Food is culture, that’s a given. But what about food as pop culture? Is there a second tier of American food, an equivalent of The Bay City Rollers occupying some déclassé rank beneath Flannery O’Connor, Mark Rothko, Paul Robeson? And what do we do with that which is both, people like Chuck D. and Jack White, pizzas topped with baby arugula and farm-fresh cheese, hamburgers made of Kobe beef? Is the cuisine of the United States spread across the low- to middle- to high-brow?
At Bonnaroo this year, Mr. White twisted the universe into songs simultaneously brand new and immutably old, smudging all concepts of sonic social class out of existence. The food for sale, however, presented a more complicated arrangement. You could at the beer stands spend seven bucks on a tallboy of Coors, but also spend eight on one of dozens of microbrews in the Broo’ers Festival tent. You could spend six bucks on a slice of pepperoni pizza or eight on a bowl of green veggie curry over rice. Bonnaroo’s food, vastly more diverse than that of most public events of this size, included both the low- and middle-brow.
Except Bonnaroo is always trying something new, and this year a few lucky folks jumped on the festival’s first high-brow dining experience open to the general public. Bonnaroots, a four-course, farm-to-table dinner made entirely of ingredients sourced within 100 miles of the site, was a collaboration between the festival, Oxfam, and a non-profit named Eat for Equity. Eaters sat at long tables beneath an arbor while on a nearby stage a woman in a frog-green bodysuit played trumpet to the beat of a drummer with more hair than “Islands in the Stream”-era Dolly Parton. Cultural tiers converged. Continue reading