There’s a popular philosophy that silence can equal strength. Saying nothing often says more than any words. But what about when you’ve been silenced involuntarily?
Like many people this month, I’ve found myself flattened by a cold. This is not rare or unusual except that at the exact same time the virus hit me, I experienced an allergic reaction to the massive amounts of Christmas tree debris that some of my neighbours left strewn about the elevators and hallways of our building as they took their dead trees to the garbage. Even though building staff seemed to be vacuuming continuously, we were finding needles in the rugs in our (tree-free) apartment.
I’m allergic to evergreens but the worst I usually get is itchy ears in the spring when the conifers pollinate. So when I woke one night unable to breathe, my throat swollen near closed from inflammation and likely a bit of anaphylaxis plus the typical cold-related mucus gluing it all together, I was terrified and really shaken.
Dear women of the Western world, please have some cake. That’s right, get up right now, and go get yourself something frosted and gooey and decorated to within an inch of its life. I implore you to treat yourself, just because it’s a crappy, cold, grey Monday.
However, if you go have cake, there are rules. First, no hiding the cake. No sneaking it back to your desk, or hiding in a closet while you devour it. Eat that baby out in the open, and to hell with what anyone else thinks! Second, you must eat the cake and then forget about it. No making yourself feel guilty, no calculating how many extra crunches you need to do to work it off. Third, no remorse, after the fact, when a skinny girl walks past you on the street, and you start thinking about how much closer you’d be to that “ideal” figure if only you’d not eaten that stupid delicious bit of pastry and frosting.
If you live in the western world, no doubt you’ve seen or heard about this video, created by a Wisconsin news anchor after receiving a letter from a viewer who was ostensibly “concerned” about her health and her ability to be a role model to viewers.
As a fat woman, I am fully supportive of Jennifer Livingston and her decision to turn the tables on her critic by taking to the air to rebut his passive-aggressive comments (according to the Toronto Star, the two exchanged emails back and forth but when contacted by Associated Press, the man claims to have deleted the email conversation.)
What is disturbing about all of this is that there are people out there who think they have every right to tell a complete stranger what they think of their looks.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no! Sweet little baby Jesus who I do not believe in, please, if you really exist, make this stop.
Unless, you know, it’s like that Billy Idol Christmas album where he obviously recorded it drunk and messed up all the words. In that case, we could give it one listen, just for shits and giggles. But otherwise, no.
In my last post (really? August 24th? Whoops.) I ranted on about how bloggers shouldn’t solicit or accept payment for endorsed posts on their own blogs. And I still firmly believe that. But there is a way for bloggers, especially those with a specific area of expertise, to work with companies and corporations, and that is as a consultant. The oft-touted theory of “I deserve to be paid for my time and effort” doesn’t ring true when you’re being paid to say nice things about a product on your own blog, but when a company comes to you, asking for your help with something they’re producing, you most absolutely deserve to be paid a fair price for your work.
I bring this up now because I have been contacted, yet again, by a corporate entity that expected me to “help” them for free.
The person in question represented a very well-known show on the Food Network. The host of this show has a product line and endorsement deals. Their show is aired internationally. It is safe to presume that the major players involved are making a decent amount of money.
The request I received was for me to call the show’s researcher (long distance) and advise on some places in the Toronto area that would be appropriate for the show to visit on an upcoming trip here. I am familiar with the show only peripherally; I watched part of an episode once and didn’t much care for it, and since we cancelled our cable about six months ago, I haven’t watched anything on the Food Network at all. So I calculated how much research I would have to do to learn about the show and the types of places they covered, as well as how much work I’d have to do to come up with a short list of places that would be appropriate, and I replied via email stating a rate for my consulting services.
I am not normally squicked by bugs. I wear a beetle in resin as a pendant, I’ve had pets that needed to be fed crickets or mealworms. And as a food writer, I’ve even had the opportunity to eat bugs on several occasions. But I’ve done so knowing full well that I was doing so, and of my own conscious choice.
For the past few months we’ve had a moth problem – those little beige moths, known to be fond of devouring precious cashmere sweaters (yes, I’m still bitter!) – but we’d rarely see more than one a day, and we could never figure out where they were coming from.
We’d had moth issues before at another residence (thus the bitterness over the cashmere), and after a particularly disturbing dip into a jar of currants with a cork stopper (the moths had burrowed through the cork and there were thousands of larvae in the bottom of the jar), pretty much all food in our house gets stored in glass jars with metal lids or plastic containers. So the current moth issue had left us frustrated and confused.
