The other day, I brought up the new food movement I see emerging with the likes of Michael Pollan and Sally Fallon Morell with my mom. I mentioned that trailing their keystrokes and bean soaks is a sense that meat is okay.
“Really?” she said. “But how can they say that, when meat eating is responsible for so many problems?”
Although still a staunch vegetarian, I felt compelled to defend them. I explained that the new thinking about food advocates small amounts of meat and dairy, and stresses local, grass-fed products. The animals should be treated well, raised on small farms close by, and fed a healthy diet. And raw dairy rocks.
My mom had trouble with this. This is a woman who inspired my love of vegetables, introduced me to CSAs, and hinted that artificial coloring can be fatal. She eats small amounts of quality, sustainable chicken and fish, and occasionally other kosher meaty things. But I guess she didn’t think the Great Unwashed should get the go ahead to eat meat at all. They couldn’t be trusted.
Once you start saying meat is okay, she argued, they’ll take that as permission to continue their toxic ways. Maybe they’ll even increase their consumption. And then where would we be? More overweight kids, more heart disease, less productive land to feed the people of the world.
I guess in some ways, we haven’t come that far from 2001’s Fast Food Nation, when Eric Schlosser shocked us into changing our eating habits. At least not according to my mom. And perhaps she’s right. How many of us read that best seller, began driving by McDonald’s with our noses in the air, and eventually went back to driving right on through a few months later?
On the other hand, I have to wonder if the burger-scarfing masses are even reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food or going to Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Sure, those books are best sellers, but to whom? And the restaurant is packed every night, but with what kind of diner? I’m guessing it’s liberal, highly-educated farmers’ market goers–the choir, if you will.
So even if the Great Unwashed would take Pollan’s wild bore hunting as a cue to eat pork chops every night, they may not even hear about it. Even if they do read that stuff, are they really that dumb that they’d take the “it’s okay to eat meat” message and discard the “but in moderation” caveat like a crumpled hoagie wrapper?
And another thing: what are we (let’s say “we” is the “choir,” the people who like to think of ourselves as enlightened readers) taking away from this, other than confirmation of our previous notions? Maybe there’s just a sliver of each population that will learn something new–they’ll not have considered, for example, that butter is okay, soybean oil is not, or that high fructose corn syrup is the devil incarnate. For them, I jump for joy. And romp in a grassy field filled with healthy cows. For everyone else, I shrug.