–responsibly and joyfully.