Heart-Shaped Blog

February 14, 2016

Although we find frequent occasions to complain about robots here in the Thornapple Blog, I do have to acknowledge that The Google is a regular blogger’s friend and savior. I sat down with a few half-baked ideas this morning (they will probably be back soon, but hopefully more fully baked). Then I noticed it was Valentine’s Day. Typing “valentine food” into my search engine (in full disclosure, I should note that it was Bing, not Google) the robot coached me with “valentine’s day food ideas”. Let’s see what that turns up, I thought to myself.

Well it will not be a surprise to very many blog readers that it turns up quite a lot. One high-ranking link is to a site at purelocal.com. Now here’s a tangent: what’s the proper grammar for listing a URL at the end of a sentence? If you put a period after it, you’ve corrupted the address, but if you leave the period off, well that’s just not right, is it? Let’s leave that one for some non-food blogger to ponder. A better tangent would be to speculate on this purelocal.com website, which seems to be run by one of those aggregating robots that collects information from all over cyberspace and then puts in conveniently on your screen. Frankly I wouldn’t trust these guys, especially when it comes to “local”. Who knows what kind of standard they are applying?

In any case, the “valentine’s day food ideas” page starts out with links that are, I note, disclosed as “ads” (though in tiny grey print). They would take you to other websites sponsored by Rice Krispies™, Hot Pockets™ and Hidden Valley™. It just goes to show how quickly we go from “local” to giants like Kellogg’s, Nestlé and Clorox. This is probably not a surprise to anyone reading the Thornapple Blog, but it can never hurt to mention it. I didn’t bother to click on any of the sponsored links, even though I’m sitting here dreaming of rice krispie treats (maybe with some of that extra-special pink food coloring) and wondering how salad dressing can figure in a Valentine’s Day meal. But that’s yet another thread we’re going to drop for the time being.

The Valentine’s Day Party Food Ideas page at purelocal.com goes on to aggregate some results from other Q&A websites. We are advised to “Make heart-shaped cookies and then decorate them.” Well, duh! We are also told that children like mini-pizzas and caramel apples, and reminded that school districts are quite strict about food: “Absolutely NO peanut items!” It suggests that we should run a food ethics theme on allergies pretty soon, but we’re too deep in this week’s blog to take off on that one. There’s also a curious link that I didn’t follow suggesting that an “anti-valentine’s day” party can be stoked with a mix of “un-love” songs. Robots! How do their minds work, anyway?

You could go through many pages of links on search results for “valentine food ideas” without learning very much about the way that food and Valentine’s Day are culturally intertwined. To wit: One of the main things that you do on Valentine’s Day is to give your lover a box of chocolates. Another is that the two of you go out for an intimate dinner. If I had been a space alien with a general curiosity about how the earthlings’ food habits are affected by this special day on their calendars, I would have actually been misled by this Internet search. I would be thinking that it was either about making cookies or pizza for children’s parties, on the one hand, or creative ways to cook with salad dressing, on the other. I can admit that children’s parties are indeed a significant part of Valentine’s Day, but I’d still like to insist that these traditions are derivative. Valentine’s Day is for lovers.

So I’m here to tell you that romantic love and food do indeed go together. That might also suggest some creative ways to use salad dressing, but this is a family blog, so I’m just going to leave that thought to your imagination.

Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University

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