chapter
6 Pages

Introduction

If America is undergoing a food revolution in the early twenty-first century, as so many writers and activists proclaim, it is largely an act of historical imagination. Food offers communion with the past in ways that bewilder the intellect. Discomforting memories of slavery and racial violence ebb and fade beneath the plates of heritage pork and heirloom collards that are served under the guise of “nouveau southern cuisine.” For some, the sights and smells of a Midwestern farmers’ market carry with them pastoral adulation of America’s evaporating heartland. Searching for an allegedly purer culinary past, followers of the Paleo diet paradoxically give up cultivated plants for the boneless breasts of factory-farmed chickens. In Manhattan, drinkers sip eco-cocktails that promise to save “one square meter of rainforest” for every serving of açai liqueur. Meanwhile, amidst the flood tide of historical greenwashing and artisanal primitivism, industrial staples like canned beer and frozen Tater Tots enjoy their own renaissances. No slouchy convenience food is beyond the reach of the twenty-first-century foodie’s ironic appropriation. As the food movement’s diverse obsessions with the tastes of the past spill across these cultural and environmental complexities, the habits and histories of American eaters have never been so completely entangled.