Today, via the New York Times, I came across a piece Eric Schlosser wrote for the Washington Post. The piece’s title is “Why Being a Foodie Isn’t Elitist,” and Schlosser, who wrote Fast Food Nation, addresses the charges that the food industry and its attendant lobbying groups have leveled against food writers and activists such as Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle, and Schlosser himself.
Schlosser has been called “not only an elitist, but also a socialist, a communist and un-American.” Nestle has been labeled, “a food fascist,” and Pollan has been accused of being “anti-agricultural.”
Naturally, Schlosser refutes the charges, arguing that it is not elitist to be concerned about the quality of food Americans eat, and I agree with him. He views the name calling as “misdirection,” an attempt to deflect attention away from the few companies who control food production in the United States. Again, I agree. What better way to discredit someone than to call him a socialist or a communist? In our culture, those are very dirty words, just slightly below serial killer and child molester.
Schlosser honestly notes the way foodies can be elitist, by using food as a way to gain status. Expensive cookware, hard-to-find ingredients, and pricey restaurants can all be symptoms of a snobbery that not only drains the fun out of eating but could also “sideline the movement or make it irrelevant.”
Fair enough, but Schlosser’s original point is correct: It is not elitist to care about the quality of food that Americans—especially those who are poor—eat. It is not elitist to care about people’s health. And it is certainly not elitist to be concerned that the food production in this country is in the hands of a few big businesses. It seems to me that it is quite appropriate to be worried about all these issues, and it would be a very good thing if more people were, too.
And I’m going to go one step further. It is not elitist to enjoy cooking with simple ingredients that are easy to find but are of good quality. It is not elitist to enjoy feeding friends and family. And it is certainly not elitist to enjoy food.
The French believe it is the birthright of all French citizens, regardless of income, to eat good food. Hear, hear!
And this belief couldn’t be less elitist. In fact, you might even call it democratic.