Read the inaugural installation of “Mythologies,” my irregular series of interviews with cultural critics, at Thought Catalog.
First up: food scribe and cultural historian Josh Ozersky, the Macaulay of offal, talking about food and gender: Playboy‘s role in changing men’s perceptions of food and cooking, the post-’70s shift in American attitudes about the unmanliness of men in aprons, the gender politics of gluttony, and the cultural significance of “dude food” stars like Guy Fieri, self-styled “kulinary gangsta” and bloviating host of the Food Network show Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.
(Photo: the imperishably vulgar Fieri, who insists on pronouncing his entirely made-up surname Fee-ay-rrreee, with a rolled “r,” and whom I would happily drown in a butt of donkey sauce if I could do so with impunity.)
Ozersky: The rebellion against Puritanism, or a perceived or imaginary Puritanism, is a function of affirming masculinity and a kind of automatic and reflexive countercultural transgressive posture… So, for example, in New York you have all these chefs that went meat-crazy and organ-crazy and pork belly-crazy, like Battali and David Chang. They posited this imaginaryÂ Moosewood [cookbook] schoolmarm who was going to make everybody eat lentil loaf and of course no such person existed. If you want to talk about signifiers, that’s why bacon became like a faux-transgressive signifier of bad-boy feeding. Being into bacon is as much an act of aggression as it is an act of pleasure. Guy Fieri lives in a world where there is no Moosewood Cookbook. What he represents and conveys is this magic world of tacos and happy men–a Nacho Land, inhabited entirely by formidable and unworried specimens like himself.