The universal language of food

By Monica Riese

“People who love to eat are always the best people.”

—Julia Child

At every house party in every part of the world since, as far as I’m concerned, the beginning of time, there is but one universal truth: No matter how much time you spend trying to usher guests to the patio or the couches in the living room, 95 percent of them will inevitably spend 95 percent of their time crammed into a single room: the kitchen.

There’s a good reason for that—and it’s not just that it smells good in there. In our modern age, globalization and the Internet have rendered the phrase “universal language” a bit moot. Sure, there’s Billy Connolly’s definition (a personal favorite) and emoji and even more philosophical choices like love or music, but at the end of the day, the language we all speak fluently is food.

Though we all need it to survive in some form or another, those of us fortunate enough to be picky in any way are able to bond with others about our culinary favorites, fascinations, and foibles. Vegans can always find common ground with other vegans, be it about humane treatment of animals or favorite cheese substitutes; carnivores can happily analyze different types of meat or preparations. Even simpler, sometimes those dividing lines find themselves aligning with borders on a map: Italians have their rich cultural traditions of breads and pastas, while the French have made a name for themselves for pastry, including (approximately) as many uses of butter as there are seconds in a millennium.

The Internet, though logistically not the most efficient means of satisfying the palate, has a knack for bringing all those communities together in one place. Over on sites like FoodGawker, North African harissa can exist comfortably alongside German pancakes, Hong Kong-style French toast (we’re not sure either), and the ultimate American indulgence: the pumpkin spice latte. As we watched along with the on-field drama of the World Cup this past summer, we delighted in the excuse to expose ourselves to the more edible contributions each competing country had to offer—all from the comfort of our couches.

It’s easier than ever to share recipes with people around the world—this almond raspberry mousse cake from a Polish blog comes to mind for me, as someone who in turn shares her own creations on a modest Tumblr—which explains the immense popularity of sites like AllRecipes, FoodNetwork, SimplyRecipes, and many more. For the more visual learners, there’s the abundance of food bloggers and a YouTube cooking show for every cuisine under the sun.

(Incidentally, the foodie webseries finds itself squarely in the center of a pendulum’s sway: It was born of the cooking specials on television by the likes of Julia Child, Emeril Lagasse, Gordon Ramsay, and Alton Brown, and it is in turn proving a successful launch pad for Web personalities to find themselves back on the small screen, as was the case for the Epic Meal Time crew under the bacon-wrapped command of Harley Morenstein.)

So when the cocurators of this week’s issue, two Daily Dot foodies who literally face off at their desks every day between veganism and butter-soaked baking, sat down to talk about how to approach the topic of food in The Kernel, we knew immediately that we wanted a complete menu that would appeal to every part of that vast global community. Our specials this week include an amuse-bouche of a celebrity profile with the aforementioned Morenstein, an appetizer of food porn, and a hearty trio of main courses: Rae Votta’s behind-the-scenes look at a YouTube cooking show, Marissa Fessenden’s exploration of the seemingly-but-honestly-probably-not-even-close-to-final frontier of 3D-printed food, and Greg Stevens’s takedown of the ever-popular fad diet. For dessert, Allen Weiner goes meta with an exploration of the IRL foodie communities that brought us this idea in the first place. (In this metaphorical meal, as in life, I recommend you eat dessert first.)

We hope, whatever tastes and textures strike your fancy, that you find something to savor in these pages, but more importantly, that you’re hungry for more.

Bon appétit.

Photo via DaveCrosby/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)