Dana Goodyear, the editor/poet/reporter (for The New Yorker) has focused in the last couple of years on the weird edges of foodie culture of today. At least from a traditonalist's perspective, the foodie culure of today has evolved from deliciousness, to hipness, to eating what others haven't — and decadence.
Anything that Moves is an intensely, alarmingly sensual book, but it's thoughtful as well.
In an NPR interview, Goodyear wondered:
"What does it mean that the richest people in the world are starting to eat like the survivors of a catastrophe?"
Meaning not just odd foods from traditional European cultures, such as snails and squid ink, but insects, fallopian tubes from frogs, everything up to and including bat wings and newt eyes.
Example of decadence? Goodyear mentions the annual Head to Tail at a San Francisco restaurant called Incanto, which features an appetizer of "whipped calves brains on toast, and entrees that include shaved tripe salad, pig's brain prosciutto, and lamb heart. The final savory course before dessert would be braised pig head with grilled liver and large intestine."
[The Butcher Shop, by Joachin Beuckalaer, 1568]
Jason Epstein in this month's New York Review of Books focuses on what drives this desire to consume. He quotes Goodyear:
I see anxiety behind the hedonism…After centuries of perfecting the ritual of "civilized" dining, there is a curious backpedaling, a wilding…a post-apocalyptic free-for-all of crudity and refinement, technology and artlessness, an unimaginable future and a forgotten past.
For an example of the anxiety, the craziness, see this great story of hers about an underground moveable kitchen called Wolvesmouth. You have to read it to believe it.
It's disturbing, frankly, but like the on-coming car crash, you can't take your eyes off it.
From above, the food—smeared, brushed, and spattered with sauces in safety orange, violet, yolk yellow, acid green—is as vivid as a Kandinsky; from the table’s edge, it forms eerie landscapes of hand-torn meat, loamy crumbles, and strewn blossoms. Being presented with a plate of Thornton’s food often feels like stumbling upon a crime scene while running through the woods.
If Goodyear is right, we are expressing our guilt about the apocalypse in a desire to eat — everything.