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Food Elitism at Its Worst

I'm so mad right now I could spit. Michael Ruhlman put up this post about a new documentary called Food Fight. He encourages everyone to pay more for their food, which is, of course, a great idea. But, honestly, how in hell can his readers think it's just a matter of changing priorities? A lot of the comments pissed me off, but this is one of the worst:

The "buy staples at the lowest price so we can splurge on the trinkets" is an epidemic of modern society. Over the next year or so we will begin paying the real cost of that folly as federal bailouts start hitting our pocketbooks. It's time for all of us to refocus on what's really important and that's the real quality of our lives.

WTF? Splurging on trinkets? Does he mean stuff like heating bills? Are those trinkets? Going out for a beer is a big deal for us these days.

I f I could, I would gladly pay $5/lb for organic chicken at the farmer's market. But I can't. It's all we can do right now to pay our mortgage. Our health insurance premiums are $2500/month, and they're killing us. We have one car and it's 8 years old. Thank God we finally paid it off.

I have a savant-like ability to stretch both our grocery money and the food I buy. I do everything I can to eat healthily and locally (despite my addiction to Oreos and potato chips). We do a good part of our food shopping at a locally owned food store and at the farmer's market. I haven't stepped inside a chain grocery store in months.  Oops. Does Costco count? Yeah, well, if it's a food crime to buy some of my food at Costco, it's a bigger one to shop at Whole Foods and pat your self-important ass on your self-important back about it. Whole Foods is a chain too.

I truly believe that we can only do better by being conscientious about where we buy our food and what its origins are. But too many people in this movement apparently have no idea that there are Americans who are in such dire straits that paying higher prices for everything isn't a possibility. Local farmers deserve every penny they charge at the markets, but I can't afford it. Neither can a lot of other people.

Maybe I have no place in this movement, but if there's no place for me, then it's just a whole bunch of assholes congratulating each other for how enlightened they are. Instead of it being about The People, it becomes a classist movement with no connection to the lives of millions (number pulled out of my ass in order to make a point). This movement should be about doing what you can, not judging those who can't.

(Also posted on my other blog, Occasional Blond)


Wow. What an ignorant post by Ruhlman.

I'll be the first to admit that I am appalled by what some people eat. I also recognize, as others who commented did, that there are economic realities which cause people to have to buy lesser expensive foods.

The idea behind what he said had some merit, but the assumption that everyone has disposable income which should/could be shifted from "trinkets" to food is ignoring the realities of the current economic times.

I rant continually about the crap that is put in our foods that doesn't need to be there. Example: high fructose corn syrup. There is no reason that needs to be in nearly every product on the market from tomato paste to canned beans. Taking that crap out of foods would be one quick way to make sure that there is less obesity and the health related issues that accompany it.

And don't even get me started on the chemicals.

People don't have to buy organic to eat more healthy foods, just reading labels is a start. The problem is there are so many traps and many people don't have the time or the energy to educate themselves when they are fighting to survive and pay the essential bills.

eta: Your comment was powerful, by the way.

Edited at 2008-11-08 11:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you, aurorasinistra. I'm also appalled by what some people eat. When I see nothing but packaged food in someone else's grocery cart, I want to cry for their kids. But I think it's a more complicated problem than some of Ruhlman's commenters will admit.

RE: High fructose corn syrup. I used to not care about it. A curse on all of you who have opened my eyes and given me something else to worry about. :) (But I'm not giving up my Coke.)
I don't want to derail the issue, but HFCS is a scourge. Not everything needs to be sweet. Gah...I can't help myself. ;)

Being a southern girl, I wouldn't dream of telling you to get rid of your Coke's. And I won't tell you why I did give them up. ;)
Loved your and Aunt Jenny's comments. My thought about this is right in line with Ruhlman's last remark. I hope that one day we can all afford it - I bitch about this all the time, honestly - but I hope even further that when that day comes, people will arm themselves with the knowledge and forethought to do so.

Great post, Maura.
I also hope that some day we can all afford it. Until then, I think it's important for those who can afford it to recognize that it's not just an issue of stretching your money a little bit more. Seriously, more than one person said that's all it takes. What part of "$2500/month health insurance premium" don't they get? Someone else said to just not participate. So if I can't do everything, I shouldn't do anything? Beh! I'm still pissed off.


Wholeheartedly Agree!

Alas someone who comments on Ruhlman's blog that agrees with me! My previous posts have echoed the sentiment but have either fallen on deaf ears, led to circular discussion, or somehow provoked left-field attacks! I am done with it. I currently only post sporadically and banally; as I have just about given up trying to reason with anyone there. I am happy I found this post! :-) (I post there under "JBL" BTW).

Re: Wholeheartedly Agree!

Hey JBL. Good to see you here.

I love Michael Ruhlman. Even when I don't agree with him, he makes me thinks. It's his rabid fans who annoy the hell out of me. Like you, I post only occasionally, although, as you can see, when I post, I cannot be stopped. :)

I don't see the point in arguing with his sycophants (poor Ruhlman. He can't be responsible for his fans), who are so hell-bent on proving who's the coolest, they seem to forget about this thing called the real world.

Thanks for commenting.


Rhulman's readers, etc.

Hi Maura,

I enjoy your writing. I love your moxie! And, I feel your pain.

I just posted a lengthy rant on Rhulman's in support. Check it out if you are so inclined.


~ Paula
(of Ambrosia Quest)

Re: Rhulman's readers, etc.

Hi Paula,
Thank you, for the compliment, and the support on Ruhlman's blog. Back-up was kind of scarce, with only a few others acknowledging my comments.

You brought up a lot of good points, not the least of which is that chain grocery stores are not evil. They're often the only food stores in an area (unless you count convenience stores with few choices and high prices); they also provide a lot of jobs, which is no small thing. Some are even unionized.

Screw the Food Snobs. Power the the People!(?)

I just checked out your blog. Paris! I'm jealous. :)

Thanks again.


Re: Rhulman's readers, etc.

Hi Maura,

Thank you for stopping by my blog, and for contacting me with your request. I am flattered that you would like to quote my words from the post on Ruhlman's site, and by all means, please be my guest and quote that post.

I trust you will keep things in context and present your case eloquently for the greater good. So go forth with your bad self, and do what you gotta!

And, as far as food snobs go: Yes. They are annoying. All snobs are. But, some are just overly passionate and simply lack tact. I have been guilty of similar behavior in my life. You know... Thinking I have all the right answers and so eager to change the world that I don't realizing I am being a total jerk. But unfortunately, there are many that are just in it for the latest fad, and those people can't be helped. They will behave that way with any elitist-worthy trend where they can use something (anything), to try to make themselves feel better (than others).

Just feel sorry for those people, and hope they don't muck things up too badly for the cause. Don't let people like that poison you with anger. They have nothing REAL going on, you know? It's sad for them. They are bankrupt on a different level. The kind that's much harder to remedy.

This time of year, and always, we need to be thankful for the REAL things that make our life rich. Including this wonderful online community. :)


~ Paula
(of Ambrosia Quest)


Re: Rhulman's readers, etc.

P.S. Let me know where you end up posting. I would love to read it.


~ Paula
(of Ambrosia Quest)