Darren Zook- Food, Drink, Culture, Politics (Winter 2019)
Darren Zook will be here at Freight &
Salvage on Thursday mornings teaching Food, Drink, Culture, Politics. Morning
everybody. This is too low for me. Here we go. There
we go, little better. And happy New Year to all of you. Thanks for the
introduction. Yes, I’ll be doing Food, Drink, Culture,
Politics, and you’re thinking, how do those relate? Well, it’s kind of like a matrix.
They’re all inseparable and you’re probably thinking, well, what’s this class
gonna be all about? So I’m gonna give you an idea.
My first goal in putting the class together was to try to make sure that
anyone who takes this class would never look at a plate of food or a drink
the same way ever again. We’ll ask different questions, for
instance, you might ask a question like, does Chez Panisse have a Michelin star? A question I’ll ask is why do we have Michelin stars, and where did they come from? The answer, by the way, if you’re
wondering, if you don’t know the story of the Michelin stars, the whole point of the Michelin star was to show you how restaurants were worth driving to so you
would wear your tires down and buy more Michelin tires. That’s the origins of the Michelin star. So we’ll talk about, you know, the
politics and economics behind why, you know, tire companies are telling us what the best restaurants in the world are, but we’ll also talk about a few other things. We’ll talk about the origins of various kinds of food, for instance,
German chocolate cake. Yeah, you’re thinking, what part of Germany does that
come from? The part where all the coconut trees grow, of course, the tropical part
of Germany! Actually, no, it’s an American cake that happened to a recipe that was
invented by a person whose last name is German. On a more serious note, however, there is a whole debate in the world right now of something called cultural
appropriation, and there are people who are saying the more we know about the
origins of food, we’re getting very sensitive about who has a right to, for instance,
make curry. Because do you have to be from a culture
that has curry to know curry, or can anybody know curry? So we’ll talk about
things like that. We will talk about… What else? You don’t have to be a foodie to
take the class, but we’re gonna talk about that term foodie and what
political situation and economic situation produces the idea of a foodie.
Because foodies are very location specific. There are many parts of the
world where the idea of a foodie makes no sense and we’ll talk about the
politics behind that. We’ll have some fun reading labels, and you’re thinking, oh, I
can’t wait for that! We will learn how to read a wine label as a political
document. We will also talk about the politics of a thing called single malt
scotch, and I did a lot of research on that for you. At least I was told I did,
for other people who were there. Believe it or not there’s a story, but the
story of the state is encapsulated in the idea of single malt scotch.
Why states with alcohol, for instance, you know, what’s the sweet spot of taxation?
Why do we tax alcohol? There’s no more dramatic story than alcohol. Nobody’s
ever said, wow, tell me the story of milk. So- but we may talk about milk anyway.
We’ll talk about government regulation since we’re talking about single malt
scotch, you know, taxation. The government tells
us what we should and shouldn’t eat, for instance. That gets us into other things
like animal welfare and activist consumerism. There are people here in
Berkeley who are happy to pay $10 for a dozen eggs because that egg farm- egg
farm? Is that a thing? That egg farm lets the chickens, you know, sit in recliner
chairs and watch Netflix while they’re laying their eggs, it’s like, oh, those
chickens must be very happy. So we’ll talk about things like that, but we’ll
also talk a bit about things like art, art and food, books and food, things like
that. How food is so interwoven we can’t live without food and water. Food and
drink are essential to survival and there’s a reason that people use food as
symbols, you know, “let them eat cake,” that phrase, we all know what it means.
Very political moment about who’s being allowed to eat cake, and what does that
phrase mean? So we’ve got just a wealth of stuff to
talk about, so many things, I’ll try to keep it local, my goal is that after six
weeks everyone will leave here enlightened, empowered, and very, very
hungry. Thanks very much. Hope to see you there.