From Too Many Chefs -

April 27, 2004
Culinary Politics

Can you know the measure of a man by the kind of cheese he eats? In a Washington Post study of conservative Red America, Britton Stein fulfills every East Coast liberal's nightmare of middle America: "His truck is a Chevy. His beer is Bud Light. His savior is Jesus Christ."

The long, condescending profile of Stein substitutes a list of consumer products for any actual analysis. I was struck, though, by how important the writer considers Stein's culinary proclivities. Stein loves hamburgers, cooks with a gas grill, and doesn't grind his own coffee. These details, the writer implies, tell us as much about Red America as Stein's church attendance and views on gay marriage. Right wing ideology, it appears, results from bad taste.

It's a silly position, since I bet Stein could make something tasty in his "jumbo smoker" and the Wall Street millionaires who support New York's gourmet establishments probably didn't vote for Gore. When a lazy journalist can offer up a lack of culinary sophistication as a judgment on the culture of half the country, it does show how deeply an interest in gourmet cuisine has penetrated America.

Twenty years ago, would any writer at any paper in the United States even have noticed that someone put American cheese on their hamburger and got their coffee from a can?

Also posted at A Frolic of My Own.

Posted by at April 27, 2004 9:24 PM | TrackBack

Certainly gourmet food is more prevelant in the minds of Americans these days, but don't forget Nixon's appeals to "Joe Six-Pack" (and he wasn't talking abdominals).

I also think I remember Popeye cartoons from the 30's or 40's that portrayed champagne drinkers as being the upper classes while the poor good guys drank beer.

Posted by Barrett on April 27, 2004 at 11:43 PM

Barrett, it sounds like this article is more about the food one eats showing one's political tendencies, rather than one's social status and I think that's pretty valid. Your Popeye example sounds more like a class issue.

I'm not sure that deducting political stance from diet is all that reliable, though. I work in a law office and the lawyers all have similar diet habits and they are divided sharply into two camps as regards politics. They all love sushi and Starbucks, but on one side you have people who are EXTREMELY right wing, anti-gay marriage, pro-war-in-Iraq and on the other you have...well, I won't say normal people, but certainly more left-wing.

Now, do people who like cheap beer and hamburgers always vote Republican? I don't know. Certainly it fits a stereotype, and stereotypes don't come into being unless there is a grain of truth...

Posted by Meg in Paris on April 28, 2004 at 3:33 AM

I agree that diet is a pretty weak indicator of political leanings. The article from the Post settles for easy cliches and fails to explore any complexities.

At the same time, there seems to be something significant about the fact that at least one major daily thought that reading right wing blogs and eating American cheese were somehow equivalent.

Posted by Frolic on April 28, 2004 at 5:29 AM

If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would say that Bush and Co. are putting something funny in the cheese...! (Which of course, they are - only mabye not a mind-altering drug!)

; )

Posted by Meg in Paris on April 28, 2004 at 6:06 AM

Personally, I believe that the whole "red-state/blue-state" thing is just a cultural class issue in disguise--Stein's love of red meat doesn't show that he disagrees with gay marriage, it shows that he's vulgar--at least, in the eyes of the cultural elite. I'm actually doing a line-by-line fisking of the article, one paragraph at a time.

By the way, doesn't everyone love hamburgers, their family, and their dog?

Posted by Maureen on April 29, 2004 at 12:45 AM

Oh dear. I'm a non-meat eater, and I'm allergic to dogs (though I do like them, until my eyes start itching).

I do love my family, though. Most of the time, at least.

Posted by Barrett on April 29, 2004 at 11:17 AM