Sunday, September 13, 2009

Quit Talking About A Revolution In The Pantry; Start Talking About Revolution In The Streets

About the chickens...Go read Wende's story about our trip; she does a better job of describing the oddity and pathos of the day than I could. This scene was at The Lottery levels of disturbing (didn't Ursula K. LeGuin also write a story in which a harmonious and prosperous society owes it all to a child chained in a cellar?) I was initially confused---surely this might be a variety of chickens that naturally has no feathers and red and irritated asses?

Then I just got pissed. Look, I make no apologies for the fact that I think the trends in current food politics are short-sighted and based on crackpot utopian ideals that are frankly unworkable in the society as it is currently set up. Alice Waters deserves a quick kick in the ass and exile to western Maine; we'll see if she can maintain her ideas in a cold climate with a short growing season. For his last piece in the NY Times, which was frankly rather sexist, Michael Pollan can have 6 months of shopping for a family of 5 at a supermarket in Duluth with a budget of $200 a month. Minnesota or Iowa, your choice.

Food has become just the latest tool to bully people into feeling imperfect, like they are not enough and not doing their best live well and be kind to others and try to get along in the world. No, I am not going to spend $34 on a chicken. I am not going to buy organic when there are actually very few fruits and vegetables for which organic growing practices should be practiced due to the pesticide load (and the term "organic" has a specific meaning that doesn't mean a particular produce wasn't farmed without unnecessary pesticides and using alternate practices, to add to confusion). And locavore--give me a break. From the minute a tribe of humans figured out the other tribe out aways had cooler/better/more food, we've been trading back and forth. I like to eat, and I like to eat well, but I'm cynical about this latest trend that if only we all do it, right now, will transform the world and fix everything and make it a better place.

It's like how SuperC was telling me about how she's been getting shit from the newbie hippie gardeners back in Cleveland. She's a Master Gardener with 30+ years experience. Yet these people who are reading Pollan and Waters and the like act like they know it all and in the meantime are exhausting the soil, spreading disease by not pulling out dead plants and leaving them to "enrich the soil" over the winter, and getting pissy about careful, minimal use of pesticides. Like we didn't invent pesticide to begin with, because it was needed. Because back in the day they idealize, if you didn't have something that killed the bugs before they ate your crop, you got no yield and had no money, no food, and no backup supermarket. You starved. Remember that part of the Little House on the Prairie story?

It's just the hypocrisy of this sustainable, foodie restaurant/farm treating the chickens they boast of on their website poorly that particularly rankles. I mostly go along in the world cognizant of the fact that we are all commodities in overarching system, be it capitalism, religion or what. It's a social lie that we aren't. In a way I don't mind being lied to; it gives me a chance to get riled up on the blog and practice my Nancy Pelosi bitch face in real life. But friends, my face is starting to freeze that way.


drwende said...

The LeGuin story is "Those Who Walk Away from Omelas," and I'm glad it wasn't just me who was thinking of it.

Genevieve said...

For the record, Pollan has a lot of good ideas and people like him and the person who produced Food, Inc are doing far more good than harm. The purpose is to educate the vast majority of people in this country who don't think at all about where their food comes from.

Maybe some of these ideas are utopian, but if it gets people thinking about the consequences of their actions in regards to food and the environment, then it is good.

Yes, if you are talking about preventing famine, there is a place for pesticides. But, there is no need for a mass of pesticides in home gardening or spraying so you can have a perfect green lawn. I have been an organic gardener my whole life and have gotten great yields for home use. It's not like I'm trying to feed an army from my back yard.

Also, we do not buy $34 chicken, we are currently living on about 22k/yr but we do buy about 75% of our food locally in season. In the winter, sure we buy produce at the supermarket. And yes, I shop at Target for my non-food groceries. It's all about balance.

I don't think anyone except these people who want to write a book think that being a strict locavore or living completely carbon neutral is a realistic lifestyle. But, if everyone just made an effort and thought instead of just buying what was cheap and/or convenient, we would go a long way towards both healthier living and less impact of industrial farming on the environment.

(BTW, that is sad about the mistreated chickens)

Cookbook said...

I basically must parrot everything Genevieve says above. It IS all about balance.

But I do agree with you and your friend SuperC about the local nouveau local food/urban gardening scene here in Cleveland. While I think their hearts are in the right place, I think their heads are often in the clouds, which is dangerous when you are talking about GROWING FOOD. They are dangerously misguided about a lot of things. And, truthfully, there's a lot of ego running the scene. I tried to hang with that scene for a while, mostly because my ex was involved in it, and I just didn't care for the people or the impracticality of some of the things they thought they were going to accomplish.

It would be cool if all you really had to do was throw some newspaper and mulch down on top of some asphalt and heal the world, but that shit is toxic.

Genevieve said...

RE - nouveau local food/urban gardening scene in Cleveland - I didn't mean to negate your friend's gardening experience. The Brooklyn organic gardeners I know from my community garden all have studied a lot and done things like taken master classes on composting. (BTW - it baffles me that these people would leave old plants in the ground instead of composting them...). The garden also regularly does lead testing, because there is food being grown on a reclaimed construction site. So, yes, from what you say, this group in Cleveland is naive.

drwende said...

"Cheap and convenient" vastly improved nutritional standards for virtually all Americans, but most particularly for the working class and the poor. This is an historic fact that the foodie revolution seems determined to ignore. Note that while Americans are supposedly getting fatter and sicker, our life spans have gotten longer, not shorter.

While I'm opposed to some specific food-growing and -processing techniques, I have to agree with Kerry that the locavore movement is upper-middle-class utopianism.

Alana in Canada said...

I am sorry for the chickens. And you've every right to be angry about folks who think they know what they are doing, doing it wrong. But don't let your face get stuck that way.

Anne (in Reno) said...

Ugh. I try not to be one of those know-it-alls who preach about their way or the highway. I'm not going to abandon modern agriculture like I'm not going to abandon modern medicine. We developed it because it made lives better. But it's when modern becomes corporate that I think we start having a problem. So if I can grow some tomatoes without pesticides and they are tasty then I am gonna keep doing my best. I will also do my best to keep from being a sanctimonious shit about it too though.