Amsterdam this time. I was up with the family last weekend for a quick visit. As soon as I got there we hopped on our bikes and went to a distillery at the Flevopark. Here are my two favorite people in a beautiful place, on a lovely day.
Now, onto the post. In the last post I wrote about food. I’m not going to call this a food blog and I promise that my next post won’t be about food. It is however, a difficult subject to avoid especially when living in Italy. I really don’t like the term “foodie” at all, yet here I am blogging about food. Maybe I’m a hypocrite. There’s something elitist about the term “foodie” it that I can’t stand. I suppose that some people might say that I sound like an elitist, writing about pasta as if it were a form of sorcery mastered by only a chosen few. This is of course not the case. Pasta is not sorcery, if it is, then Italy is Hogwarts and that would make Berlusconi Albus Dumbedore… oh dear, what a terrible thought…
I think that what gets to me about “foodie” culture is the marketing behind it all. I have to give due credit to those who work in marketing. There is real genius being able to attach an image and culture to something like an onion or a tomato. The job of marketing is however, easier in places where people know so little about their food. Hats off to whoever first put the tag “heirloom” before vegetables. You couldn’t get away with that in Italy because people are generally aware that there are different varieties within plant species. Markets should be full of 7 types of zucchini when they’re in season, and there doesn’t need to be any pretentiousness behind them. Most Italians won’t let someone get away with charging them more money for a vegetable because they thought up a cool name for it. A vegetable is a vegetable. Of course, some vegetables grow better in certain regions, so money can be made from a name in Italy and sadly, there are a lot of “counterfeit” products that say they come from somewhere when they really don’t.
When I was in Amsterdam we went to the “Taste of Amsterdam” festival. Restaurants from all over Amsterdam were serving up samples of what they offer. It was fun. The food was good but expensive. Above all, it was all marketing. They were selling experiences. Some were imaginary experiences like the “Tonny’s Freid Chicken” sold from a bright yellow food truck with images of some Jamaican guys. I guess that’s a better-suited image for fried chicken than say, Vladimir Putin. Interestingly enough, these image associations are what my wife Marianna is studying right now. Next to the Jamaican dudes’ pictures were the words “The Ultimate Comfort Food”. Comfort food… again the genius of marketing. When we’re hungry, food should make us feel comfortable. If food is uncomfortable, then you’re probably eating something that you shouldn’t be eating. Other stands were selling actual experiences like the champagne producer from France that had a big, orange ferris wheel upon which one could consume champagne. A potential recipe for disaster. The need for an amusement park to convince people that your wine is tasty, is kind of insane if you think about it, but those clever marketers figured out that we’re willing to pay a lot more for an experience than for a simple product by itself.
Maybe the foodie culture is what we need though. Maybe it’s just a step on the path to a general public whose knowledge of food is better than it used to be and will eventually become exhausted of it’s own pretentiousness. Maybe we’ll get to the point where the marketing focuses on the experience of tasting the food and knowing what is good and why it’s good. With that, I promise that I won’t write about things to eat in the coming posts as there are so many other interesting things about this strange and unique situation that we’re living.
Enjoy your food. Enjoy your experiences. Enjoy life.