Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

The Meaning of Food in Three Easy Lessons


Recommended Posts

Hear hear.

Just a quick note, because perhaps I wasn't explicit enough about this in the main text: The Meaning of Food airs nationally in the US (and anywhere else where you can pick up a US satellite feed that has a PBS affiliate) on PBS starting this Thursday and continuing on consecutive Thursdays: 7, 14 and 21 April 2005. I was sent an advance DVD of the series -- similar to an advance copy of a book that might be sent to a book reviewer -- so I was able to watch it and write about it in advance of the broadcast. I hope you'll all watch the first episode's premier on Thursday night and come back here to share your observations.

fg, this daily gullet is sick. what time does the show air on pbs??

Link to post
Share on other sites
I would go farther, even. I think the series thesis is patronizing, as is evident from the text of the companion book.

oh, but stating the obvious is what makes this country great.

personally, i think NPR's "Hidden Kitchens" is doing a far better job with a similar concept, avoiding most of the obvious platitudes and giving a real texture to their theme. but then, i haven't actually seen the PBS series.

Link to post
Share on other sites

On-target review by Charlie McCollum in the San Jose Mercury News. He concludes:

"Most of the observations between the pieces tend toward the obvious. ("In every culture, eating is a formal ritual,'' says Samuelsson at one point.) Certainly, they don't have much zest and precious little insight."

And, thank goodness someone else said it: "And it doesn't help that Samuelsson is not the most effervescent of hosts. He clearly cares about food, but you need spark as an on-air presence to hold together three hours of television."

I think he really nails it when he says, "You do have to give credit to the filmmakers for the parts of the series that work -- and for reaching high. The disappointment is that the ultimate goal of "The Meaning of Food'' eludes their grasp, much like a chef who puts together an impressively ambitious menu but fails to execute some of the individual dishes."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Phew. So it's not just me. I hadn't heard anything about the show, but happened to watch it tonight, and was amazed at how drearily obvious and dull it was.

"Hey, don't borgnine the sandwich." -- H. Simpson

Link to post
Share on other sites

I just finished watching the first installment. I purposely did not read all of this topic prior to watching it, wanting to see how my impression of it compared to what is written here, uncontaminated and after the fact. I hate to say it, but I agree with most of what has been said.

But, the first thing that "grabbed" me was that the people that were profiled were so far from the mainstream in the US that I was wondering what they were trying to accomplish. In something as general as "The Meaning of Food" I would have expected more of a mainstream approach. While some of the segments were somewhat charming and interesting I didn't feel that they even come close to developing a theme I could get my head around. Food as a part of culture? Well, duh! The part about the chef that lost his wife was just plain weird and kind of creeped me out. The teenager observing Ramadan was interesting but I thought it was really shallow. The only segment that I could really relate to was the one on the Italian wedding and that is only because I have had the privilege to attend a few similar celebrations some years ago. But . . . so far, if this is meant to address "The Meaning of Food" in the US (and it was produced here) it sure misses the mark. "The Meaning of Food to Very Specific Cultures and Individuals Within US Society," I could buy that, maybe.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

Link to post
Share on other sites
This piece, by Rebekah Denn, ran in Wednesday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Many of the segments were shot in Washington state, so there's a strong local tie-in. I fear that may have blinded this particular writer to the many shortcomings of the series.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to post
Share on other sites

TiVo'd and watched the First Installment last night. Absolute fluffy junk.

Probably the worst part about it was how little actual FOOD there was in the whole thing. I would've readily put up with the sappy, hackneyed narration if there had been any detail in the treatment of the foods. The Italian guy at the beginning, pointing out that the mozzarella is from buffaloes, not cows, is just about as detailed as the whole show gets. It all goes downhill from there.

Link to post
Share on other sites

I too thought the segment featuring "The Italian guy" was the best one, but I think the "food is love" message is both shallow and potentially destructive -- just ask anyone with an eating disorder.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to post
Share on other sites

I watched episode 1 last night and I only made it about 40 minutes in. I don't think that even in the super long, Ken Burns version alluded to above that a filmmaker could get to the heart of why people eat or don't eat, like or don't like food.

