First Plates Extra Helpings: Riding the Snackwave to Indulgentown

Calories, schmalories … that pizza is one bite closer toward equality

photo: Pizza Meme Kid in Belovedshirt

As I watched Liz Lemon sing “workin’ on my night cheese” on 30 Rock, my eyes lit up in recognition. Finally, a kindred spirit, a female character openly expressing her love of disgusting food – and in a Snuggie® on the couch, no less.

This scene was a peek into the private lives of real women, not just the sitcom dames who never do anything more uncouth than down a bottle of wine alone in their apartments. Contrary to popular belief, we ladies don’t always spend our free time roasting vegetables and counting calories (even though there are plenty of magazines that would advise otherwise). It felt great to see Liz Lemon scarfing down hot dogs and demanding sandwiches. Here was a woman who wasn’t afraid of what was good for her waistline, who ate with abandon.

Judging by recent trends, I’m not the only woman who was entertained – empowered, even – by the idea of being unapologetic about my food choices. A change is in the air, and it smells like pizza. In magazine profiles, starlets are suddenly eating pasta instead of salad during interviews. Moschino came out with a McDonald’s-inspired line. Jennifer Lawrence got Doritos dust on her American Hustle costumes. Katy Perry wore a pizza ensemble. And so did Beyoncé. And so did Miley. All of a sudden, women (and fashion) were becoming the unexpected face of junk food.

Over at the Hairpin, writers Hazel Cills and Gabrielle Noone coined a term for this new trend: “snackwave.” According to them, snackwave is “the current Internet phenomenon of young women and teenage girls expressing an obsession with snack foods.” Hence the pizza and the burgers and the burritos that have been popping up in your news feeds.

Personally, I’m all for the glorification of delicious food. But, as many writers have pointed out, most of the women you see as the face of this trend are svelte and beautiful, and they never talk about the work (or genetics) it takes to stay that way. If I ate bags of cheese puffs at the rate of Liz Lemon, my BMI would be off the charts. Actually, last month there was a week where I ate pizza six separate times. It was a fact that I gleefully reported to friends; much like snackwave, it conveys the sense of, “hey, look how carefree and fun I am!” What it does not detail, however, is the five pounds I gained that month, or the week I spent working out and eating a strict diet to feel normal again. Snackwave: It’s all fun and games until your insides feel like sludge.

Now, this isn’t to say I regret my pizza decisions. I stand by all those greasy, wonderful slices that went down my gullet, and I’m sure there will be plenty more in my future. But let’s be honest with ourselves: The size-2 gal in the pizza shirt talking about how her food pyramid is more of a donut shape is far from a realistic ideal for most women. (Then again, there are gals who can gorge themselves on a buffet’s worth of chicken wings and still stay tiny. To those ladies, I salute you.)

Though the snackwave movement may not be the most body-honest one, there is a certain ring of grrrl power to it. Here are the anti-dieters, women who are proudly flaunting the fact that they eat against the rules. For decades pizza and burgers and all sorts of other delicious things were often attributed to the “manly” palate, while women were left with some kale and dressing on the side. But now the tides (of ranch dressing) are changing, and having fun with food isn’t just a boys’ game.

Really though, in the end it’s not all about sticking it to the fast food patriarchy. As Cills and Noone note, “Snackwave doesn’t reject the salad to appeal to men or because it’s holier than greens; snackwave rejects the salad because splitting a pizza with your girlfriends is, simply, more fun.” Sure it feels great to give the greasy middle finger to all the magazines telling me to get a bikini body. (What is a bikini body anyway? Last time I checked, I was able to fit into a bikini at every size I’ve been.) But what really feels good is to eat without abandon, and to have a good time doing so. Obviously it’s important to have an overall healthy diet, but I will continue to indulge in Chipotle on a regular basis. (And maybe show some love with a burrito shirt to match.)


Read more Extra Helpings at austinchronicle.com/daily. The Austin Chronicle’s First Plates food issue hit stands Thursday, February 5.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

First Plates 2015, Snackwave, junk food, delicious food, calories, BMI, pizza, pizza meme, Hairpin, Liz Lemon

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