Foodies and Class

I love good food. Fried oysters in a sandwich with lemon aioli. Lamb ragu with red chiles, over pasta. Hot peach pie, not too sweet, with cream whipped twenty minutes ago, dark-roast coffee on the side. What part of this big appetite of mine, this hunger, this hot zesty longing, has to do with class and money and status and domination and power?

A lot, I think. What do you think? Let me know. More later.

2 Replies to “Foodies and Class”

  1. Perhaps no part of it. Speaking as a person who has always been poor but always loved really good food, social class and food have no real connection. The sensitivity of taste buds is probably genetic. I also speak for my shelter mates, who, I would say, out of all of our deprivations, missed good food the most.

    My passion for well prepared food began with my grandmother’s cooking. She and my grandfather married in Sicily and came to the US together in 1911, seeking, what they thought would be, a better life. After attaining a beautiful home and then losing it during the depression, they developed a “better to just survive” belief system and lived frugally forevermore as workers in the garment industry of Manhattan. As a teenager, I stood beside her on a sidewalk in Gravesend, Brooklyn, in a swarm of gentle bees, as she picked through rotting bell peppers.

    The holiday feasts my grandmother spent days preparing were always scrumptious Her lasagna or manicotti and her stuffed artichokes were my favorites. And later, as a young adult, I would supersede her, having a wider variety of ingredients and recipes. Marcella Hazan’s recipes for Osso Bucco and Risotto Milanese are among my Italian favorites now, and a co-worker at Barclay Jewelers (where I was paid $4 an hour) gave me a better recipe for stuffed artichokes, adding pine nuts and the stems to the bread crumb stuffing. Oooo baby!!

    My culinary experiences have only improved, as the cultures of the world continue to combine and create new foods and as I create new foods. And I am poorer now and disrespected more than ever before.

  2. Lizzy, thanks so much for commenting! I particularly like the “oooh baby” part.

    I agree that poor people savor food as much as rich people do, and sometimes make better food.

    What I was trying to say was more that the kinds of food we want, and when and why we want them, often have a great deal to do with class, especially class aspirations.

    I always loved to eat, but it was not till I was in high school with people who were much higher income than my family that I craved delicious, expensive cheeses, fruit — we hardly ever had fruit at home –, fancy cold cuts and pastries. Artisanal bread, special butter.

    My wanting them was complicated. They were delicious. And they were what my friends and I did together — eat this kind of food and quote Romantic poetry (really). In my mind, learning about runny cheeses and learning about Keats and Shelley were the same kind of learning. I didn’t understand what class had to do with it till much later.

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