The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. - Wm. Blake

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Foodie Blogging

Interview in Salon today, with some guy named Barry Glassner who's written a book called The Gospel of Food. Apparently it's a rather whirlwind takedown of food-related pieties, from exclusionary eaters like vegans and Atkins dieters to judgmental opponents of fast food.

Since it's an interview, not a review, it's a little hard to gauge the exact balance of what he does, but it sure sounds like a "pox on both their houses" thing:
The kind of diet that Morgan Spurlock went on in "Super Size Me" is obviously going to make you sick. But so would eating three meals a day of boiled broccoli. So, I think that it's certainly wise to be concerned with eating well and eating moderately and taking into account the sorts of advice that generations of mothers have given, and occasionally fathers. Eat your veggies, eat your fruit, and don't overdose on sweets.
Well, yes. I mean, I'm not sure how valuable it is to have a book arguing that common sense is, in fact, commonsensical. Furthermore, I think it's pretty absurd to compare an all-fast food diet with a caricature of a vegan diet - who, other than snake oil salesmen, argues for extended diets of single vegetables? Not to mention that Spurlock's symptoms - liver shutdown, cholesterol count of a dying man - actually wouldn't result from an all-broccoli diet.

So what do we have? A guy opposing an actual problem - the millions of Americans who eat fast food more than a half dozen times a week - with an imaginary "other side." Why, oh why, is this formulation so endlessly popular, so addictive to publishers? I know the answer - everyone wants to be either a True Believer - and that's who the extreme diet books are for - or a Sensible, Rational Decider. And those people get claptrap like this:
I see relatively little organized attention to hunger, for example, relative to, for instance, the kind of effective and organized campaigns against particular types of foods, like trans fats. When somewhere around 35 million to 40 million Americans are facing hunger every year it seems to me that that would be the top priority of any reasonable food activist. The ban on trans fats may be a good thing, but should it be the first thing? Should it take precedence over much more pressing food issues like hunger in the city, or the availability of fresh foods to the poor in the city? No, not for one minute.
Because, of course, there are no food kitchens and pantries in New York City, neither bureaucrats nor grass roots activists promoting farmers' markets and efforts to get fresher foods into bodegas and corner markets.

Stuff like this makes me alternately agitated and exhausted. Sheesh.


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