What Would Steve Martin Eat?
by MOLLY YOUNG
I have a new rule of thumb when it comes to food. If I can imagine Steve Martin eating x, then x passes the test. If not — if he would avoid x or do something comically derisive to x — than I must do the same.
With the looming amount of food options available to modern consumers, the only sensible thing to do is adopt a doctrine strict enough to narrow the field considerably. WWSME? seems as good a food doctrine as any — it is slightly glamorous, generally healthy, and pleasingly flexible. (You can replace Steve with Harold Ramis, if you wish.)
The introduction of WWSME? into my food habits clashes with a parallel attraction toward the raw vegan lifestyle. A skeptical attraction, but still an attraction. The appeal of raw veganism lies in its adherence to frivolous rules, its celebrity following, and its promiscuous deployment of the phrase 'glowing skin'. The promise of 'glowing skin' is enough to ensnare me in any cult.
Perversity also plays a part in my raw vegan interests. I perpetrate the fascination, in other words, merely because I do not want to. "We stand upon the brink of a precipice," Edgar Allan Poe wrote in his famous description of perversity. "We peer into the abyss — we grow sick and dizzy. Our first impulse is to shrink from the danger. Unaccountably we remain."
Yep! That's it. There's nothing that makes me want to punch a wall with more intensity, for example, than raw vegan branding. Purveyors of vegan goods tend to replace the sensory claims of generic products with ridiculous-sounding spiritual claims. Instead of emphasizing great taste, companies like Love Force will emphasize the "edible love, light and happiness" contained in their snack foods.
In good moods I find this innocuous. In bad moods I find it irksomely foolish. Not particularly misleading or symptomatic of capitalist ills, just foolish. "You've waited your whole life for this," the Love Force packaging claims. Inside, a speckled brown turd awaits.
Have I? Waited my whole life for this, I mean? Love Force has sent me a box of lumps to sample, each one made only of nuts, dried fruits, seeds, agave and flavoring agents. Flavors range from the safely appealing (chocolate orange, chocolate mint) to the inventively tasty-sounding (mango pecan, fig ginger) to the odd but plausible (chocolate lemon).
Each bar costs $4.99. Each is chewy. Each is filling and tastes exactly like what it is — which is to say, delicious. The Fig Ginger and Goji Lemon taste like whole pies compacted into a portable snack. When you taste such non-negotiably good things, it makes you wonder whether the raw vegans aren't on to something after all. It was certainly very nice of the company to send me a boxload of them to try.
But then, my aversion to the raw food vernacular is rhetorical, not visceral. These are bars that come in packages printed with a radiating infinity sign on the header, like some weird detail edited out of a David Mamet play. These are bars that equate, beneath the nutrition info, being vegan with saving our planet — a mantle of importance that I'm not sure most vegans deserve. Love Force is not content to make amazing bars (which they do); they must also "raise human consciousness through the power of organic raw vegan food nutrition and other positive mindful products." And this is where we part ways.
Would Steve Martin eat a Love Force bar? Maybe if he was offered one free of charge. He'd read the name in that good-natured jeer into which his voice has matured, and then he'd consume it without complaint.
And so, in a fashion, will I.
Molly Young is the contributing editor to This Recording. She blogs here and here, for Spike Jonze's new movie. She twitters here. You can buy her books here. She is the creator of Salad & Candy. She last wrote in these pages about a seminal moment from her youth.
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