Pinsker: Do you think this is something everyone in this generation is experiencing or is it among people with a certain socioeconomic background?
Turow: I very clearly outline at the beginning of the book that I’m not talking about every person in this generation. There is a huge difference between someone who is growing up in low-income housing and living off of food stamps and someone who has enough disposable income to even think about getting a four-dollar coffee. There is this kind of bizarre balance within the generation because on the one hand, we’re broke, at the moment. But, we were more likely than generations before to have been raised with money. So, we have this taste for arugula and prosciutto, even though we’re making $30,000 a year and five years out of college.
I think that there could be another, entirely different book written about Millennials who don’t know where their next meal is coming from, because there are plenty of them in the United States and that's something that I’m hoping that we as a generation are going to start addressing—issues in food policy and food security and food distribution.
Pinsker: I feel like one reason that young people, or really, people, obsess over food is that it lets people have social currency. It’s a way of showing off. And there’s a weird dimension: You are demonstrating that you have the luxury to be very, very deliberate about something that a lot of people really struggle to have. Do these things cross your mind when you find yourself obsessing over cannoli or a pastrami sandwich?
Turow: I have a whole chapter dedicated to this, because I think it’s one of the most fascinating parts of the entire trend. And I think it’s one of the more uncomfortable ones. Because, even for myself, I had to look up at a certain point and say really, “Why am I posting this picture?” Is it for a sense of community or is it to show off?
And if I was being honest with myself, it was a little bit of both, but mostly to show off. There’s a commodity fetishism around organic kale at this point because we’re using it as an identifier. We’re using it as a signal of education, of knowledge, of income.
One of the biggest things that’s thrown at this generation time and time again is that we’re narcissists. Part of the impetus for writing this book was a) I’m confused about why everyone is obsessed with food and b) does my generation really suck that much? Really asking a genuine question and part of the answer is well, yeah, we are more narcissistic because we are the kings of self-branding. You’re going to brand yourself differently for LinkedIn, than you are for Facebook, than you are for Snapchat, than you are for any other social media platform, OKCupid, or whatever.
I’ve talked to a number of people about this and everyone has a jolt of shame when they really start to think about why they’re, in essence, performing, via food, on social media. And Anthony Bourdain talked to me about this and he said there are three things going through his mind when he posts photos of food: “to share the experience with friends, to develop my brand as a food writer and maybe, if I’m being honest with myself, to show off.” That’s something that I ended up just accepting. But the question is, how can the food movement take advantage of that to change the way people eat and get food?