The culinary world is preparing for a looming food fight, with adventurous eaters and chefs on one side, and the law on the other. Author Dana Goodyear spoke with Reason TV's Alexis Garcia about how underground chefs, raw foodists, and exotic eaters will cope with an impending crackdown from the Food and Drug Administration.
Originally published on July 7, 2014:
"We are heading toward a clash," says Dana Goodyear, author of Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters and the Making of a New American Food Culture. "What's happening in the food world is that chefs and diners are demanding greater variety and less oversight and our regulatory system is not set up for that."
The rise of foodie culture has made the adventurous palate mainstream. It's no longer uncommon to see exotic ingredients such as offal, insects, or even dirt on restaurant menus.
Goodyear, who also writes for The New Yorker, describes foodies as people who are passionate about food and dining experiences. "Whereas other people may care about literature or film or sports, a foodie cares about food," states Goodyear. "I think that's a really new thing in this country—that there are people who are activists around access to food and ingredients and food experiences."
While Goodyear sees the foodie movement as an indicator that American food culture is becoming more democratized as more choices are made available to consumers, the regulatory regime that has been built around ensuring food quality has proven outdated and unable to handle the artisanal, homegrown movement.
"[T]he way in which that initial legislation—the Pure Food and Drugs Act of 1906—has been built upon has really encouraged the industrialization of food and it's really only possible for very large producers to comply perfectly," says Goodyear. "A lot of people are feeling now that smaller scale producers who may not be able to afford the manpower to keep up the paperwork that's required for compliance are actually practicing safe food."
The growing tension between regulators and food producers has led to more innovation in the fine dining world as chefs seek new ways to offer people unique dining experiences free from the bureaucratic headaches that typically consume restaurant operations. Pop-up restaurants and underground supper clubs are just some of the more inventive ways chefs are able to experiment and provide new dishes to customers.
Goodyear describes her experience at an underground supper where cannabis was the featured ingredient as an illustration of the growing disconnect between regulators and foodies. "That was a really fun dinner because it really got to the heart of chefs innovating and experimenting and using ingredients that are not typically thought of as food ingredients," says Goodyear. "And then here it is an ingredient that is actually a Schedule I drug."
Produced by Alexis Garcia. Shot by Zach Weissmueller, Tracy Oppenheimer, and Will Neff. Music by ProleteR.
Approximately 9 minutes.