From baking to home schooling and personal fitness routines, the pandemic is creating venues for status-seeking that will seriously exacerbate social inequality
"A lesson Bourdieu taught but which no one seems to take to heart is that no expression of taste is ever innocent."
So your argument is true by definition. Amusing of you to illustrate it by academic name-dropping and inequality sign-posting. What GINI coefficient do you assign to the class of brave intellectuals who have the leisure to cite Bourdieu against bread-makers? Do you think we will come out of this pandemic with notably less inequality due to their heroical struggles? Just wondering!
This is dangerously stupid. People are baking bread because they like to eat bread, bread is highly perishable, and they can't go to the bakery. Oh, that, and they're working from home now, which means you don't have to fit your bread prep schedule to your daily going-into-the-office routine.
Midway through the post you justify your stance that baking bread is status-seeking behavior by arguing that access to time and bread-making materials is a "class marker." First off, holy non-sequitor, Batman! If an activity is "status-seeking" because it's easier for the rich to do it, then everything is status-seeking. By this argument, going to a restaurant is status-seeking -- it costs money, after all, something the rich have more of, and one cannot eat out if one has to take care of children at home. But then again, eating in is also status-seeking, because you need a kitchen and materials, and time to clean up.
Secondly, flour is hard to get right now, but the people who have it are not the rich: they're the ones who went to the supermarket first, before the supermarkets ran out of flour. If there was a massive black market for flour, and only the rich had access, you might have a point. But everyone I know who is baking bread is doing so with supplies they got at a regular supermarket, before the shelves went empty.
In conclusion this is dumb.
As a person who makes around $20K a year and has been making bread way before it was cool I can confirm that basically everything in this post about baking is wrong.
1) It is not expensive to make bread. It’s a little more money if you want to maintain a sourdough starter, but it’s still extremely cheap as a hobby. It does not take specialized equipment and flour is very cheap.
2) It does not take long to make bread. For most bread you have to physically be at your house for an hour or so, but the actual amount of time interacting with the dough is very little.
3) It is not hard to make good bread, depending on what you mean by “good.” Sure, you won’t be making Tartine bread without a lot of practice and care, but anyone can make bread better than 95% of anything you will find at the supermarket very easily using a simple overnight proof, with little or no kneading, and very simple shaping. This also requires very little time to do.
Anybody can bake and enjoy if they say choose. Let’s not pretend this is an inaccessible hobby for the rich.
Why is it interesting to observe that baking bread is status-seeking? Can the author name a single popular past-time that is not status-seeking? For example, reading books is status seeking. So is following popular tv-series. And as stated explicitly in the text, strength training too. And obviously, writing blog posts about status seeking is also status seeking. What analytic power can the concept of status seeking possibly have, what interesting conclusions follow from classifying all things as "status-seeking"? This text arrives at the conclusion that because things are status-seeking, elites end up with more status than others. Well we don't really need to concept of status seeking to arrive at that conclusion, looking at the world where people obviously have differing amounts of status, and elites are better able to obtain desirable things, should suffice by itself.
In my opinion, the writer doesn't know much about baking bread. It is often faster, and less expensive, to make your own bread than to go and buy bread that approaches anywhere near the same quality as even very ordinary home-baked bread. Also SD doesn't have to be wasteful at all. Starter does not have to be discarded and can be made in small quantities. It may be a way of "showing off" for some people but if this pandemic sets some people on the road to making their own SD (real) bread they will be the healthier for it.
The writer says: " It’s something that commercial bakeries can do a lot quicker, a lot better, and a lot cheaper than most of us can manage. " Yes, quicker--that's the problem with commercial bread--and may explain a lot of digestive issues that we have in the modern world. Certainly not better or cheaper!
It can be hard to get started, I didn't start baking my own SD bread until I was semi-retired, but now, five years on, I am an experienced bread maker, and it takes me just 30-40 minutes once a week to produce the bread we need, for two people, for a week.
Something had to replace all those photos of the perfect brunch on Instagram...
I’m typically attracted to your arguments about status-seeking. But the present case makes me want to ask: how do we differentiate between status SEEKING, and behaviour that is merely consistent with high social status? I also wonder what would count as evidence against this hypothesis. Do enough individual anecdotes help, or can those all be dismissed as false consciousness? (My wife, for example, has recently baked a couple of loaves of bread after 11-hour workdays — preserving sanity, not status. At least, that’s how it feels on the front lines.)
How dare these elites flaunt their privilege by educating their children, staying healthy, and baking bread. Something ought to be done. #LevelThePlayingField