The last decade has seen an explosion of interest in farmer's markets, healthful cooking, and dismantling the industrial food system, spurred in large part by Michael Pollan's 2006 book The Omnivore's Dilemma. But the "food movement" of today tends to be dominated by affluent urbanites, and messages from Brooklyn and San Francisco often don't reach--or resonate with--the majority of places in between.Guernica contributor Meara Sharma interviews food journalists Jane Black and Brent Cunningham about the juxtaposition of American working-class culture, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, and the idealized pastoral leanings of the modern-day food movement: Servings of Small Change.
Barring very, very poor people, I actually think class-wise, fast food went from being modern and aspirational to the standard and just what you like. That's the dirty secret at the heart of the food movement. There's this idea that if everybody could have a roasted pasture-raised chicken and a fresh-picked peach, then they would eat it, and they would like it, and that's what they want. But that is absolutely not true. Given a choice between Alice Waters's roasted chicken and a McDonald's chicken sandwich, many people would choose the McDonald's chicken sandwich every time. Because they like it.And the often-invisible luxury of choice:
Not wanting the quantity, and wanting the quality, is usually because you don't ever have to worry that there's not enough. It's a privilege to want less. It's a luxury to worry about how the animal was raised.
And that, I think, is what is lost in this whole national discussion about food. Because it's led by people who don't have to worry. It's not that people aren't aware of that, but it's totally different to really understand it—and to craft messages and strategies that account for it. We had that experience a number of times in Huntington [West Virginia]. You're sitting with people, and they're really poor, and their lives, because they are poor, are very chaotic. Somebody's brother is in jail, somebody is on drugs, somebody is working the night shift at the gas station, the kid has ADHD. And you're sitting there going, Have you thought about whole grains? It sounds, to them, like somebody saying, Oh, my private jet broke down.
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