New Food Connections

Betty Fussell

Betty Fussell › For the past fifty years, Betty Fussell has been writing articles and books on the subject ...


Where am I? I mean, Where AM I? That is the question. Am I in Tahrir Square or Zuccotti Park? Manhattan or Cairo?  What happened to WHERE? And, at the same time, what happened to Now? Am I in the middle of Arab Spring or Wall Street Fall?

I know that change is the name of the game, but in the world of Twitters and Tweets, Blogospheres and YouTubes, iPods and iPads, I’ve lost my place—not to mention my sense of time. I can tweet my breakfast burp in Manhattan to a pal dining on Hot Pot in Hong Kong.

What exactly IS the game, now that I click on Pop-Ups happening anytime, anyplace, anywhere?  Happenings that I can join virtually, whether I’m actually there or not. To misuse Gertrude Stein, Is there any Where there? — or anywhere? Old meanings of Place are surely out the window — or Windows. I always liked Wendell Berry’s saying, “What I stand for is what I stand on.” But how do you stand on a Web?

It’s as clear as Blu-ray that “connection, connection, connection”  has replaced that old real-estate canard about “location.”  Time and place, as I’ve known them for eight decades, have gone in a twinkle. Now linkage is all and, believe me, I’m all for it. In fact, thank you Steve Jobs, for linking the Whole Earth Catalogue to a microchip and for naming your first global-revolutionary techno device for a fruit. Whatever the actual story behind the company’s naming, we know that this was the fruit named in a major fateful story about man’s original Garden.

Food, both real and symbolic, has always been the great connector. Where would half the world be without that bitten Apple? Even though the collective stories of peoples around the world differ radically, food is at the center of all of them good reason. Food is life. The digital revolution that puts the whole world daily at our fingertips is one way to put America’s current food revolution in its place. Now that place means placeless-ness, we can experience daily a revolution of  connections that seems limitless. One window opens on another.

Now at any time of day or night I can click and enter the explorations of a locavore like Chef Rene Redzepi at Noma in Denmark. In the next moment, I can click on the abstractions of Nathan Myhrvold in his lab of modernist cuisine. I can link microcosms to macrocosms.

I can link Big Food to Small Food, Fast Food to Slow Food, Real Food to Fake. I can link farmers to sellers to chefs to writers to filmmakers to political reformers to agbiz tycoons. I can link agricultural systems to economic ones, health issues to farm subsidies. I can link a bite of apple in my kitchen to the fall of a tyrant in Libya.

As both Farmers Markets and Facebooks create new collectives, I get to choose which to join. I can do that knowing that we are linked by what we eat and how we eat and what we think and feel about it. All creature-dom is linked by food. And even if the World Wide Web is virtual, it gives new reality to our shared web of earth, air, water, fire.

What do you think of these new food connections?

Photo Credit: Craig McCord