If you are a mostly-idle grad student in the summer, the only other people around to talk to during the day are:
A. other mostly-idle graduate students
B. public school teachers on summer break.
Between these two groups of people and those poor troubled souls on Days of Our Lives, I get all the daytime social interaction I need, thank you very much.
My sister Maggie is in Group B. She is a high school teacher living all the way across the country in beautiful Santa Monica, California. But when she is on summer break, she calls, like, a million times a day. To tell me what celebrities she saw that day, or what the weather at the beach is like, or her opinions on the presidential election, or about the interesting new insurance policy she just bought.
Here she is:
MAGGIE: Hi, I’m Maggie! I LOVE Santa Monica.
My friend Matthew is in group A, although he is married to group B. He is pursuing a PhD in the same subject that I am.
This is Matthew (group A) and his wife Kari (group B). They’re cute, aren’t they? They’re from Minnesota.
MATTHEW & KARI: Hi, we’re Matthew and Kari! We’re from Minnesota!
So when Josh and I agreed to blogsit for the Amateur Gourmet, I broadly hinted to Matthew that he and Kari might make an appearance. Frankly, I thought he would be flattered to be discussed in such a flashy public forum. I mean, do they even HAVE the internet in Minnesota?
But Matthew was taken aback.
MATTHEW (huffily): I didn’t give you permission to do that. I’m not public domain!
ME: Okay, okay, I won’t, I promise.
MATTHEW: Good. Now go READ something, for god’s sake.
ME: Okay, sure, yes, I will.
I didn’t tell Matthew that: A. I have in fact already mentioned Kari in passing as the heroine of a pizza-stone-shattering adventure story; and B. I secretly suspected he didn’t want me to come across as looking like the winner of every argument we had, even though you all can probably imagine that this is the most accurate representation of reality.
But as I was watching Days, I realized he reminded me of my reaction to appearing in one of the Amateur Gourmet’s films a few weeks ago. I made a nectarine pie for Adam’s camera, and I was so uncomfortable with the exposure I almost told the AG to take it down. I guess it made me antsy to know that I had no control over how I was being discussed and presented to others.
(And I just KNEW somebody out there would be upset that I used vegetable shortening in my pie crust. Yes, yes, I know, vegetable shortening is bad for you! Bad, bad, bad! But listen, I use it in combination with butter to make a better-textured crust, okay? Besides, who eats pie for the health benefits?)
Now that I’m on the other side of the blog curtain, however, I realize that the pressure to exploit the people in your life for a cheap laugh is overwhelming. I mean, frankly, who can resist it?
For instance, many of you may not have realized that several paragraphs up, when I implied Minnesota was a backwater that didn’t have internet access, that THIS WAS A JOKE. Minnesota is a very progressive state, and those of you who don’t know that are just ignorant, and probably living in some overpriced coastal city. But I think we can all agree it was much, much funnier to score cheap shots off of Matthew by making fun of Minnesota. Actually he is originally from Iowa. But no one could ever say anything funny about Iowa.
So the thoughtful graduate student in me asks what responsibility we have to these real-life people we blog about.
It reminds me of an excellent chapter in David Sedaris’s new book, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. You all know David Sedaris, right? I’m sure you do. He writes hilariously about his family, who are in fact real people.
In this new book, his sister Lisa tells him a story that she finds painful and he finds hilarious. When she begs him not to write about it in his next book, he responds not with sympathy but with this:
“Oh come on,” I said. “The story’s really funny, and, I mean, it’s not like you’re going to do anything with it.”
Your life, your privacy, your occasional sorrow – it’s not like you’re going to do anything with it. Is this the brother I always was, or the brother I have become?
Sedaris really hits the nail on the head here. In this troubled and media-choked times, information is a particularly potent form of capital — and if you lose control of how you are represented, your personhood can be reduced to simply someone else’s information and entertainment. I think it gets down to our sense of what being a good human means, our most rudimentary moral anthropology ….
What does this have to do with food, exactly?
Doesn’t the title indicate this is a “meta-food-blog” discussion?
AMATEUR GOURMET (snorting):
Don’t give me that grad student crap, toots!
I leave my blog in your hands, and this is how you repay me?
AMATEUR GOURMET (stamping his little foot):
I will NOT accept apologies! I am a MAJOR online celebrity and I have a REPUTATION to uphold! Please!
Um, Mr. Gourmet? You have some flour on your face, sir. And some toilet paper hanging off of your shoe. And you’re not wearing pants.
AMATEUR GOURMET (turning purple):
SILENCE! I am the SULTAN and PRINCE of this food blog! You better get back to writing about food! And I don’t care WHO you have to make look stupid to do it!
So enough about the ethics of food blogging. Let’s turn to pasta next instead. — katy