Flexitarians

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“Burger King wants to start selling veggie burgers worldwide. The fast-food chain introduced a special line of six meatless burgers last year in India, including a Veggie Whopper, a Spicy Bean Royale, and a vegetarian chili cheese melt. The sandwiches have been so successful that the chain is now considering launching them in other vegetarian-friendly markets, according to Burger King India CEO Raj Varman. “Looking at the response here, the global management is evaluating introducing some of these options going forward to other vegetarian-friendly markets like the UK,” Varman told the India news agency PTI, according to the Economic Times.

“Despite the failures of McDonald’s, adding a meatless menu in markets such as the U.K. and the U.S. could be a smart move for Burger King. Vegetarianism is on the rise, and a growing number of people are defining themselves as “flexitarians,” which means they eat a primarily plant-based diet supplemented by occasional meat consumption.Sales of meat alternatives in the U.S. rose to $553 million in 2012, up from $513 million two years earlier, according to the market-research firm Mintel. Meanwhile, Americans’ per capita consumption of meat and poultry has declined by more than 9 percent since 2007, to an estimated 200.8 pounds in 2014 from 221.6 pounds in 2007, according to the USDA.”

Text: Hayley Peterson, Burger King Wants to Make the Veggie Burger a Global Hit, Slate.com

Pic: Andy Warhol, Hamburger, 1985-6.

Total: $219

“Both on and off screen, food literally ‘places’ us in the world, both through its materiality and its meanings. In its materiality, food forces attention to the body; in its many psychological and social meanings, food preferences and the rituals of eating help reveal the shadings of gender, class, ethnicity, power, and community. For food not only shapes our bodies, but it structures our lives, fashioning daily rituals and helping mark significant rites of passage. Food connects us to others  both directly, through shared meals, and culturally, through shared ‘tastes.’ Parley Anne Boswell (1990) notes that food is a staple of film properties in nearly all genres. ‘Audiences respond to food, to eating, to dining scenes because we all understand something about food  we all eat’. Mary Anne Schofield argues that food in literature ‘articulates in concrete terms what is often vague, internal, abstract’. Depictions of meals in films serve as shorthand that often allows audiences to better understand individual characters through their relationship to food and characters’ relationships with others in interactions taking place over food…”

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“The less the world of the future resembles our own present, the more that food seems deployed as a bridge, not simply to the present but to an even more distant past. This seems particularly true of films in which environmental crises have reconfigured the world. In a bleak setting, familiar foods take on the role of ‘comfort foods’ quite literally  and offer a means of clinging to a former world. The opening sequence of Soylent Green (1973) offers a visual history of earth’s collapse, beginning with a slow black and white photographic montage of pastoral scenes and then speeding forward into an increasingly urbanized and industrialized landscape  in which technology ultimately transforms cities into waste heaps of detritus. Of all the films discussed in this essay, Soylent Green is most explicitly about food. Food not only figures into several lengthy scenes, but it is central to the anxieties about the future at the heart of the film. In an early scene, the film’s protagonist, an investigator named Thorn (Charlton Heston), visits a black market grocery store  where a single stalk of celery and two small apples are rung up for a total of $219. And then a cut of beef is revealed  so exotic and fantastical that no price is ever named. We understand immediately that only the very privileged can afford such luxuries, and then only rarely. The mass of humanity subsists on a mysterious diet of soylent green. When Thorn and his partner Sol (Edward G. Robinson) sit down to their dinner of salad (ironically flavorless-looking iceberg lettuce and a small, pale tomato) and beef stew, the older man reveals that it has been years since he’s tasted anything like it; Thorn admits these flavors are all new to him. Yet both men revel in the sensory experience and seem to derive equal pleasure from the flavors  for one, familiar, for the other, exotic  they taste. For Sol, this meal operates much like Proust’s madeleine, evoking another world, another time. Yet Thorn’s response reminds us that nostalgia need not be grounded in memory. An imagined past is every bit as powerful as a remembered one…”

Text: Jean P. Retzinger (2008): Speculative Visions and Imaginary Meals, Cultural Studies, 22:3-4, 369-390.
Pic: Soylent Green [1973], Dir: Richard Fleischer.