The food you and I eat, people grow it. People harvest it. People buy it. People prepare it. People serve it. And, sometimes, people deliver it right to your door. When we separate the people who make an object or commodity from the object and commodity itself, its social value. We can only focus on the object itself. Karl Marx calls this the fetishization of commodity. Basically, there’s a social value in a scarf that your friend made you, or that you bought from the maker, but little to no social value in the scarf that you ordered online. We’re able to divorce the maker and the process of making from the item, only assigning it value based on its practical purpose.
The same is true for food. There’s a difference in a chicken pot pie that you make yourself and the chicken pot pie you pull out of the freezer and heat up. There’s a difference between pizza you get delivered and pizza you make yourself. There’s a difference in the spinach that you buy in a bag at the grocery store, as if it had never been in the ground at all, never part of a larger plant, only individual leaves that are conjured into existence, and the spinach that you buy at a farmers market from the farmer. Modern foodways allow us to be incredibly distant from our food. The distance changes the value of food.
You order food and 45 minutes later, your doorbell rings. It’s a certain kind of magic, delivery. You haven’t had to talk to anyone, just punch in your order and a certain 16 digit number, and shazaam, you have food. Amazing, really, how easily we can get what we want.
When GrubHub and Seamless merged in 2013, the company was able to corner the market of online takeout ordering systems. GrubHub, Inc., makes it possible for someone to get their food without talking to a single person. It’s convenient, but it creates even more distance from your food. The problem with it is that you get your food without talking to a single person. You also haven’t interacted with the food at all, except for consuming it. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but I think food deserves a little more than that.
Yes, there are nights when no one wants to cook. That’s what makes delivery so special. What a relief! We’re so so lucky! But that doesn’t mean that anyone is above cooking. But delivery does not give anyone the right to be above cooking because someone is still cooking that food that you’re going to eat and you should be thankful that someone is willing to do that, not belittle them for their job or the service you are paying them to do.
Additionally, GrubHub doesn’t have the greatest of track records with the restaurant owners. Any query on the site is sorted by the commission that the company receives from an order. There’s an argument here for the marketing service that GrubHub provides; the commission is simply a marketing fee. Unfortunately, just beyond the surface of that argument is where things get, well, hairy. The commission can range anywhere from 10-25%. At 10% the restaurant is unlikely to be discovered by new customers because their name won’t show up on the first several pages. At 25%, a restaurant will get new customers, but they’re also just breaking even. GrubHub tacks on other fees as well, making the marketing service that they provide incredibly expensive. Many restaurant owners explain that they barely break even on GrubHub orders. It’s a profitable service only if a customer ends up coming into the restaurant and eating there.
The way we interact with the people who grow, prepare, and give us our food gives it social value. The way we interact with our food (whether that takes the shape of growing, preparing, or eating it) is important because it revolves around the values that we have assigned to food. Without value, food is just an object. By only consuming our food and not interacting with it or the people who prepared it makes it possible to only think of the food as an object that appears. You don’t see the work that goes into it. It’s much harder to respect the people who did make it when you can’t see any of the process.
I tend to think that food gains value the more you interact with it. There’s a difference between making a cookie for someone and buying it for them. Food is personal. I want food to stay personal. Taking time to interact with the people involved in your food, whether the farmer, or the cook, or the server, is important because it connects you to the humanity of food. More importantly, it connects you to humanity.
"It's not delivery, it's homemade"
I'm not trying to reinvent the wheel. I've linked to the recipes I used below and described my assembly process. Nothing is overly fussy, it just all takes time. How much of each topping you add to your pie is up to you. I just suggest that you don't put too much on or (delicious) disaster might ensue. But I don’t know your life. You do you (but preferably with pizza in hand, no?).
- Pizza Dough by Peter Reinhar
- Ricotta by Ina Garten
- Caramelized Onions by David Chang
- Two garlic cloves
- 34 oz can of Jersey tomatoes
- Fresh basil
- Fresh mozzarella
- Cornmeal (for dusting on pan)
- Salame (or pepperoni, or soppressata)
Preheat your oven as high as it can go (per Peter Reinhart's instructions). Mix the tomatoes with grated or finely diced garlic cloves. Stretch and shape pizza dough by picking up the individual rounds by the edges until you can just barely see light pass through the dough. Place stretched dough onto a cookie sheet that has cornmeal dusted to prevent sticking. Spread sauce onto the dough, drop small bits of ricotta, shredded mozzarella, sausage (if you’re into that kind of thing), parmesan, and fresh basil. Place into the oven for 3-9 minutes, depending on how high your oven temperature is, until the cheese bubbles and the crust is dark golden. Eat.
Beer, Jeff. “Seamless Targets All The Tiny Kitchens in the Big Apple.” Co.Create. October 13, 2015. http://www.fastcocreate.com/3052192/grubhub-seamless-knows-about-your-tiny-kitchen-in-the-big-apple.
Crowley, Chris. “How GrubHub Seamless Plans to eliminate Ghost Restaurants From its Listings.” Grub Street. November 13, 2015. http://www.grubstreet.com/2015/11/grubhub-seamless-elimante-ghost-restaurants.html.
Ellman, Ben. “Turns Out 10 Percent of the Top Restaurants on Grubhub Seamless are ‘Ghosts.’” Grub Street. November 11, 2015. http://www.grubstreet.com/2015/11/grubhub-seamless-ghost-restaurant-investigation.html.
Kosoff, Maya. “Uber Just Launched a Standalone Competitor to GrubHub and Seamless.” Slate. December 9, 2015. http://www.slate.com/blogs/business_insider/2015/12/09/watch_out_seamless_and_grubhub_ubereats_has_arrived.html.
Mulay, Vishrut. “The bits and bytes of food: study of emerging Internet-based food businesses.” S.M. in Management Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sloan School of Management, 2014.
Richards, Katie. “This Clever Seamless Campaign Uses Witty One-liners to Tap Into How New Yorkers Eat.” Adweek. September 17, 2015. http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/clever-seamless-campaign-uses-witty-one-liners-tap-how-new-yorkers-eat-166975.
Slagle, Ali. “Seamless’s Ads are a huge step backward for the food movement-- and Seamless.” Food52. October 28, 2015. http://food52.com/blog/14545-seamless-s-ads-are-a-huge-step-backwards-for-the-food-movement-and-seamless .
“Why Restaurants Hate GrubHub Seamless.” Tribeca Citizen. March 1, 2016. http://tribecacitizen.com/2016/03/01/why-restaurants-hate-grubhub-seamless/.