Food As Medicine

November 13, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

Food as medicine. That was the dismissive phrase David G. used. David has been in the food biz in one way or another for decades, and he has little use for the idea of health-conscious eating. He has nothing against health. He just doesn’t make it his primary criterion in deciding what to eat. It’s like people who go to the race track and base their bets on the jockey’s silks. Yes, the silks are pretty, and some are more attractive than others, and it’s a good thing to wear nice clothes. But that’s not what horse racing is all about.

Food, like sex, is one of those items that gets slathered with layers of cultural meaning. A British friend, decades ago, pointed out to me that in the US, advertisements for food, especially children’s foods, were often all about the energy that food gives you so that you can go out and achieve.

If there really is a culture war, food may be one of the important battlegrounds, except that in the food-culture war, there are several different flags. What’s in a meal? Love, togetherness, Cartesian logic, propriety, health, efficiency? Are we having a healthy meal or a happy meal?

Lisa at Sociological Images showed how different themes got packaged into different TV dinners. It was a great post. Lisa called attention to the fonts, the names, the colors – things you see but don’t consciously notice. Health, it seemed, was a feminine concern.

So I was a bit surprised to see this ad on the commuter train this morning. And I remembered David G.

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