Like so many people who watched and took part in the proceedings at Toronto City Hall yesterday, I was enthralled by the sense of coming together to support the city. People from disparate groups and organizations all took the time, despite Mayor Ford and the committee making it more and more difficult for them to do so, to stand up and tell the committee, and the people of the city, what they believe in. As a city, as a community, I think this will make us stronger. I think that it will provoke more and more people to become engaged in municipal politics, which is a very good thing – that lack of involvement is what got us into this mess in the first place.
But I’m not sure I believe it’s going to do much good.
The hand-picked executive committee went into these sessions having clearly stated that they were not going to be swayed by the deputations. Councillor Mammoliti made it clear that he was there because it was his job but that he wasn’t interested in opposing points of view, something that he continually made clear through the 22 hours of deputations with his attitude and condescending questions. In the end, the committee voted unanimously to take the advice of the KPMG report and look at making cuts, essentially telling every deputant that their time and effort didn’t matter.
The hope now is that the deputations DID sway all of those other, middle of the road councillors so that when it comes time for the full council to vote on the recommendations, decisions will be made with consideration for issues other than budget line items.
I am… um… well, a little bit at a loss for words. I’ve just viewed the Beta site for Gilt, the new website/online magazine/food shop by Ruth Reichl and co.
I mean, I guess it’s been done before. Certainly, businesses put out advertorial publications to help sell their products (remember the IKEA magazine?). But this just seems so blatant. A post containing a recipe includes a sidebar full of the over-priced ingredients required to make said recipe. Certainly (hopefully), people will go out and at least buy locally-sourced ingredients instead of buying the stuff from the Gilt website. (Because – $36 for 2 pounds of asparagus? Plus delivery. Are you fucking serious??)
What about that whole idea of keeping editorial content and advertising content separate? It’s one of the basics of journalism. Okay, maybe it’s a different game when you’re writing about the stuff you’re selling. Maybe we need to think of Gilt as just a slicker, better-written online catalogue. But I feel a little cheated. I want lovely food writing for the sake of lovely food writing.
And while the name is obviously supposed to evoke idea of luxury, it becomes farcical when compared to Guilt Taste, which not-so-subtly points out the hypocrisy with faux listings for Ortolan and Chilean sea bass.
As a society, we buy into ideas of luxury every day. And Gilt is definitely selling luxury. It will probably do well. But despite the great writing, I don’t think I’ll be returning. It touches off some emotions (greed, self-pity, anger, frustration) that are too uncomfortable to endure when all I want to do is read some nice food writing without having someone trying to sell me stuff, even if it is really nice stuff.
Am I beating a dead horse if I link to yet another article pointing out that health claims on packaged food are (intentionally) misleading?
This NY Times article doesn’t really reveal anything new if you’ve been following the whole story over the past few years, but it speaks to the stretches of truth advertisers will make and the overall gullibility of consumers when you consider that people are still buying these products.
It just feels like a battle food advocates can never win. Between advertisers and media willing to repeat any study that touts a “superfood”, or an ingredient with nutritional properties, the people standing up and saying, “hey now, wait a minute, do more research” are the ones made to look like kooks.
But how sad is it that we’re willing to buy yogurt, or juice or cereal because of false promises of restored health? I’m angry that people don’t take more time to inform themselves about what they’re buying and putting into their bodies, but I’m also a little shocked at the desperation of people willing to try anything that offers any kind of promise of improvement, be it weight loss, digestive health or, scariest of all, cancer prevention.
I don’t agree with everything said by author Michael Pollan, but “don’t buy food with health claims on the package” has to be one of the wisest things I’ve ever read.
I’m not sure who to blame for my outrage. The subject line in my RSS feed says “France’s Anne-Sophie Pic Named World’s Best Chef”. And the post it represents says the same thing. But the website The Food Section really only aggregates posts from other places, and clicking through to the full article at The Independent makes for a very different story. Anne-Sophie Pic is, according to the bottled water company that decided the contest, the world’s best FEMALE chef.
And what pisses me off is – why should there be a distinction? Why are we still separating our chefs by gender?
Sure there are fewer female chefs, for a whole variety of reasons ranging from family choices (men can’t have the babies) to history (hundreds of years ago, because men were always paid more, male chefs were seen as status symbols), but it doesn’t mean that the female chefs who are working and running kitchens and restaurants aren’t every bit as good as the men.
Is the gender segregation meant with good intentions – to level out the playing field? Or is it misogyny, pure and simple?
Pic, like her father and grandfather before her, holds 3 Michelin stars. To my knowledge, Michelin doesn’t have a separate set of stars or awards for restaurants run by female chefs versus male chefs. So why the segregation for this contest?
Image: Anne-Sophie Pic photo: Jeff Nalin/Maison Pic