Building A SustaInable Life...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ruminations (ha) on Food Snobbery

One of my big damn heroes, Jim Griffioen, author of the brilliant Sweet Juniper, recently blogged about reconciling his “inner food snob” with his desire for social justice and food security. His anti-Wal-Mart, pro-arugula proclivities, he argues, can often make him feel like a huge asshole in a nation and a world where millions struggle for sustenance. I think a lot of us struggle with this same inner conflict – I know I certainly do. I aim to buy local, seasonal, organic, free-range, hormone-free, etc., as much as the next crunchy yuppie food snob. And I do this out of a desire both to feed my kids what I deem to be “healthy” food and to support the kind of “alternative”, small-scale systems that I believe deserve to thrive… as much as the next crunchy yuppie food snob. We all share the same justifications, it seems.

Yet with those justifications (and implicit in the fact that we feel the need to have them at all) is a heaping serving of guilt. As Jim asserts, the ability to purchase said foods – indeed, the ability to even have such a discussion about said foods, to have them as viable options for consumption and for debate – is a matter of privilege. It is a certain level of social comfort which allows me to shop this way (to the extent that I do - another inner conflict I experience is that of food snob vs. bargain-hunter vs. junk food addict). Access to financial resources permits access to “high end” food resources. Many of the comments on Jim’s entry touch on this theme, the belief we’ve all come to share, that eating well is a privilege afforded to the few.

I think, for me, the fundamental problem I have with this debate is that it has to happen at all. Why is organic, locally-grown food at the “high end” of the food system metric? Why is a seemingly simpler way instead just an alternative"? Didn't people used to eat this way by default? It wasn't always novel, or snobbish.

Shouldn’t it be easy, even cheap, to grow our own food without pricey chemical inputs, and to purchase it from other growers within our region? Shouldn’t our food system be designed to support such food and everyone’s access to same?

Of course it isn’t. Subsidies directed at the wrong places and monocultures - not just of the fields, but of the mind - have made the least healthy, the least sustainable foods the most accessible. It is a sick twist of “justice” that has placed so much cheap food on the market and brought it into our cities and our homes. And it makes me angry. It makes me want to avoid Wal-Mart and McDonald’s not only out of snobbery, but out of bitterness. It is you, I think, finger pointed squarely at the ugly blue font (Antique Olive? Franklin Gothic?) or the iconic golden arches, that is wrong. It is you that helped break our system. I don’t want to buy from you. You can’t make me. Neener neener neener. And it pretty much descends into bratty name-calling from there...

Of course it goes much deeper than that. But these corporate monstrosities and the Race-to-the-Bottom approach they bring with them certainly don’t help. They make me want to rebel against them. They make me want to fight for a better way.

It’s not only about a love of sushi (although, may I insert a quick nom nom nom? looking forward to that Valentine's dinner...) or a crunchier-than-thou mindset. Sometimes food snobbery is actually born out of a sense of justice (or pure blind rage). And that phrase right there? Makes me sound like a huge asshole. Because it very, very simply shouldn't have to be this way.

And it drives me crazy that it is.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic post! I too read Sweet Juniper's post with recognition of myself and this renewed my sense of just how unnecessarily complicated simply eating/buying food is. Your post said it much more elegantly!