2.27.2009

Stand up in the cafeteria and stab them with your plastic forks!*

It's been a difficult couple of days for me in the blogosphere.

First, through Bitten, I found this article by Tom Lee, which takes Alice Waters to task for elitism relating to her proposal for school lunch programs. Let's start with Bittman's comment: "...we forget that most people in the United States neither know nor care about such things, and that a large percentage of those are not, in general, eating well." I get what he's saying: we foodies can get a bit "precious" about our food. But I also have real problems with the thinking that, just because people don't know or care, we shouldn't try to raise awareness, fight for the integrity of school lunches, and share our passion with any who will listen. When it becomes elitist is when someone - let's take Bittman as an example - sits in their fancy kitchen, waxes poetic about organic school lunches, but doesn't actually do any real work to make it so. By definition, I am an elitist. Alice Waters is not. She has done the real work.

I get what Tom Lee is saying and I did agree with him that Waters is shooting for the moon and we might want to think more practically. BUT I don't think she's "dicking around" by using terms like "organic" and "locally produced". Not only that, but I resent his saying so. She's done most than the rest of us with the Edible Schoolyard, proving that it's viable and it can make a difference. And I have real problems with a system that has made "organic" and "locally produced" so difficult to procure: why should these be the hallmarks of the elite and pretentious? They shouldn't be. Alice Waters is right. I could really go off on this for ages, but I fear that I have already proved that I can't be terribly articulate about these sorts of things. But do read the article and think for yourself about it. Because I think we can all agree this isn't going away anytime soon.

The other article I read was from this week's NYT Dining section: "What's Eating Our Kids? Fears About 'Bad' Foods" by Abby Ellin. It just rubbed me wrong. Or maybe I'm only having one of those weeks... I guess I should have expected some backlash. But it just seems to me that the article is focusing on such an extreme example and holding it up as truth to all us foodies: Beware! Your kids could end up like this! Even the graphic accompanying the article is ridiculously sinister and foreboding. The article is focusing on the sensationalistic, the extreme and the alarmist. I'm disappointed.

Along these same notes, I have had some interesting discussions with Adam lately about drug addicts, religious fanatics, and foodies...and how they're all related. I made some flippant comment about religious zealots being a bit like drug addicts. Adam disagreed, pointing out that, if you were to ask a drug addict, they would probably agree that the whole world should not be addicted to drugs. The difficulty with the fanatical religious folks is that they think everyone should be addicted. Well, there's also a bit of this in the foodie too...and I have to admit there are certainly parallels. I've talked here, here, and here about the "conversion experience" and I totally want everyone else to have one. I don't understand why more people don't care and I desperately want to make them care: if only they could see, they would understand. I want people to see that the life of a foodie is the right one. Definitely parallels, I can't deny it.

I have some book reviews coming up so stay tuned. I promise they'll be frothy and fun...no more of this heavy dwelling. A little less coffee...more Champagne, please!


* Pleeeeeeeease forgive my blog post title. It's a quote from Pump Up the Volume. I couldn't resist.

2 comments:

Andrew Karre said...

Read the same articles, and I agree with your reactions.

If we need to rebrand "organic" and "locally produced" into something that's not so close to "Volvo-driving, latte-drinking . . . " then so be it. Global warming had to become climate change, and that was a good thing. It refocused people on a more accurate term.

To focus on those two aspects of food production and consumption is not "dicking around."

Grumpator said...

Chris and I have been having a similar conversation about food, after reading George Will's column last week about Mary Eberstadt's essay for the Hoover Institution. If you haven't read either, I recommend it.

I loved the idea of a healthy, sustainable school lunch program. Coming from a background of always being on the governmental subsidized free lunch, I think I would have loved to work in the kitchen or a garden in order to earn my lunch. I'm not a foodie, but I do think it would be nice for our kids to have options other than pizza or cheeseburger and fries for lunch.