The other day I was hanging out with a couple of friends. It was pouring rain and we were stuck indoors, lounging about on couches, flipping through magazines and drinking hot tea. Occasionally, we'd comment on what we were reading and sometimes this would spark a conversation, like this one:
"Gah. It looks like smoked paprika has become super trendy. Now what I am I going to do?"
"Don't do anything."
"But I love smoked paprika! I don't want to stop using it."
"But I'm not a hipster!"
"But you might as well be."
"That makes no sense."
"Rejecting something just because its trendy is no different liking something just because it's trendy. You are still giving the power to the hipsters to define what you like and don't like.
"Just like what you like and ignore the rest."
"But I don't want to be like everyone else! I want to be unique!"
Just like what you like and ignore the rest. While this simple advice is true, it can be difficult to follow. In this age of hyper-information, ubiquitous advertising, and instant commentary, separating out what we really like from all the noise can be confusing.
My solution is to protect myself from the onslaught and avoid as much mass media as possible. I'm quite susceptible to other people's opinions so I seldom read reviews of books, movies or restaurants beforehand. I like having a clean experience, unmediated by someone else's words rattling around in my head. I do read reviews eventually, but only after I've had a chance to absorb my own experience first.
Another challenge is when what you like catches on in the zeitgeist and it starts showing up all over the place, like my friend and her smoked paprika. Suddenly you are sharing your passion with millions of people and it feels like the uniqueness and intimacy is gone. Your exposure gets over saturated and before you know it, Taco Bell is offering Artisanal Tacos with Smoked Paprika Tofu and you're ready to pull your hair out. Eventually, a choice must be made. Will you still continue to like it, or will you abandon it to the masses and move on?
Some things do endure trendiness and continue to be a part of our daily lives long after the spotlight is gone. The food world is full of such examples. Pesto, for instance, has survived. Goat cheese, too, and roast chicken, good crusty bread, chocolate pudding, and all types of pie. It even looks like fondue may have some staying power. If something is truly delicious, it will carry on. Maybe it's a little battered and worn out but it can also emerge improved after all that attention. Sometimes it's learned a thing or two in the spotlight.
So just go ahead and like what you like or even more importantly, love what you love. (From the poet Mary Oliver: "You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.") This can be surprisingly difficult to figure out but with courage and a certain kind of inner steadiness, it is possible to know what you love and to love it, too. Truth is, it's impossible to do anything else.
(Image: Dana Velden)