Machismo has muscled its way into food writing. So says Paul Levy, who, in an essay for Slate, decries the trend away from serious writing and toward swear words and shock value:
The food writing that’s in vogue today consists chiefly of a bellow of bravado. It’s a guy thing, sure, but (with a few honorably hungry exceptions) these scribblers mostly ignore what’s on the plate. They view themselves as boy hunters and despise sissy gatherers, thrive on the undertow of violence they detect in the professional kitchen, and like to linger on the unappetizing aspects of food preparation. The gross-out factor trumps tasting good as well as good taste.
Is Levy joking? asks New York magazine’s Grub Street blog:
This is a golden age of food writing we’re living in! The writers Levy considers the worst offenders, like Anthony Bourdain and Bill Buford, have taken food writing out of its stiff, upholstered armchair and given it all the force and vitality of an old thing made young.
Jeff, over at the blog Side Salad, agrees: “Food writing is a living, breathing animal that morphs as the subject it documents morphs. If only Julia Child was here to pull an Ike Turner on your onion-skin literary sensibilities.”
Derrick Schneider, however, of An Obsession with Food & Wine, thinks Levy is right on:
Everyone has to swear and shock. Neither of these are really problems, but do it all the time and you become tiresome. Is anyone shocked by a Bourdain tirade anymore? Good writers use any trick with care so that it doesn’t lose its effect.