Campbell’s announced the launch of its hipster-ish line of soups, and the world responded with snark.
The new Go! Soups brazenly raid the hipster oeuvre. You see it in the packaging with its hand-crafted fonts and quirky Millenial models. It shows in the website stocked with irreverent slogans and lolcats where nutrition labels should be. And especially in the soups with their trendy flavors and ingredients like quinoa, chorizo, Moroccan spices, and coconut curry.
Campbell’s has been roundly mocked for its naked pandering and cultural appropriation.
Hipster culinary culture has always been an easy target.
It can be precious and pretentious with its small-batch alder-smoked Himalayan sea salt caramels and secret coffee handshakes of burr grinders, cuppings, and pour-overs. It is, in turn, both elitist and juvenile; hipper-than-thou but captivated by grilled cheese sandwiches. We can take our potshots (and there are plenty of smug, tedious, and irritating targets), but we also need to acknowledge the worthy substance of hipster foodism.
As a group, hipsters just might be the most knowledgeable eaters on the planet.
They have worldly, globalized palates and demonstrate discernment and sophistication in their food choices. They often embrace contrarian diets—vegan and vegetarianism; raw foods; pro-soy; and gluten- or dairy-free—but they can have profound knowledge of the implications and can credibly rationalize these positions.
Hipsters are great food voluptuaries.
All the shared instagram pics and meal-time tweets are not just notches in their vintage whiskey leather belts. They are discriminating sensualists who rightly savor the citrus and tobacco notes of a Mast Brothers 74% Dominican cacao bar and marvel at the tender crumb of a well-crafted white peach and rosemary scone. The mark of the true hedonist, hipsters don’t shy from indulgences but take their pleasures in carefully chosen doses—the better to fit into those skinny jeans.
Hipsters are fighting the good food fight.
They adhere to a culinary narrative that Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma dubbed ‘supermarket pastoral.’ The artisan-made pickles and the free range label on the Whole Foods chicken represent the labors of heroic family farmers who are battling the GMOs and monoculture of corporate agribusiness. The hipsters shop and eat within their cosmopolitan enclaves of visionary butchers and worker-owned collective bakeries, and they see themselves as modern-day urban homesteaders, filling Ball jars with honey from backyard bees.
We might mock their romanticized pretensions, but the fact is, the hipsters are getting it right.
They shun factory farmed meats and chemical-laden processed foods. They participate in building local economies and reviving regional food traditions. Mealtime for them is not a base act of mindless feeding at the fast food trough but a creative, communal endeavor balancing the pleasures of indulgence with mindful moderation.
You know what to look for: a curbside huddle of fixed-gear bicycles; a mustachioed barista manning the Japanese pouring kettles of an independent coffee roaster; a quirky pub with no sign in front and handmade bitters at the bar. You found the hipster habitat. You probably won’t find any of Campbell’s Go! Soup at the neighborhood grocery coöp, but good food is sure to be close by.