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When Did We Stop Liking Food?

January 25, 2011

We were dining out with another couple last Saturday night, trendy place full of trendy people, lots of wine and food moving about the place, and I was talking to the male half about different aspects of food. My wife and I had just sold a whole hog to a restaurant, so that to all sorts of talk about the details of that, different aspects of production, and eventually to the fact that my wife and I had become food snobs for the lack of a better term. I was telling him how we have a hard time eating out close to home, and that the local grocery store is a joke. “Ya know,” he said, “it seems like that should be the other way around. Out there is where the food comes from, that should be where the best food is.” I agreed, though I didn’t realize at the time that I’d have this exemplified on a couple of different levels.
I made my favorite roast chicken last night, incredibly spicy, crispy skin, it was one of best I’ve ever made. It was of course too much, so we saved the breast for tonight, I was thinking either tacos or sandwiches, this afternoon, I chose the latter. Here’s what I wanted, some nice sandwich rolls, add the spicy chicken, then top with some cheese and sliced avocado. I needed the rolls and the cheese. Now I knew going in that both of these would be a stretch, locally it’s hard to find anything but the worst kind of white bread burger buns, and the cheese (I would have accepted provolone or swiss) usually comes in both kinds, yellow and American. (A South Dakota twitter fave recently freaked that she had found a market with more than three kinds of cheese) Still, it was pretty depressing, a clean miss on both counts. There was some ten day out of date provolone, but I’m not risking that with an eight month pregnant wife.
I know, I know, this is what I get for living in the sticks, I get that. I could have driven twelve miles in any direction and found some, but where’s the wisdom in that? What I want to know is why. Why and when did food out here in the hinterlands become such a dull affair? In my experience country folk can be some of the worst kinds of eaters. Extremely picky, if it’s not burgers it’s well done steak, and wash it down with tasteless domestic beer. (I warned you, I’m a snob.)
Then I get home and find this through a tweet…
I’ve read Mr. Hurst’s opinions before, he’s the president of the Missouri Farm Bureau, a division of one of the largest agribusiness organizations in the country. (and one of the biggest Washington lobbies as well) I can find a lot of fault in this latest piece, but I’m not going to write a critique, what I want to address is the tone. Look at it, it exemplifies the standard chest thumping All American attitude towards anything different. I can’t believe I just wrote that, but the tone just irks me. Yeah he swung at the low hanging fru… er granola didn’t he? It’s easy to draw differences when you’re comparing most folks to hippies that are eating quinoa and kale flakes. I don’t eat that way, I’d probably try to get the kid some bacon. But who is Hurst talking to here? He’s preaching to the choir no doubt, but he’s also aiming a bullying, follow the herd mentality at consumers as well. ‘Don’t you get uppity’, he’s saying, ‘keep eating the slop that we toss out, don’t you dare reach for that odd looking fruit at the Whole Foods, or you won’t be a real ‘Merican!’ I don’t have any use for Michelle Obama, and I don’t like being told how to eat more than anyone else, but this knee jerk reaction to anyone saying we should eat better is not doing agriculture any favors in my opinion. We’re painting ourselves into a corner, some of us feel like we have to defend agribusiness at all costs. Seems to me that Hurst is pushing just as big an agenda as the first lady, only his is in defense of a subsidized food system. How’s that for irony? He almost brags that milk comes quicker from New Mexico than it does from Missouri, gee, if I was the president of the Missouri Farm Bureau I think I’d think that was a problem.
Here’s a thought, we like to point out that people are disconnected from where their food comes from, and that that’s our problem. Well you know what, some of us in agriculture are so disconnected from the people that buy food, from people actually eating, that we can’t come to terms with any criticism. The entire rallying cry from some seems to be ‘You’ll shut up and eat if you know what’s good for ya’. ‘Feed the world’ has become an excuse for anything, and doesn’t recognize that most of the problems with hunger in this world are political, and don’t always have to do with lapses in production.
When did this happen? I don’t know, I guess monoculture crops have led to a monolithic pallet. We haul our goods to town, and then never see it again until it comes back, usually pretty unrecognizable if we sent off commodities. I would love to have hit a local dairy with a direct farm store, but dairies are hard enough to find, much less one that makes cheese. That’s one of my points, where has this reliance, now defense, of agribusiness gotten us? It sure hasn’t gotten us more farmers. Someone like Blake Hurst will demagogue the French, or a store like Whole Foods, well, as a rancher and meat lover, the butcher counter there (yes, they have butchers, that cut meat, remember those?) brings a tear to my eye.
Dinner turned out well though, turns out my ever surprising wife can make crusty sandwich buns, damn near from scratch. That beats white bread any time.

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