If Food's The New Sex, Chicken Nuggets Are The New Other Woman

Lately, everyone’s asking “Is Food the New Sex?” And if it is…what does it mean that food’s gone budget?

The whole kerfuffle started with Mary Eberstadt‘s essay on Policy Review, arguing that the increasing moralization of food was directly inverse to sex’s destigmatization.

Just as the food of today often attracts a level of metaphysical attentiveness suggestive of the sex of yesterday, so does food today seem attended by a similarly evocative – and proliferating – number of verboten signs. The opprobrium reserved for perceived “violations” of what one “ought” to do has migrated, in some cases fully, from one to the other. Many people who wouldn’t be caught dead with an extra ten pounds – or eating a hamburger, or wearing real leather – tend to be laissez-faire in matters of sex. In fact, just observing the world as it is, one is tempted to say that the more vehement people are about the morality of their food choices, the more hands-off they believe the rest of the world should be about sex. What were the circumstances the last time you heard or used the word “guilt” – in conjunction with sin as traditionally conceived? Or with having eaten something verboten and not having gone to the gym?

While one can – and believe me, folks have – debate the suspicious neatness of that corollary, it’s hard to argue that food’s loaded with moral implications beyond almost anything else, and has become a shorthand for Who You Are – financially, ethically, morally. Today, though, the Times ran a piece about the new trend in food mags: they’re going low-end, focusing on frugal home cooking and cutting the restaurant reports. So…if food’s the new sex, and food porn’s cheaping out, what does that say about our sex lives? Sex, after all, is one of the few pleasures that needn’t suffer in a bad economy, so it seems curious that now should be the time when we embrace a wholesale switch. Is it, perhaps, that we crave an element of denial? If, as Eberstadt claims, the destigmatization has taken some of the zest from our cultural libido, then perhaps it makes sense that we should lust after the unattainable. And what, then, of people’s embrace of cooking mags’ new direction? Is “comfort food” like a stable, committed relationship, and as such its own kind of escapsim? If so, cheating with a Big Mac – quick and dirty – has never tasted so forbidden or delicious.

Food Magazines Begin To Consider Cooks’ Budgets [NYT]

Is Food The New Sex?
Is Food the New Sex? Philosophers Devour the Concept [Epicurious]
Is Food the New Sex? [Policy Review]

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