A Culinary Golden Age—but for Whom? | Public Books

In the 17th century, nostalgia was considered a disease.1 Today, nostalgia has shifted from an individual illness to a collective malaise. It is now often considered ethically suspect, something shameful, a pervasive form of “history without guilt.”2 This suspicion of nostalgia makes sense in a political landscape where the dominant rhetoric aspires to a return to greatness and includes fervent attempts to preserve Confederate memorials and Yelp reviews where plantation tours are dinged for talking too much about slavery.3 Yet even as nostalgia works most overtly on the political right, it also animates strains of discourse on the left. It’s visible, for instance, in Joe Biden’s calculated references to Obama, or in the invocation of the 1970s as a golden age of antiwar protests and voter registration drives.
Nostalgia also animates the contemporary food movement, an ostensibly liberal cause that often lauds concepts like the “family farm” and “locavorism” without interrogating the extent to which they rehearse nativist ideology and a romanticized pastoral lifestyle.4 Kevin Alexander’s recent Burn the Ice: The American Culinary Revolution and Its End attempts to navigate these suspect versions of nostalgia. Yet for all that he celebrates the progressive development of contemporary food culture, Alexander’s book also serves as a eulogy for what he sees as “a—perhaps the—golden age of American dining.”
This golden era was somewhere between 2006 and today, as financial downturn, online food media, and the rise of the celebrity chef combined to restructure the American restaurant scene.
— Read on www.publicbooks.org/a-culinary-golden-age-but-for-whom/