Who’s enjoying the ongoing food wars? When Michael Pollan, author of the foodie’s little red book “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” suggested that supporting local, organic farmers is as crucial as fighting terrorism, those 29 of us that pay attention to these things wondered when Obama (who has commented approvingly of Pollan) would show his hand. And in appointing Gov. Vilsack to Secretary of Agriculture, conclusions were reached. “He never said the word ‘food,” said some, because we are supposed to use the word ‘food’ and not ‘agriculture.’ “But he’s from Iowa, you don’t understand Iowa,” said others, because Iowans know things other people don’t.
We’ve noticed some escalating tensions between, on the one side, Pollan’s foodie utopians and, on the other, the let’s-be-realistic-here pragmatists such as Eric Schlosser (and more recently Mark Greif who, in a fabulous though not-free article in the indispensable New York journal n+1, clearly laid out both arguments in the foodie wars as only an NYC hipster in his early NYC 30s can).
Now we’ve got the argueably over-exposed though still amusing Anthony Bourdain snarling towards Alice Waters.
Waters, preciously, has offered to serve in Obama’s Kitchen Cabinet. Bourdain points out that organic shopping is nice and all (who doesn’t prefer braising their wild boar leg with organic chicken stock?) but that it’s, well, expensive:
“Alice Waters annoys the living shit out of me. We’re all in the middle of a recession, like we’re all going to start buying expensive organic food and running to the green market. There’s something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters that has become unrealistic.”
“I’m a little reluctant to admit that maybe Americans are too stupid to figure out that the food we’re eating is killing us. But I don’t know if it’s time to send out special squads to close all the McDonald’s.”
The temptation is to take sides here, and there is something seductive about a comparing Waters to the Khmer Rouge, but its all so silly, really, isn’t it? I mean, yes, there should be organic McDonald’s and no, there isn’t, and won’t be, but maybe focusing on things like urban poverty and neglected children are more appropriate than Bourdain vs. Waters abstractions.
Mark Greif, in that n+1 article, explained that, “You can eat your Powerbar, product of an engineering as peculiar as any the world has known, and wash it down with unpasteurized unfiltered cider pressed by Mennonites, and on both fronts, you find it good.” And he’s right. And we eat both.
Pass the cheese fries.