If youre not following Trufflegate, youre missing an entertaining, though ephemeral, conflict that throws questions about journalism, celebrity and food politics together into one thought-provoking pot.
The British-born singer M.I.A has become famous as much for her music as for her politics, which reflect her ethnic association with the Sri Lankan Tamils and were reaffirmed in her violent recent video for the song Born Free. In a profile of M.I.A for the New York Times, Lynn Hirschberg wrote about the artists engagement to the son of a multi-millionaire record executive and their home in posh Brentwood, Ca. in conjunction with M.I.As controversial views, such as her unwavering support for the Tamils who employ guerrilla warfare. Yet the biggest blow came when Hirschberg quoted M.I.A thus:
I kind of want to be an outsider, she said, eating a truffle-flavored French fry. I dont want to make the same music, sing about the same stuff, talk about the same things. If that makes me a terrorist, then Im a terrorist.
The implication that M.I.A is simply a bourgeois sheep in an anarchist wolfs clothing comes through by way of the truffle fry, Hirschbergs smoking gun that M.I.A represents nothing more than a posturing celebrity. This fry encapsulates the hypocrisy that the rest of the article proceeds to hammer home.
So, an enraged M.I.A posted Hirschbergs phone number on Twitter as well as secret recordings of the quoted interviews. Celebrity paranoia paid off: one of these recordings proved that Hirschberg had in fact suggested the fries, and M.I.A had agreed to the order. It seems that Hirschberg had set the singer up for such a moment, even if the decision to use this detail did not occur until later. Considering that Hirschberg almost systematically mentions her profile subjects as munching on french fries, it was about time she was called out on both her blurred ethics and uninspired menu choices.
Yet whats most fascinating is how one little truffle-flavored french fry manages to change minds and cause feuds. Never mind the culinary desirability of a fry with truffle oil, which the Village Voice wholeheartedly denigrates. Ignore the fact that the fry incident occurred at the swanky Beverly-Wilshire hotel, where a truffle oil fry is one of the least upscale menu options.
Instead remember that like it or not, we are what we eat. And no, not in the way that you learned with illustrations of fruits and vegetables, nor in the PETA-inspired guilt-inducing suggestion. What we eat reflects the part of our personality that extends outward, just as much as hairstyles or tattoos. Think of our Presidents: Reagan and his jelly beans, because he was a sweet old favorite; Clinton and his Big Macs, despite his health risks, because he does what he wants; W. Bush choking on a pretzel, the game time snack that cemented his everyman image in a way that a truffle fry could not.
Though M.I.A was exonerated in Trufflegate, munching on a high-class fry that was someone elses idea still cements Hirschbergs implication that, though M.I.A may not be a fully-fledged member of the bourgeoisie, shes not really fighting it. Should we expect her to be eating an active anarchists diet, which I might assume consists of Gatorade and lentils? No, but if she wants to keep her carefully crafted persona intact, she needs avoid any more truffle scuffles.
(Photo by Moses Namkung via Wikimedia commons)
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