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Reframing”Luddite”&”elitist”charges against foodies

Thursday, September 30th, 2010 | Posted by Christina Tran

Just a couple links to think about in relation to our current food systems and the foodies out there, and I would argue you could probably replace the word “food” with “technology” and other things as well. I fall into these traps of thinking or labeling or prejudging sometimes, and often it’s helpful to check myself and my thinking.

illustration by Victo Ngai

Elitists

It’s pretty easy to consider those who have the means to shell out money for good organic food a foodie, and worse a foodie elitist. Let’s reframe that. These foodies are leading the way, showing how things can be if we stop buying processed food, start eating real food again. I don’t agree with the author’s point about CSA subscribers also chipping in to pay for extra subscriptions for low-income families as a solution to getting organic food into our communities. But I do agree that we shouldn’t make people feel guilty for paying “more” for better food if they can afford it.

To suggest that advocating for such a change makes me an elitist is to disparage positive decision making and behavior…The victim mentality our culture encourages actually induces guilt among people making progress. That’s crazy. We should applaud positive behavior and encourage others to follow suit, not demonize and discourage it. Would it be better to applaud people who buy amalgamated, reconstituted, fumigated, irradiated, genetically modified industrial garbage?

Luddites

At the same time, some people (including myself) are guilty of romanticizing the past “when we all had time to cook” or “when we didn’t have all these internet distractions.” It’s good to get a reality check sometimes and realize that in many ways, we are much better off now with our industrialized food than we were “back then.” It’s just an evolution of the processes in our lives, and while the core messages of the Slow Food movement may be applauded, it’s actually counterproductive to automatically malign certain technological advances that have given us fast food and mass production and whatever else. Let’s look forward instead of looking backward, says Rachel Laudan for Utne Reader.

Culinary Luddites are right, though, about two important things: We need to know how to prepare good food, and we need a culinary ethos. As far as good food goes, they’ve done us all a service by teaching us how to use the bounty delivered to us by (ironically) the global economy. Their ethos, though, is another matter. Were we able to turn back the clock, as they urge, most of us would be toiling all day in the fields or the kitchen; many of us would be starving.

Nostalgia is not what we need. What we need is an ethos that comes to terms with contemporary, industrialized food, not one that dismisses it; an ethos that opens choices for everyone, not one that closes them for many so that a few may enjoy their labor; and an ethos that does not prejudge, but decides case by case when natural is preferable to processed, fresh to preserved, old to new, slow to fast, artisanal to industrial. Such an ethos, and not a timorous Luddism, is what will impel us to create the matchless modern cuisines appropriate to our time.

Chew on that bit of nuance for awhile.

1 Comment »
  • john buford

    The organic food movement is anti-scientific and more akin to a religion, a highly judgemental, elitist religion, where morality is determined by the food you purchase not the food you consume. Foodies propagaye lies at the expense of poor people around the globe such as the notion that “organic” food is somehow “better” than food thats been genetically modified or been subject to pesticides and fertilizers without a shread of scientific evidence to support this conclusion. Wealth is created by an efficient market. All food is organic. You morons are pissing away your money, and contributing to reduced global agricultural output, keeping people poor and hungry. You’re all a bunch of smug fools, imho. Monsanto is better than you, and I’d take the opinion of anyone of their ph.d botonists over the lot of ya.