I recently had the opportunity to speak on a panel at the TerraVita Food & Drink Festival in Chapel Hill, NC. Each member of the panel was asked to talk for a few minutes on how they use their culinary capital to benefit their community. Here’s roughly what I had to say.
I am delighted and I am lucky to have a chance to speak with you today about two subjects that are increasingly intersecting in my work, namely:
1. My crazy intense love of food.
2. And, well, being crazy.
I’ve been a writer for the past big chunk of my life and mentally ill for all of it — but it took getting a platform as a food journalist for people to listen to me.
At first, I was just caught up in the deliciousness of it all. The fabulousness and the sensual pleasures — Yay, bacon! Oooohhh…pimento cheese. Calloo callay for cake (and pie).
And what I found out pretty quickly was that if you can find this common ground of pleasure with people, you can also start to talk a little bit about the pain.
People love pitting the New York Times’ Kim Severson and me against one another on the debate stage. At the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium in Oxford, Mississippi last fall, the topic was Pie vs Cake (we tied). This time, at the Longhouse Food Revival, It was Oink vs Moo. We tied again.
Here’s what I said, after noting that it had been suggested to me that I could win just by saying the word “bacon,” and then reading the poem “Ode to Pork” by Kevin Young:
I have been as intimately involved with pig as a person can be without actually, you know, porking one.
In a barnyard about an hour from here, I stuck my hand into the slit-open, steaming belly of a pig I’d known since it was a little, bitty piglet and pulled his organs out one by one. I’d watched as this animal shuffled and snorted around his circular pen, snuffling with joy, eating whole, dinged-up zucchini, corncobs and table scraps.
He wallowed and oinked and farted a lot — happy as a pig in shit until the second his brother took a bullet between the eyes and a knife to his throat. My little — or at that point, full and fattily grown — friend snorted in fear at the crack of the rifle, then went back to chowing down on some overripe cucumbers, until the same fate befell him.
In the first of our 3 panel discussions at Food Dialogues New York, experts gather to debate some of the biggest questions in modern food, health, and agriculture. Questions came from our website, twitter, and straight from attendees at the event and include topics such as:
What more can be done to ensure consumers have access to the right kind of information?
What tools are marketers using to promote certain types of food choices over others?
What additional voices are needed to help consumers navigate the supermarket and restaurant menu?