Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thursday Thing: I Unironically Like Processed Foodstuffs

Because I can't blog about Mariah every day, and because I am blog-exhausted from the last thing I wrote, today I write in celebration of the Pop-Tart (strawberry or cherry, frosted). I also write to express my unironic adoration of the Cheez-It. I even write to express a more-than-nostalgic fondness for "Kraft American Singles" and Oscar Meyer Bologna. I also love Doritos, and plain Wavy Lay's. I hate Chips Ahoy, but I like Oreos. And no, it's not just because I grew up poor and coveting brand-named snack foods that the other kids ate during recess while I brought rice balls mixed with sesame-peanut. I really do like eating these things.

Of course, I rarely eat them, because they are not very good for you and it takes a bit of effort to keep my size and health. It isn't so much dieting as "not eating crap," but at least I will admit that I like eating crap. I eat healthfully, but I don't like vegetables and would prefer to eat bacon at every meal. And yes, while I am one of those annoying people who makes their own pesto and bakes everything from scratch and cooks elaborate meals and eats only one before giving the rest away but at least that one high calorie cookie was delicious and "worth it," I do not disparage the packaged store stuff. I just disparage spending $4 on a single brownie, when $2 worth of ingredients will get you an 8"x8" pan. And heaven forbid you spend that much on a "gourmet" cupcake. I can bake better than most pastry shops, so why would I spend my financial aid on that? At least the stuff in the store can be had cheaply on sale days + your Safeway Club Card + a weekly coupon.

But, in our excessively "foodie-ish" yuppie, swipple aspirant culture, let us call a spade a spade, and let us acknowledge our "vices" and "plebeian" habits without resorting to an ironic defense. Wait until I tell you what's my favorite chain restaurant! Anyway, if you think I'm joking about being defensive about liking "crappy" food, read this post by Ben Wolfson about how those Slow Foods Evangelists of today are the assholes of tomorrow.

The sanctimony, toolishness, judgment and bizarre inability to understand the different types of burdens that confront poor families living in cities/neighborhoods that do not have access to such goods is appalling. I have framed this post as a yuppie defending her plebeian habits, but I could have just as easily framed it as a post on the rising costs of food and access to healthy produce, much less "organic" produce. Heaven forbid that anyone should judge my mother and how she made my father's two jobs stretch to feed a family of eight, even as she did all of the cooking and bought everything as cheaply as possible from ethnic food markets. I didn't grow up with processed foodstuffs, but really, were my meals of rice sprinkled with salt that much healthier? I remember dividing up a mango with my brothers and sisters. Besides, judging doesn't help, and neither does the idea that only locally produced, sustainable, organic vegetables (that spoil within a day, are expensive, and entail shopping several times a week) will save the world. That's just silly, short-sighted, and naive public policy. See also this discussion by William Saletan about bans on fast food restaurant in poor neighborhoods, and how that smacks of paternalism. And this. Alice Waters, whatever her sanctimony, couldn't save her own local high school. I much prefer this recommendation by Rachael Larrimore who correctly identifies that the problem is not McDonald's v.s Whole Foods.

Foodies are bad enough, and I should know, since I love one of them and am occasionally foodie-ish. Sanctimonious enviro-evangelists/foodies always get stuck in my craw, though, because they posit preferences as moral choices and then judge you for that, and go further by making silly and short-sighted public policy recommendations. I am not against environmentalism, locally grown/sustainable farming--I recycle, don't drive, and try to reduce my carbon footprint. I merely hate the turning of actually well-intentioned and valid environmental polices into lifestyle preferences. I hate, hate that it's all become about yuppie preferences, foodie-ism, and "the good things in life." That turns environmental policy into elitism, and I hate how "liberal elites" sounds like such a dirty epithet nowadays.

But, having been a hungry kid on a free-lunch program, I say, feed hungry bellies first, and address the root causes of that hunger and nutrition deficit, even if that entails using industrial agriculture, or gasp, social welfare. Worry about the organic-ness later.