Book Review: Stuff White People Like: The Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste Of Millions by Christian Lander

In his book, Christian Lander quickly takes us through 150 things that white people like. He is not talking about every white person. He alludes to another white breed without every really defining the spectrum of whiteness that’s out there. What he focuses on is a fairly privileged class of white people – what I would like to call hipsters. They are the people with nothing better to do with their money and time than to develop interesting hobbies and affinities that create the illusion of being unique and different than everyone else. The paradox is that it’s hard to be special when every other “white” person is doing the same thing. So Lander’s book is really a commentary poking fun at a mass culture that paradoxically prides itself on unique individualism.

I choose to include his book as part of my blog because there are a lot of foodie trends that are very “white”. Namely, Lander mentions organic food, farmer’s markets, Whole Foods, expensive sandwiches, and several other food-related items. If I didn’t know I was white or a white hipster before reading this book, I do now! With each turn of the page and each new topic, I groaned. Had my life become so clichéd? Many of the subjects Lander discusses were things I thought made me different from everyone else…perhaps even better than others. Ultimately, I believe that’s what Lander is trying to attack. He is the pin trying to pop an over-inflated sense of self-importance in white culture. You cannot take your so seriously or so righteously, if millions of others are doing the same thing.

I think the other point that Lander brings up for me is that foodie trends can be ridiculous…which makes them misguided, too. Hipsters love the “next cool thing” and so will jump from fad to fad trying to be “in the know”. What does it mean, for example, for restaurants to jump onto the local farm bandwagon? Is it because they recognize the global importance of eating locally, or are they doing it to exploit the next food fad? What is the integrity of a restaurant with local pork shoulder and then Pacific salmon on the same menu?
I will give grace to the restaurants. They are running a business and there are lots of complexities to running a food operation solely from local, seasonal ingredients. What infuriates me, though, is mindlessness in white hipster fads. How many go to farmer’s markets because it’s a place to be seen or to be cool? How many go and buy the prepared jams and spreads, and not real produce? How many are reducing their carbon footprint, eliminating waste, or recycling after they go home? It’s a holistic endeavor to support farmers, local commerce, and ultimately Mother Earth. Being thorough and consistent is our best hope for having success and change. Patronizing farmer’s market is a small step in the right direction, but pointless if not followed through to the end. And that’s the message I get from Lander’s book. Stop the self-importance and self-indulgence and the hip new food trends. They distract from and dilute a bigger message. How we feed ourselves is critical to life on so many levels – physical, emotional, societal, spiritual – and that’s lost if we are looking for the next food fad that’s going to make us look cool.


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2 Responses to Book Review: Stuff White People Like: The Definitive Guide to the Unique Taste Of Millions by Christian Lander

  1. Maria says:

    As someone who has worked for years with people of color who are marginalized, the foodie movement can get under my skin when it does not acknowledge the obvious fact that this kind of privilege is available to a select few. Lander’s book draws our attention to the toxicity of self-importance that is usually clearly seen in those with more socioeconomic resources. The more we try to get out of ourselves and be compassionate to those who, for lack of resources, have to eat highly processed, packaged, environmentally degrading, hormone-filled foods, the more the sustainable food movement can actually not be just a trend. It can include all people, offering justice for both humanity AND the environment. That, indeed, would be “following through until the end”

    • andrew says:

      Here, here! Your reply has me thinking about a revolution! Until we get our government subsidizing healthy foodstuff (and not crappy corn products), people in lower socioeconomic levels don’t have a fighting chance. They will continue to buy what has been made cheap and available by U.S. subsidies. And this all probably starts with the sleepy giants of big business and Fortune 500 companies wanting to move in that direction. They’ll move if it means more profits. Will they move out of more altruistic motivations? We can only hope. In the meantime, we the consumer need to use our spending decisions to send a message to big business that we want something better. If they can financially benefit from healthier, more sustainable food products, then we might just have a chance.

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