Anthony Bourdain has had freakouts over Rachel Ray, Sandra Lee, Alice Waters, Guy Fieri, and now Paula Deen. The most recent pissiness–the carping on Deen–was because (he said) she is beholden to corporate interests and she features foods (southern foods, by the way) on her show that are “fucking bad for you” (both true, by the way).
Now, I don’t give a shit about Bourdain per se, he’s known for talking smack about everyone (especially Food Network stars–dude, seriously, find another hobby) and I mean really, Deen’s grown and can take care of herself. But this does point to a particular strain of upper-class righteousness. Frank Bruni pointed out the hypocrisy of food personalities (I hesitate to call any of them chefs) who sniff in disdain at the likes of Deen using butter or cream but salivate over duck confit or pork rinds in the latest hot chef’s dish.
However, unlike Bruni, I call bullshit on all these jokers.
First, it’s nothing more that a bunch of wealthy, well-known White people getting into more dramz while the actual people they claim to champion (oh, please) are still coping with the grocery gap, working longer hours for less pay, or chronic unemployment. Organic, farm fresh food is not easily obtainable for many people, and getting the time (or the money–butter is really expensive) to make Paula Deen’s dishes is no cakewalk either. This is nothing more than two sets of elites with different audiences and PR strategies duking it out.
Second, people on both sides are engaging in the moral deathfat panic, and it’s not helping anyone. Foodies, the frugal, lefties and right-wingers all seem to agree that being fat is horrible and a shameful thing, indicative of self-indulgence and a lack of discipline, and then all sides engage in shaming people who point out that it’s not just a matter of making the correct and moral choices. They also seem to miss the point that if the only marker of health you use is thinness, people will do some really hazardous stuff to get thin, and they will be assumed to be healthy. Look–I was very underweight up until about 12 years ago when I finally hit a normal weight. I can guarantee you that when I was underweight, I snarfed down junk food and fried crap, eschewed vegetables, drank entirely too much caffiene (still do, actually) and never worked out. But no one gave me crap because hey! I was thin, therefore I was healthy.
Third, people on “both” sides of this argument suddenly discover the magic of the bootstrap and self-discipline-to the point where you wonder how they’re on different sides. They sure aren’t on my side, or the side of my neighbors, no matter what they may claim. You could eat better if you just tried! You’re choosing to not eat beans and rice (forget being underhoused or not being able to afford a freezer to store all those extra helpings of chili and lentil stew you could make). You’re making bad choices–just don’t listen to that elitist liberal on the Travel Channel/that elitist conservative on the Food Network! Parents today whine and make excuses instead of making fresh, healthy meals for their children. And I call BS on that garbage as well. I am single, I don’t have children, and after my commute home (which is long, by the way), I am often too tired to cook. Or I am so hungry that my hands are shaking and so I go for whatever I can make in under five minutes. I’m not sure how lecturing and shaming people about how You’re Doing it Wrong is actually going to get us anywhere, and I’ve seen that on all sides of this.
If I find this cumbersome at times (and I love to cook, and am often gratified when I can take the time to do so properly, and have been grateful to be able to do more of that this summer), how do you think other people find it? The working poor and the destitute? Overworked parents? People on food stamps? People with no easy access to grocery stores, let alone farmers markets (which are often really expensive)? People who don’t have sunny yars or balconies, who don’t have a plot in a community garden (unlike me) who don’t have the transportation to get to a grocery store?
So you know, this concern over elitism and health and corporate interests rings hollow when it comes from these folks. Access and money (yeah, I said it, call me a socialist, I don’t care) would go a long way to solve the problem of the food crisis. But you can’t solve the food crisis or the health crisis (no, I’m not going to call it the obesity crisis, FFS) without solving the poverty crisis and the unemployment crisis and the overwork crisis and the lack of access crisis. It isn’t always about making good choices when the choices you’ve got in front of you are crappy either way. And it isn’t about talking smack about a Food Network personality or a Travel Channel personality.
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