Art and Commerce have never more shrewdly mingled than at a restaurant; especially now, in the US, where most people think of good food only as restaurant food.
The reason that we believe this is that our cuisine, like the rest of society, has been commodified, and those in charge of it are rated by their wealth and their fame. Meanwhile the act of cooking has been falsely over-complicated, and the deterioration of our cooking skills enables all of the show business.
Only a few years ago, when asked to name a memorable meal most people, regardless of class, would have thought of a meal with family, around the table. If asked to name a favorite dish, most would think of something that a Grandmother, or an Aunt used to prepare. This is still true in most of the world.
But in today’s America, where most people eat quite poorly, we think of a restaurant meal as the pinnacle of dining…Our ideal is a meal prepared for us, for money, by professionals.
And in a sad way, this is like saying that the best sex you ever had was not with your spouse, or high school sweetheart, or lover, but at a brothel, served up for money, by professionals.
If that were true, would that be OK? And how did the idealization of our food coincide with the simultaneous degradation of it? It’s not an accident and it’s not a mystery. It’s just business, at the expense of culture, and it highlights precisely the harm that comes automatically when we trade one for the other.
That’s one big reason that home cooking, real cooking, is important. The connection we have to our cuisine and what it represents emotionally begins, as it does for all mammals, with milk, the breast, and love. Being held, caressed and fed at the same time is so natural, and so important, that babies can die for lack of it. Simply put, love is as vital to our survival as food and breath. And later in life we still need these connections. Can we get them from restaurants? Or is that like expecting love from a prostitute?
The business of America is business. The culture of America…is in trouble.