Each of us, even in a self-selected group of food-lovers like eGullet, has different reasons and motivations for what food means to us.

Is it about taste? Is it about hospitality? Is it about feeling full? Is it about sustinence? Who knows?

That's what makes it hard to come up with a universal message about something so subjective and then to try and repeat that message six or eight times in an hour.

Bill Russell

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the idea was that it was supposed to be an impressionistic look at the meaning of food. From reading the book, it's clear that the show's creators were aware -- at least on the surface level -- of the various scholarly treatments of food and its meaning. I just don't think the show itself conveys any of that particularly well. It's as though they spent so much effort trying to make the point that food does have meaning, dammit! that they forgot to do much to show what that meaning might be.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to post
Share on other sites

Hate to be so disagreeable, but I learned much from this, and still am mystified by much of it. "The Meaning of Food" provided wondrous kind of mystery for me.

But then, those of us among the unwashed, aren't so informed about how well a black Swede can cook, or how important food is to him. (We started learn about that last month at Aquavit and found a continuation in the show.)

Or that some Italians besides celebrating have big weddings outside the church. So Southern CA.

Or that future son-in-laws are treasured and treated in some cultures.

I am sorry but I just find this so much better than most of the pabulum currently broadcasted on TV.

Dave

Link to post
Share on other sites
. . . . .  I am sorry but I just find this so much better than most of the  pabulum  currently broadcasted on TV.

Dave

Oh, I do agree with you on that point. I guess that I have high expectations of productions coming from PBS. I was disappointed in this one. While there were bright points, overall it just seemed muddled.

Perhaps I should view the next two programs and keep an open mind.

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

Link to post
Share on other sites

Did anybody make it through the second part? I just saw the second part for the second time, and I still couldn't make myself love it.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

I like it. I suppose as the dummy that responds to this pedantic sort of thing, I shouldn't be embarrassed to say that the M of F episode where the Makah Indians were allowed to hunt whale as their ancestors did moved me to tears, but I am, and Samuelson is a moon-faced snore into the bargain.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

Dear Steve:

The PBS program wasn't as entrancing as your family's idea to do the dine-around at the fast food restaurants. If PBS wants a great show, just talk to 10 e-gulleters about what brought them to being passionate about food. I could write a short story just about my mother's gefilte fish.

Thank you for sharing.

There are four stages of life: eating, thinking about eating, dieting and thinking about dieting. Money makes the world go round but lets face facts, you have to eat everyday. Paraphrasing from Memoirs of Bambi Goldbloom.
Link to post
Share on other sites

We were full after the first two stops, but we pressed on. My sister had control of the third course, and chose Arthur Treacher's Fish & Chips on 72nd Street between Columbus and Amsterdam. I hadn't yet made my peace with fish at that time, but Arthur Treacher's, which I believe to be one of the finest fast-food chains in history, nonetheless made one of my favorite foods: the Crunch Pup. Having described the Crunch Pup to many nonbelievers over the years, let me be clear that the Crunch Pup was not a corn dog. It was a beef frankfurter enrobed in the same batter Arthur Treacher's used for its fish and fried in 100% trans-fatty hydrogenated tropical cholesterol shortening, which is out of favor now but will eventually be shown to make you smarter.

Now there's a great memory. I used to devour crunch pups and onion rings at an Arthur Treacher outpost in South Attleboro MA circa 1977. Those bad boys defitely KRUNCHED :smile:

That batter could make anything taste good.

Edited by Chantilly Bob (log)
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 weeks later...

I believe there has been some sort of conspiracy to erase the Crunch Pup from history. If you Google "Arthur Treacher's" and "Crunch Pup," the only results you get are my eGullet posts. I could be misspelling it, or I could have imagined it, but I think it's something far more sinister. I would actually love to see PBS do a positive-spin history of fast food. I think we've all heard the messages of Fast Food Nation, Super Size Me and of course The Meaning of Food, but what about the ingenuity of fast food. It's not all bad. On the "Chef of the century" topic some folks suggested that on the strength of the numbers it would have to be Ray Kroc.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...