The intersection of food and politics

 cupcakes

In order to find interesting food news to share with EYB Members, I spend considerable time on social media (tough job, I know). I follow hundreds of food writers, publications, chefs, and bloggers on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. As I am sure that Members in the US can verify, our feeds as of late are peppered with political posts - and not just from news organizations and politicians. A growing number of chefs, food writers, bloggers, and others in the food industry are posting political opinions online. They're using the bully pulpit to share their opinions on issues not directly related to food.

Mario Batali, for instance, is a prolific tweeter. His Twitter feed jumps back and forth between political and food posts. When a follower or customer complains about his political tweets - suggesting that he should just stick to cooking-related subjects - Batali doesn't waver; instead suggesting that the person unfollow him.

Indexed blog Food52 posted an article a couple of days ago on cooking as form of political organization, where they invite readers to share if they are using food as a tool in political protest, whether "organizing potlucks in your community to meet neighbors you didn't know before November or hosting dinner parties with friends to talk through issues that are important to you," or selling foods to raise money for a nonprofit.

These are two examples of a growing phenomenon. Reading the reactions and comments to posts and stories like these shows that readers fall into two basic camps: those who embrace the intersection of food and politics and those who wonder why everything has to be politicized. "Is there no where we can go to be free of politics these days? I'm just cooking because I enjoy it," laments Mike in a comment to the Food52 article. Some may be hesitant to express a viewpoint, especially if it runs counter to the prevailing sentiment on a website.

Interjecting political commentary into a food website runs the risk of alienating a portion of the readership. And some readers may prefer to escape in their cooking and not be reminded of the arguments and division being espoused in the media. But ignoring the elephant in the room also runs a risk: that of seeming out of touch with the concerns of a great many of a site's readers. "How you can post about cupcakes at a time like this?" might be the refrain.

Another point to consider is that political policy often has repercussions that affect food. Regulations about food safety, immigration policies, and trade deals can impact the availability and price of your food, not to mention the workers who handle and serve it. Is it  worthwhile to discuss these policy effects or should it be left to conversations with one's representatives?

Regardless of which camp you might find yourself, you'll probably have to steel yourself to the prospect of political posts in food websites and by celebrity chefs and cooks for the near term. Hopefully soon enough we can have spirited debates about whether the cupcake trend is, in fact, over

5 Comments

  • Megoola  on  1/30/2017 at 7:51 PM

    I unfollowed Penzeys spices because I was getting too much politically oriented email when all I wanted to enjoy food and cooking. It's fine to get political but it is a conversation not a lecture...we aren't obligated to listen.

  • Cubangirl  on  1/31/2017 at 8:38 AM

    While I don't necessarily want politics with my recipes, I admired Penzeys for their thoughtful essays. When I did not feel like reading them, I just deleted them along with all the other emails I don't want to read. IMHO, it takes courage to risk losing some customers to stand up for your beliefs. Of course, it helps that they still have the best product and great coupons. I should note that I'm not heavy into social media (only Facebook) and don't follow any chefs or celebrities, so I'm not barraged with opinions. I'm sure I'm missing some great along with the bad, but I can only stomach a minimal amount of gloom each day.

  • annmartina  on  1/31/2017 at 9:41 AM

    I follow these feeds for information on cooking and products. If chefs or company's have a lot of political information or opinions they want to share, then they should start a separate feed and see who follows. I ended up switching spice vendors so that I didn't have to receive all of Penzey's politically oriented material.

  • Rinshin  on  2/1/2017 at 1:12 AM

    I have mostly stopped FB due to too much political posts and I don't want to see them at all. I don't read twitter so I'm safe from that.

  • BethNH  on  2/1/2017 at 9:31 AM

    I respect food bloggers, chefs, and companies that take a stand and tell us what it is. Penzey's FB posts were terribly heart felt and sincere. In a time when speaking with your wallet can be a form of protest I like to know where companies stand. Jenny Rosentrach from Dinner: A Love Story, wrote a wonderful blog post which basically said that she just felt she couldn't just jump into talking about Super Bowl menus after the Muslim ban was enacted. Her blog - her opinion. I put my money behind companies and people I feel are doing the right thing and withdraw that support from those I feel are doing the opposite.

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