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A week ago, a pineapple that had been sitting on my counter for days inspired me to seek virtual counsel. Sure, I could have just chunked the thing up and eaten it, and that would have been fine, but I wanted to do something a little more creative, and I craved inspiration. Freeze it into a sorbet or granita? Fold it into a cake? Add tidbits to fried rice? I posted my question on Facebook and minutes later all sorts of recommendations rolled in, from all across the country and even outside it.
All of this got me thinking about the value of social networks and technology in relation to food. I’m not just talking about food blogs, Epicurious, or the online sections of major newspapers, all of which directly link technology to food, and by design. I’m talking more about social networks, like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. These portals make instant communication so quick and easy that I’m curious to learn how and/or whether people are using them to expand their food knowledge, discover new restaurants and products, or tap into more political issues like the farm bill, CAFOs, or school food.
I saw an article last week about a protest outside a kebob shop in Lombardy, Italy. According to The New York Times, a law with potentially anti-immigrant repercussions restricted the types of products fast food restaurants could sell. One regional lawmaker, who was quoted in the article, said the law as originally written had racist overtones and was geared to “get the kebab shops out of the civic center.” In response, the piece went on, there are now numerous “pro-kebab and anti-kebab Facebook groups fiercely competing for new members.”
So I wonder, how have you been mobilized, if at all, by social networks when it comes to food? Do you attend food events, or go to new restaurants, merely because someone Tweets about them? Does it matter if the person is someone you actually know, or not? Do you buy food products promoted on blogs, or are you inherently suspect of these recommendations? I guess my final question is really this: are we eating “better,” however we personally define this term, because we now know what the friends of friends of friends have had for dinner, or which restaurants they really like, because their tinyurls and twitpics tell us in an ever-changing display on our ever littler screens?