Apr. 6th, 2010

sarahmichigan: (Default)
It was fun experiencing spring twice- once down here in southeast Michigan and again in the Upper Peninsula during the 6 days I spent with Mom. While up there, the spring peepers started singing and crocus came up in her lawn. Too bad I was there a little too early to be able to dig up wild leek...
sarahmichigan: (Default)
Food politics really can get me riled up. I totally am down with eating local, supporting people using organic practices, etc. but I hate seeing people use these movements- which should be positive- to beat themselves up for not doing enough. Especially women, who already have a lot of pressure on them to "eat right" in a society where there are so many different definitions of that phrase.

First, my creds:

My parents grew gardens that I helped out in as a kid, and my dad taught me a bit about wildcrafting, though I didn't know it was a word for it then and just thought of it as "eating wild things that scare other people who only eat food from a supermarket." I'm a mostly vegetarian- I eat a bit of fish a few times a month, but otherwise eat lacto-ovo vegetarian. We buy free-range eggs and organic produce as much as possible. I purchase from local farmers markets and local produce stands as much as I can. I pick produce at local U-Pick farms. I got a CSA farm share last year and am doing it again this summer. I've grown pots of herbs or a small (organic) garden nearly every year I've owned my own house (since 2000).

So, believe me, I'm not some reactionary that doesn't believe in eating local, organic gardening, etc.

However, I also don't deify the celebrities of the local foods/food politics movements. I like Michael Pollan, but I think he's overhyped. I never got why people were so hysterical about gentically-modified foods. After all, we've been modifying plants and animals for centuries (one of my commenters notes it's milennia, really)  with selective breeding/planting. But, Pollan explains in "The Botany of Desire" that the new GM foods aren't anything that could happen by natural or human selection- these GM plants often include genes from bacteria or animals, crosses that wouldn't happen in a traditional farmyard or garden. So, I can see why we should be cautious.

Still, he's kind of a hypocrite to fear offering a potato salad made of GM potatoes at a potluck when he's totally OK with smoking pot- we know for a fact that human intervention has changed the marijuana plant DRASTICALLY from its ancient form.

And Barbara Kingsolver?

I listened to "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" as a book on CD over the last week. As per usual with much of this sort of writing about food and food politics, I LOVE the specifics but get cranky with the more philosophical/political passages. I like her food experiment of eating mosty local (with a few exceptions) for a year, and I'm making plans to eat more locally, especially in the summer when that's easier and less expensive.

However, I had -- let's say 'issues'-- with several parts of that book. 

1. I didn't buy her rationalization for why we should speak of 'harvesting' animals rather than use "slaughter" or "kill." Please understand that I'm totally OK with her eating chickens she raised herself, but 'harvesting' is still a euphemism.

2. She repeats, not just once but TWICE, the now-debunked assertion that the "childhood-obesity-crisis-OMG" means that this generation of children will have shorter lives than their parents. This is, to put it plainly, bullshit nonsense.

3. Her husband, who co-authored, also references the "obesity crisis" once too often for my taste.

4. Her daughter contributes sidebars about nutrition and made an error in referring to LDL as the "good cholesterol." It's not. The "good" cholesterol is "HDL" and that is an embarrassing mistake.

ETA: 5. Kingsolver uses embarrassingly sloppy shortcuts for some ideas. For instance, she refers to an organic farmer as "not wanting to put chemicals" on his land. Uh, Barbara, as someone with a degree in evolutionary biology, you should know that all life, including organic cow manure, is made up of "chemicals." That was an ignorant thing to write, and should have been phrased something more like "synthetic herbicides and pesticides."

Don't get me wrong- I'm glad I read the book, and I really do believe in eating local and many of the other greater goods that progressives preach about. But I'm not always crazy about some of the bullshit that seems to come along with food politics discussions.

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