Thursday, July 15, 2010

default position

With class kicking off I’m again in the midst of a herd of students, and most instructors, that have an irrational hatred of ‘organic’, ‘vegetarian’, and ‘sustainable’ products or menus choices. I find it beyond strange that people who are a part of the industry – and those desiring a place in it – are so set against some things that I find to be a clear starting point for humans. I guess there are two things that bother me, the first being the organic and sustainable battlefield. Putting aside our issues with labeling and whether or not something is actually what it claims to be (that’s a whole separate problem), isn’t the opening position that the ingredients and final products that you eat should be natural? Doesn’t common sense say that the slow food movement that Alice Waters jumpstarted in the 1970s is the best way to cook and eat (by the way, she and the movement aren’t vegetarian.) If presented with a choice between fresh produce from a local grower and produce from Chile, nothing against Chile, which would we grab? If given an option between a slab of meat taken from an animal that was raised up the road on a local ranch, and that lived a normal live and wasn’t jacked up on chemicals; or, a hunk of meat from a hormone- and antibiotic-laden animal driven 2,000 miles before and after slaughter, which would you choose? Let’s start there.

Unfortunately, the visceral gag reflex when the issue is broached is this: “That’s all bullshit. There’s nothing better about it.” How does one get to that position? I have a few ideas. The first is a political spectrum stance: in spite of what is clearly a basic ideal – eating better food – they see it as coming from the “hippies” and “liberals” who are obviously trying to trick them into becoming gay, paying more taxes, teaching art, and becoming vegans. The second is some deep-seated belief that if I don’t want altered food, whether chemical of genetically modified, in my diet then I don’t believe those farming techniques have some place on the World. Of course, both of those premises are wrong but it won’t matter because there’s no listening to reason. Not only do they spew vile, they actively search out food and ingredients that are full of crap. Seriously, they do. What adds to this tomfoolery is the follow-up accusation that says because I choose to eat more foods that are local and not filled with junk that I’m somehow fighting against them. First, I’m not. I don’t care if you want to eat crap, at all. And, don’t conflate my food choices with the far away issue of how food is regulated and marked: in the end, that’s just lazy talking. If you fell like you’ve been duped by labeling, the USDA, the FDA or any other method of guidance then you’re just passing the buck. And finally, even if I decide that I want to become a lobbyist to make the system more healthful and local then wouldn’t I simply be working towards making sure ingredients and the final product is better? What, exactly, is the problem with that default position?

Vegetarianism. This is what sort of got me rolling today and I’m curious as to why is suddenly popped up at the blog as I started school again. Anyway. There are loads of reasons why people choose to either eliminate or reduced their intake of meat. Believe it or not, it’s not a reflection on anyone else. It’s a choice and the method of arriving at that choice has nothing to do with what a chef instructor or fellow student might think (in my case.) What gets read into it is a sense that because I’ve made a choice it means that I’m applying that reasoning to you, when in fact, I don’t give a crap about what you like or dislike. Do I eat meat when I’m in class? Yes. Do I taste stuff at home that I cook for the kids? Yes. Do I eat a lot of meat? No. But even my position, which began on the health front and then added in the ethical/animal part, is questioned as some alien form of life. In fact, what it becomes is some premise that is attacked via the same “That’s all bullshit…” argument from above – as if there’s any need for me to defend food choices.

I’m rambling. I have more. I’ll let it go. It may not be wholly thought out but it’s my blog and I’m not too much into numerous rewrites and edits.

Class update this weekend.

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