How Do You Maintain Your Edge When You are a Foodie?

I see Rod Dreher has also listened to Neil Drumming’s piece on Ta-Nehisi Coates for This American Life. I too found the story fascinating, not only because Drumming humanized Coates — the MacArthur genius doesn’t only breathe fire against white America but also knows how to enjoy his success by eating oysters and drinking champagne. Drumming’s own reflections on status, his relationship to Coates, and his thoughts about jealousy of a friend who becomes amazingly successful are the sort of considerations that those with a modicum of success entertain about friends who do much better. It is reminiscent of the sort of rivalry-jealousy on display in The End of the Tour, the movie about David Foster Wallace and the writer who covered him, David Lipsky.

But what I really wonder about is the way that Dreher and Coates both openly enjoy their success as writers. First Coates:

Ta-Nehisi knew we were here to talk about his snobbery, and he wasted zero time getting into character. He told me a story about the other night when he’d had dinner in the restaurant of this very hotel.

Ta: And I was sitting at the bar. And the food was OK. It’s like one of these OK food restaurants. But it was decent. I was having a good time. And there was a couple like down the bar, and they had ordered this big-ass thing of oysters. It might have been 24 oysters. It was huge.

Neil Drumming (narration): Ta-Nehisi was fine with that. He loves oysters. It was what happened next that offended him.

Ta: Then the bartender started making drinks, right? And he makes the woman a sangria and the other dude some sweet something, some red, sweet something-or-other that no one should ever drink. And he took it over there, and I was like, you’re going to drink sangria and eat oysters? Like, we’re doing this now? Like, this is a thing you’re going to do? Oh, come on.

[LAUGHTER]
Ta: Come on. Just order a Hi-C. Get the Capri Sun. Just get the Capri Sun with your oysters.

Neil Drumming (narration): See, this is what I’m talking about.

Then Dreher:

That line of TNC’s about how having money brought out something in him that was latent — a love of good food — strikes me as a basically good way to enjoy your money (unless, of course, it becomes gluttony). People who were raised poor, or who have struggled for a long time to get money, and who come into success — I think it’s great if they use some of it to enjoy things that they never would have been able to otherwise. Maybe you always wanted to go whitewater rafting, but never could have afforded it. Or maybe you have always been interested in working on antique cars, and can now afford to take that up as a hobby. Well and good. Money can also call forth and exacerbate latent character flaws, of course, but one hopes to be moderate and sensible about these things. It sounds like TNC is well on course.

About fame, though, that is something I don’t understand people desiring. To me, the best thing about being really rich would be the liberty to be completely anonymous. Unfortunately for TNC, the nature of his vocation and the source of his fortune means that he will always have to be in the public eye.

The thing is, Coates has achieved his comfort by pointing out the discomfort (put mildly) that blacks experience living in white U.S. Meanwhile, Rod is touring the world and eating well thanks to his own writing about living in harmony with permanent truths as opposed to giving in to passing pleasures. The point isn’t that these guys are inconsistent. It is whether Coates can maintain his West Baltimore attitude while living in Paris and whether Rod can pursue the Benedict option while dining at Huîtrerie Régis.

I would have thought that both men would be aware of the tension between cause and success. So far, I don’t sense that self-awareness.

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14 thoughts on “How Do You Maintain Your Edge When You are a Foodie?

  1. He could have shortened his 9 reasons (and multiple sub-reasons) to the following and called it good:

    “To be sure, there are many ambiguities about being exiles on this earth with our citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20), while at the same time being called to serve in the structures of society (1 Peter 2:13)”

    But New Calvinists bindeth the conscience much, and doeth with much passion and hedonistic joy.

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  2. Whatever you claim it’s never enough for New C’s, if you say you pray 12 hours a day they’ll scoff and say that’s nothing at all

    so it becomes fun to make up little minds games about sin conquering and outdoor preaching to them, or telling them you preach 12 hours a day just so they’ll say that’s nothing at all

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  3. Off the current subject: I loved your post on Patheos about the Wheaton College hajib controversy. Do you really wear a shemagh? For fashion? Protection against the cold? Sup?

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  4. Back to food — imagine Piper at a restaurant. Which food to order? Salad to support the Mexicans? Beef for Texas (oh no, guns!), organic for the hippies, potatoes for the lonely plains dwellers? WHAT DO I DO? Try being human, John. Get over yourself.

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  5. I see my cardiologist tomorrow. If I get a decent report, as I expect, I will be going right past a very good barbecue pit on the way home. I almost always get the pulled pork, but would switching to their brisket be accepted as a gesture of solidarity with our Islamic Brethren? But then again, Calvin Trillin reports that there is a Rabbinical dispensensation whereby any meat smoked over hickory for six hours is kosher. Would that apply for Muslims?

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  6. (A different) Dan
    Posted December 22, 2015 at 10:19 pm | Permalink
    I see my cardiologist tomorrow. If I get a decent report, as I expect, I will be going right past a very good barbecue pit on the way home. I almost always get the pulled pork, but would switching to their brisket be accepted as a gesture of solidarity with our Islamic Brethren? But then again, Calvin Trillin reports that there is a Rabbinical dispensensation whereby any meat smoked over hickory for six hours is kosher. Would that apply for Muslims?

    U funny, man. And you make religion yummy, and pig is yummiest.

    After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand. “It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man.” Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?”

    On the theological tip, this is why Christianity is the best religion. On the personal tip, if only to piss off the resident Pharisees, I’ll say a prayer and ax for the intercession of

    http://mentalfloss.com/uk/religion/27112/the-strange-story-of-the-patron-saint-of-barbecues

    Screw the brisket, go with pig. It’s a Christian statement, and tells your co-Abrahamists of your liberation in Christ.

    “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

    Even at the barbecue pit, brother, even at the barbecue bit. 😉

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  7. I actually didn’t know that before. I’ve only read some of Coates’ writing, essays for the Atlantic. The case for reparations seemed to me less that persuasive and if “wee” did that I say we start with the American Indians because 1) there’s so much fewer of them it’d be easier to afford and 2) they were getting massacred at times when slave owners were trying to breed new generations of property. But still not convinced reparations are necessarily a good idea.

    On the other hand, Coates venting about “The Insufferable Spider-man” I agreed with. 🙂 Spider-man was more fun before the 1980s because at worst there were forgettable lame stories (I can’t even remember the Hammerhead stuff very well) instead of legendary lame stories (Clone Saga, One More Day, Sins Past, etc).

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