I’d really like some feedback on this one.
In his excellent (and not at all snobbish) food blog “Bitten”, which I discovered via Rod Dreher, NYT writer Mark Bittman presents the now – notorious viewpoint of English celebrity cook Delia Smith.
“Delia Smith, probably Britain’s best-known and best-selling cookbook author, says celebrity chefs should stay away from “politics” (which I take to mean everything except cooking) and that the “obsession” with organic produce is counterproductive.
“In her new book, “How to Cheat at Cooking,” she then goes on to advocate tinned mince and frozen mashed potatoes, explaining that her priority is making sure that poor people get to eat rather than worry about whether consumers live up to the standards of celebrity chefs.
“Hmm. I get that poor people don’t need to obsess about organic ingredients; I get that neither poor people nor anyone else needs to cook like celebrity chefs (or, in some cases — television being what it is — the way celebrity chefs pretend to cook). And I get that the gap between — let’s call it upscale — food and junk food is wide, and needs to be bridged.
“But to then draw from this that poor people need to rely on the worst possible ingredients for their cooking doesn’t track for me. Rice, beans, fresh vegetables, maybe fresh meat or fish … these are somehow trickier than frozen and canned foods? Or less widely available? I don’t think so.”
Now: look at the war raging in the comments.
Most of the commentors, and to an extent Bittman, miss the point. Today, it is not rich vs. poor– it is educated vs. uneducated, readers vs. non- readers.
It can be very cheap to eat well– we do. But we READ, including cookbooks, books like Michael Pollan’s, and blogs like Bittman’s.
My uneducated Italian grandparents also ate well and cheap– their orchard and grapes, their enormous garden, rabbits, pigeons, game. So did their generation among the Spanish folks here in NM. (And they worked, hard– don’t give me “no time” as an excuse!)
My much richer parents ate 1950’s crap– a lot of utterly awful stuff, though thank God we had my grandparents, and fresh seafood.
America has lost the habit of eating well in the “vernacular” sense. Educated people, whether rich foodie snobs or poor crunchies, are trying to do things differently. But how do you change the habits of the “masses” without nannyish interventions? The diet eaten by local Native Americans defies belief–bulk commodities, fast food, candy, pop, and beer. Some have told me they will never eat a vegetable. Navajos themselves joke about the 250 -pound “commod bod”, and diabetes is rife.
So how to get past this?
I see one fascinating sign right here in Socorro County. The local unaffiliated supermarket, the holdout of old people against Furr’s and Wal-Mart, has always been the place to buy carne adovada, sheep heads, and tripe. Now, while keeping such things, they have suddenly added all manner of “natural”food, organic and free- range meat, fresh produce, and other things one would previously have had to drive 100 miles to Albuqueque to get.
They are booming!