Yesterday I responded to a DoubleX piece that called home cooking a waste of time and which suggested that people like me should be spending all our time on our careers instead of in our kitchens. Today, another writer at DoubleX tackled the issue. While Meredith Simons at least allows that for some, cooking can be as enjoyable a hobby as curling up with a good book (I happen to love both cooking and good books), she still misses the point.
“When was the last time you heard a scrapbooker earnestly telling a colleague that if she didn’t get herself to the local scrapbook-supply store right away, she was condemning herself and her progeny to a lifetime of ill health, low energy, and inusfficient appreciation for the finer things in life? How many comic book fans work to turn nonreaders into disciples of their favorite series? They don’t. They hang out with other people who share their passions, but they don’t lay claim to the moral high ground just by virtue of their preferred leisure activities.”
I think this is a little disingenuous. Food has very much to do with your health, whereas scrapbooking and comic books do not. Part of the reason I am passionate about home cooking is that I saw the movie Food Inc. (which led to much further reading on the subject) and realized that I could no longer stomach the things that Big Ag wanted me to put in my stomach. I am passionate about slow food because I think it is better for me, my family, my community, and the planet. I’m pretty sure scrapbooking and comic books can’t say the same. While I’m pretty sure that eating local, sustainably grown, healthy food does not require home cooking, it’s certainly not financially achievable for most people to eat out for every meal and still hold true to slow food values. The reason you get proselytizing foodies in a way you don’t with scrapbookers is that most of us are committed to this lifestyle because we believe it’s important.
That said, I’m still pretty sure that eating slow food doesn’t really require as much time and effort as naysayers say, despite what the “slow” name might have you think (I think they were really just looking for the opposite of “fast food”). Rarely do I ever spend more than 30 minutes after work cooking. I’ve got much better things to be doing with my time, like internetting and watching “Dexter” via Netflix and petting our dogs.
“Thanks to Michael Pollan, Morgan Spurlock, and Jonathan Safran Foer, food choices have become freighted with so much judgmentalism, self-righteousness, and guilt-tripping that what to have for lunch can feel less like a culinary dilemma than an ethical one. But the purpose of food is to fuel our bodies, not save our souls, and I think a stop at Five Guys should be followed by a long walk or a light dinner, not confession and absolution.”
Here’s the thing. I am a religious person. I think every single choice I make has something to do with my soul, even what I eat. I’ve even written about the ways in which changing my food habits has impacted my spirituality. But I’m also not some sort of food-nun. There are no vows here. Like any good Presbyterian, I take everything with a healthy dose of moderation and order, and that means that sometimes I eat out. Sometimes, in fact, I go to Five Guys and eat a ginormous cheeseburger and a greasy bag of fries doused in malt vinegar. And that burger and fries? Way more delicious than McDonalds, which I avoid if I can at all help it, though I occasionally do crave an Egg McMuffin, I can’t lie. And considering a Five Guys fix happens less than once a month? It’s just a nice treat and not anything to beat myself up over.
I would be really truly sad if anyone took away from my experience and writing on the subject of food that I think it’s an all or nothing game. I’m not expecting anyone to suddenly hop on some sort of Amish diet bandwagon. I’m not even willing to do it myself. But I do think that we can all make better, healthier, more sustainable food choices. I do think that by doing without meat one meal per week, or eating more locally grown food, or choosing organic and fair trade products, or making something from scratch rather than buying a processed pre-packaged version– I think that all of these things can make us, our communities, and our planet healthier. And we can do it tiny steps at a time. And maybe we’ll even discover that we enjoy it. And if you don’t enjoy it? It’s not like I’m going to “shun the nonbeliever.” I’ll just keep feeding you good stuff until you finally cave…