Anatomy of a Book: Salad Days, by Ronnie Scott

Salad Days by Ronnie Scott…can it ever possibly be morally decent to spend $500 on a meal? (cover)

This is a great question to ask and answer.

…13 million Africans are officially at starvation point. (p.1)

Considering this, how does the book justify in a balanced way a current media obsession with food culture and associated gluttony?

…purchases whose chief purpose must be to signal class. (p.15)

Foodies have begun establishing a class system. So is this the question we should consider?

He had an early memory of dropping pork chunks in a fryer with his dad, and to me, making twice-battered pork at the age of five made it sound as though Keith had come from a foodie background. (p.33)

I’m not sure I understand that sentence clearly. This long recount of a chef’s background is far from the initial question.

…our engagements with food can be powerfully expressive of other things we love and want. (p.24)

The book is 45 pages, with very few insights worth of considering. The idea that food is establishing a class system, or certainly a divergent culture, is interesting. Also, if food is a means of reward and expression, it is true that people fought for the freedom to express themselves, and for that reason could it be morally okay to spend $500 on a plate rather than feed 500 individuals who are starving? That question, along with almost every other, is never reasonably addressed.

Changing Status:

What is the role of fine food? That is a question that could bring the industry down, as it asks if the staving and the plump are to be treated the same. Would the starving not attempt to enjoy food too? This is a difference in status worth exploring, that was not done by this book.

High Stakes:

How about, if an experience is worth something how can we compare that experience with the detriment it must cause others? If food is art, what price do we put on art? What price do we put on pursuing our knowledge of the environment and our bodies, when the cost is that other people must starve? There is certainly a lot to consider when spending wealth on luxury items. This book doesn’t engage with any high stake such as this.

Page Turner:

Instead of tackling topics, the book touches enough to raise them, and then meanders on with vague but pretty prose. It contains details on the writer’s own obsession with food, along with a few extra vignettes about chefs and kitchens. It has been quickly written, seemingly lacking in editing, with no attempt to get to a point. The languishing style might help beef up a word count, but it does not add value to the argument or enlighten the reader.

Believable Characters:

…is Noma all just foams and things?” (p.16)

Casual language helps make the characters believable.

Educate:

This is marketing. The cover and introduction raise interesting questions that the essay in answer wholly ignores, perhaps out of guilt or lack of budgeted time, and thus makes this a failure but a seller. Still, it is worth considering the question, how do you justify any luxury spending? It is all a matter of seeking acceptance into class systems?

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