On 13 November 2010, the Guardian newspaper carried an article – ‘A tale of two herds’ – about ‘plans for an enormous super dairy, home to 8,000 cows’ (Lewis and Vidal, 2010). The article explored concerns about ‘intensive farming which has almost totally separated food and nature’, and contrasted the scale of the proposed farm with a herd of 44 cows tended by a Hare Krishna community on a farm in Hertfordshire. Producing much lower yields than the super dairy, the Hare Krishna milk, ‘at £3 a litre [ … ] will be the most expensive cows’ milk in Britain’. The article then carried out a taste test, inviting a panel to compare the Hare Krishna milk with regular milk. The panel consisted of the Guardian’s environment editor, John Vidal; Sam Clark, the proprietor-chef of London restaurant Moro; and Rosie Sykes, a chef, food writer and contributor to the Guardian’s Weekend supplement. All the panellists agreed that the Hare Krishna milk was superior, with Clark explaining how it could be used to make excellent cheese and yoghurt, and Sykes commenting that a ‘white sauce or a custard’ made with it ‘would be incredible’. The article neatly broaches a number of the issues we wish to explore in this
chapter. First, insofar as the article is written by two of the newspaper’s environment editors, Vidal and Juliette Lewis, it demonstrates that journalistic interest in food isn’t restricted to recipe columns and restaurant reviews. Indeed, the article’s discussion of animal welfare issues, and of apprehensions about the relationship between food and nature, gestures towards broader anxieties about the food we eat. Increasingly intensive forms of food production have generated a growing sensitivity towards food as an object of individual and social risk, and food journalism is often to be found addressing these apparent risks. Second, in spite of this, the taste test allows the issue of intensive farming to be brought back into the kitchen. Clark and Sykes, the panel’s food experts, treated the Hare Krishna milk as though it were a new and exotic ingredient. Sykes, for example, claimed that she had ‘never drunk milk like that before. It even moved in a diﬀerent way’, while Clark noted that ‘there’s not just a marginal diﬀerence’ between it and normal milk: ‘[I]t tastes like you’re on a farm [ … ] There’s no comparison.’ While contemporary food production and consumption carries risk, then, it also brings
represented in contemporary food journalism, as writers attempt to explain new or rediscovered foodstuﬀs and food practices to consumers. This is often presented as a pleasurable search for new eating and drinking experiences, and the pursuit of cooking and dining as expressive lifestyle practices is regularly valorised. In this chapter we look at the various forms taken by food journalism, an
increasingly ‘crowded ﬁeld’ (Hughes, 2010: 2) and one whose subject matter has become widely reported and discussed within print, television and online media. Far from being the marginalised ‘“women’s page” stuﬀ’ (Brown, 2004) of the past, coverage of food has begun to merge with other news issues such as health, business and celebrity, such that it now ‘occupies an unrivalled centrality in all our lives’ (Bell and Valentine, 1997: 3). Despite this ‘mainstreaming’, however, food journalism has received little academic scrutiny in comparison to other forms of leisure and lifestyle journalism. We aim to correct this here by outlining the origins of food journalism, the size and composition of the specialism in the UK, and by analysing the textual strategies deployed within it. We will argue that food journalism is frequently bound up with developing middle-class tastes, and their separation from ‘popular’ tastes, while also being strongly marked by gender diﬀerences. Although these divisions continue to be an important way of conceptualising
food journalism, the ﬁeld has been subject to processes of development and change. In the later part of the chapter we therefore show how major shifts in the classed and gendered dimensions of cuisine have provoked a response within food journalism as the ﬁeld has sought to shape tastes and behaviour in new ways. Moreover, as well as being conscious of the changing attitudes of its readership, food journalism has had to respond to shifts in the organisation of the industry it reports on, and whose advertising revenue it seeks. Furthermore, food journalists are not the only intermediaries within this enlarged ﬁeld. Not only are challenges coming to traditional journalism from the blogosphere, but also from the restaurant industry itself. As high-proﬁle chefs seek to diversify their brands, they pursue media careers on television and in print, sometimes appropriating the role of investigative food journalists for themselves. To understand how the specialism operates in the present, we need to have
some understanding of how it came into existence in the ﬁrst place, and how these origins continue to exert inﬂuence in the present (Benson and Neveu, 2005: 13). It is to this that we now turn.