Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Foodies, childhood, and books

It occurs to me that there are different kinds of foodies. There are the vegan or vegetarian or slow food people who are very concerned with the ethical and dietary problems associated with processed food, and then there are the chef people who know the difference between cake flour and bleached flour (or at least can taste it) and are ultimately concerned with how a food tastes. I think there is some overlap between the two, but sometimes less than I'd think. While a vegan would use vegetable or olive oil to make refried beans, the lard alternative gives a meat stockiness flavor that the oil will lack. Lard, I know, gross! I guess it depends on who you talk to. I might be getting my taste neuroscience mixed in with this (which says that ketchup only needs one variety because it's not there for flavor). I think there's a similar overlap between environmentalists who want to save the trees so that we can have more oxygen and wood for later, and preservationists who want to keep critters reproducing so they have something to hunt. They both have very different ethics attached to their beliefs.

Another (unrelated) thing I was thinking about is what it would be like to have grown up in a more academic family. One of my professors is a daughter of Hugh Nibley, and it strikes me that while it might have been fun to know things that other kids weren't taught, it was probably incredibly annoying to get attention through proxy (a famous relative). My parents are smart people, just not the "academic" type (don't get me wrong, my dad has an MBA from a prestigious university, but I think that's different). So, I put myself through some thought experiments (that's a fancy way of saying "seemingly objective fantasies"). I'm not sure if I would have had much interest if my parents had tried to teach me a foreign language, or if I would even have accepted their book recommendations. I was kind of an independent kid, but easily influenced. I liked watching cartoons and playing computer games. I liked reading books that didn't overtly teach me anything.

If my parents had been more interested in academic pursuits, would that have changed the things I liked? Would I have been just as excited to discover Shostakovich if he had been sitting on our music shelves forever? Sometimes I wonder if my "love" of classical music and classic literature is just because it's so different from what I was brought up with. We had some classical music (Tchaikovsky #1 and Rachmaninoff #2 on the same tape, and I still get them confused today, embarrassingly), but it wasn't a focus.

Maybe I'm not giving my parents enough credit. They really encouraged me to pursue my own interests, but I feel like in some areas, I had to rely on other sources to introduce me to Dostoevsky or Chopin. But, I think that my forced exploration was a good thing. It helped me achieve early familiarity with the Internet. Many afternoons after graduating from jr. high were spent chatting with other gamefaqs fans of the Gameboy game Magi Nation, which I never beat, actually. I enjoyed exploring the early archives of (back when they were all midis!) in my early high school years. I got book recommendations from online booklists for music lovers (which led me to read An Equal Music before I was, er, mature enough for it). Along with the internet though, I listened around. If there was a book I had never heard of that the other English classes were reading, I'd go read it. This is a device I still use today - it's how I read Infinite Jest and Brideshead Revisited. But, it makes me wonder: Do I just want to know what everyone else is talking about, or am I interested in the book itself because of its acclaim? Anyway. Stuff I've been thinking about.


Andrea said...

I don't know; in a way I think it's good. Would I have been as interested in writing and composing if I had had as much exposure to music? Maybe I would have felt like "It's all been done" or been too intimidated. I love the frontier do-it-yourself-ness that some high culture tends to oppose. I'm glad we were raised to appreciate all sorts of different media, from classics to games to action media to science to history. I think it's kind of the best of both worlds. That's kind of what I try and do with my kids, anyway. We listen to BT and Cranberries and Bach and Raffi and all sorts of stuff.

Though, I'm not really a big fan of a lot of "literary" books, so maybe I kind of differ there. I guess I find a lot more personal meaning in books that I read that are enjoyable than books that are supposed to be "good" or "important" but are actually not what I like.

I think mom did a pretty amazing job at culturing us (hee hee), considering she's the first person in her family to go to college, and she didn't really grow up with any of that at all. I love that we went on so many field trips and got to go so many great places as kids. We got to see a lot of the world that way.

Wow, that was long. I should probably write my own blog post about this or something. :-) Sorry for cluttering up your comments with my essay. :-)

Whistler said...

I agree that Mom did a really good job of educating us and getting us to the library all the time. Sometimes I just wonder what it's like for other people to grow up, and what it would have been like for me to grow up in a different environment.