“What’s a college radio show got to do with food?” you ask.
“Plenty!” I respond chirpily.
After all, it takes serious fuel to stay awake for your 2 AM on-air time. And you gotta snack as you comb through dusty flea market bins (or “dusty theme” websites) to find all those gems of music obscuria for your dedicated fans. Didn’t you have some show intro (the familiar strains of a German bluegrass, fuzz beats anthem perhaps?) that was a Pavlovian cue to order your Wednesday night cheeseburger calzone? And what about the cult snacks that populated the studio break-room or the vending machines in the radio building –100 calorie bags of microwave kettle corn, that lonely pack of off-brand wintergreen gum, Funyuns…
Right but it’s not just what goes on, unseen, behind the mic. College radio can be a source of anthropological evidence for modern foodways!
Just humor me, okay.
Too many weeks ago on a brief errand I got hooked into a set by Sheila E’s “Glamorous Life” (1984 represent). When I got back in the car the set was closing with (unbeknownst to me) “Midnight Lover” by Kisses. Wes Hazard, Photon Pitch’s DJ, called the set with on target nods to the 80’s camp of Miami Vice (the series) and movies of the time. And then he pointed out a lyric in “Midnight Lover:”
I would like to take you out
I would like to take you out
For a nice steak dinner
Just me and you.
Wes pointed out that, this is probably not the line to hook a girl these days. “She’s probably vegan,” he joked.
I laughed out loud because he’s probably right. And if she’s not vegan she might just ask so many questions about the provenance of the steak (good for her!) that most guys will start thinking ‘What did I get myself into?’
To read even further into the lyric and Wes’ comment our whole idea of prestigious eating has changed. “Nice steak dinner” used to be code for a white tablecloth, upscale dining experience. It hinted at free-flowing champagne, an “Order anything you want!” mentality, and was supposed to signal a dinner companion who could comfortably pay the check without looking at it.
If you want to impress a girl with a meal these days you’re going to have to do…different. Health consciousness has reduced (some) portion sizes. U.S beef consumption is declining. And if you’re asking out a girl who is conscious about food, it’s not the price of the meal that will matter but how local, artisanal, seasonal, humane or organic it is. That nice steak dinner just taxed your conscience almost as much as your wallet and is probably being served to you ‘deconstructed’.
Is this a good thing?
You will see that I come down almost unquestioningly on the side of small farms, sustainable practices, local food and environmentally-kind food production. And even though I’m kind of sick of (and tend to mock) menu items that read like someone’s dissertation, I appreciate the consciousness and the pride in the food itself. I am glad our food ideals have changed since the 80’s, but I worry that like shoulder pads, teased hair, and day-glo bangles this kind of food awareness will just be another trend cycling despairingly fast like clothing styles.
Let’s keep more knowledge of what’s on our plate trending. That way we can assure that the future version of ‘a nice steak dinner’ is safe and available.
Thanks to Wes from Photon Pitch for giving me the play list and his remarks. Photon Pitch airs on WZBC (90.3 fm Newton, MA) Tuesdays 1pm to 3pm and Wednesdays 10am to noon. Kisses is not an 80’s band but rocks a hot (and fittingly vapid) retro electro-pop sound.