A Facebook group known for fancy food porn and swapping technical cooking advice turned political after a controversial decision over the weekend by the group's moderators.
The New York Times Cooking Community, a private Facebook group run by the New York Times, has a few rules, one of which is: "There are many places to express your political views; this is not one of them."
Over the weekend, a member broke that rule and shared a post that favored a particular candidate — a definite no-no. The post was swiftly deleted, and a New York Times group moderator posted that the man's post "was removed because he shared a political view in support of a candidate in it, and that breaks one of our group rules."
That, in turn, set off a new debate. Isn't food — including who has access to it, how we cook it, and where it comes from — inherently political?
So in response, people started posted images of food encouraging people to vote with nonchalant captions.
Like this scrumptious-looking chicken orzo soup, posted by Tessa Hawkins, "with a few extra dashes of democracy for dinner tonight."
"This isn’t so much of a rebellion as some creative culinary encouragement. There have certainly been group members that have gotten upset at the idea of 'politicizing' a cooking group, but this is a critical moment in our nation’s history and we’ve found a way to combine our passion and talent for food with our interest in social justice causes," Hawkins told BuzzFeed News.
"We’re simply trying to motivate others to exercise their constitutional right to shape our nation’s future leadership using the medium that originally brought us all together!"
Another member, Michelle Griffin Nikiforov, posted this perfect sourdough loaf.
Nikiforov actually took it a subtle step further by sharing the packaging from a bakery in Charlottesville, Virginia, which hosted the "Unite the Right" rally in 2017, infamous for images of white supremacists carrying tiki torches. She said the bakery is owned by a gay, mixed-race couple, and the post was a way to promote their business.
Although the group is private, news of the "vote" photos went wide thanks to Chaya Milchtein, a writer, speaker, and automotive educator who posted about it all in a Twitter thread.
Milchtein said it was interesting to see it all go down, considering the group members are typically relatively privileged people who like sharing expensive cookware and fancy ingredients.
"When I think of a New York Times reader, I'm thinking of people who are highly educated and have spare time to cook elaborate meals in the evenings," she said.
Basically, the type of people for whom food may not feel political — but for Milchtein, it definitely is.
"We know that for poor people and for people who are not privileged upper-class, middle-class folks, food is not guaranteed and highly political," she said. "It’s just like that food trend we had in the pandemic of people baking fancy breads and making elaborate dinners while people were scraping pennies together."
She said there were even a few angry comments on some of the "vote" photos from people who didn't want their safe foodie space to include anything political.
"I’m not looking at this as some big activist movement or something, but for the group of people that it came from, it seemed like they were really putting themselves out there," she said.
Another person who posted a photo was Susanna Orozco Rios, who made a hand pie with "vote" spelled out in pastry dough.
"Voting is important to me because my mother ingrained it in me that it’s our voice, no matter what party you belong to," she told BuzzFeed News. "She cast her vote from her deathbed by proxy in 2004. I will never not vote because of her."
Natasha Ross decided to spell out "vote" with hollandaise sauce next to some eggs benedict. She's actually Canadian and told BuzzFeed News she "had just voted in my first provincial election in my new province."
"We often remember the meals we have at a significant time — a wedding, graduation, holiday, etc. I wanted to share my celebratory brunch, and also share in the significant times people around the world are finding themselves in. Food can be uniting or dividing, just like democracy, no?"
Morey Curtis Dunbar made some "vote" charcuterie, writing, "My husband loves the charcuterie tile I made him for his birthday last summer. He loads it up with goodies for every game."
"I grew up in a Republican household and was always told by my mother that voting was the responsibility of every citizen. It was our chance to say how we wanted our government to work," she told BuzzFeed News.
"As I got older and changed party affiliations, this was often the only thing we agreed on politically. And I feel that this year it’s especially important for those of us not happy with how things have gone on the last four years to make sure to voice our displeasure."
As for the New York Times, the moderators are actually enjoying the political food.
"The vote photographs the members are posting are beautiful, though, and anyone can make a nonpartisan vote post," a spokesperson for the newspaper told BuzzFeed News.