Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"Insulting the Tweet": Toward an Egalitarian Thanksgiving

I've noticed a trend year round, but especially during the holidays, and especially especially now that Thanksgiving is upon us.  This is the American Feast of Feasts, a celebration of food for food's sake, and it is presently marked by a surge in what I call "Edible Uploads" - pictures of delicious dishes, captured on camera phones, uploaded via Instagram or whatever, and posted on Facebook and Twitter so that the whole world may drool in awe.  I did it once.  It was a plate of red snapper, bay scallops, and mixed vegetables that I made with my cousin, sitting in front of a Harpoon Summer Beer (which was partially responsible for the idea to upload the picture).  This trend is really no different from any other sort of picture or update we post when we're proud of something we've accomplished.  But what I find most interesting is that, at least among my online friends, it seems to be mostly (if not only) men who frequently post what they've cooked.  In a strange juxtaposition of our gender's tendency toward overt displays of masculinity and the stereotypically feminine role of creativity in the kitchen, Edible Uploads seem to be a more and more common way for men to demonstrate their value and culinary prowess.  I'm not saying this is a bad thing, just that it may be an interesting - and somewhat comical - result of feminism, now that men have/get to spend more time in the kitchen.

The clams are a bit suggestive, if you ask me.


Many an intro-level anthropology course or textbook include a story about a Dobe !Kung tribe from an ethnography by Richard Lee written in the 1960s.  They are a foraging society (aka "hunter-gatherer") in which women and children do most of the gathering and capturing of small animals, while men do the big-game hunting.  When !Kung men kill a giraffe or antelope, for example, the tribe participates in a practice known as "insulting the meat."  Jokingly, people will ridicule the man for the size of his catch, making fun of how small it is, when in reality it is quite large.  This is their way of preventing the hunter from becoming arrogant or asserting superiority among the tribe, and anthropologists have theorized that this tradition functions to preserve the egalitarian structure of their society.



So I'm thinking we should start doing this with Edible Uploads.  Next time your friend shows off his Turkey Cordon Awesome on the Facebook, post some comments about how overcooked it is, or how the presentation is unattractive, or how he hasn't paired the right vegetables with it.  This might not be something you want to try at your Thanksgiving meal, unless perhaps Grandma has a great sense of humor and isn't too sensitive about her cranberry sauce.  But definitely do it with your friends on the interweb, male and female, who proudly show off their culinary artwork this holiday season.  You can start by insulting my bird below:

Yeah, there's no way I actually made this.


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