A new food documentary called Food Fight will have a screening Saturday at 3:15 at the Mann Chinese Theater in Los Angeles.  I imagine there will be lots of quibbling about it among the food intelligencia (the Ethicurean reviews the movie with a much longer treatment of the film than I'll give here).  Me, personally, well, it covered no new ground , it's the same stuff that we all began discovering after Pollan started reporting on the subject for the NYTimes magazine and wrote about in Omnivore's Dilemma and that we've been listening to Alice Waters say for years.  And you can listen to all their points again here, along with other familiar voices including Dan Barber, Marion Nestle and the sage Russ Parsons, along with other lesser known ones, farmers and others bringing food into inner cities and into schools.

But: What about all the people who don't cover this field or study it?  Like my mom.  I think it's an important movie for her to see.  I think she needs to think about what her food purchases mean.  She loves to cook and loves to eat but she's busy and food politics aren't on her radar.  I think she'd find this really interesting.  As would much of the country who want to eat well and live will.  Ironically, the people who don't need to see this are the people who are most likely be interested in it.  So what I would say to all of you who read this blog, tell the non-foodie crowd about it.  The more people who know about these issues the better.

Director Chris Taylor includes a good though brief sequence with Representative Ron Kind of Minnesota Wisconson (arg,I should never post and then rush to catch a plane!), who  tried unsuccessfully to introduce amendments into the recent Farm Bill that would support small farmers and underscore other issues discussed throughout the film–it's useful to see what a guy like that, who's bucking the status quo, is up against.  Money doesn't talk, it screams.

In a brief email exchange with Russ Parsons, who was concerned about the outcome of Prop 2 in California, he said, "The way to achieve improvements is by making sure there is a financial incentive. Legislating either moves the problem around, encourages the finding of loopholes, or drives the small guys out of business. It truly is, imho, the central paradox of the modern attitude toward food—we want carefully grown, delicious, heirloom, organic, etc., but we only want to pay rock bottom prices. The fact is that all of those things cost more money and if a farmer doesn’t want to go out of business, he needs to make more for doing it."

So there it is.  Vote with your fork.  Be willing to pay more for your food.  Get used to that idea.  Embrace it.  We spend a ton of money on personal entertainment and cool computers and cell phones and impressive clothes.  Paying a little more for your food is not a bad thing.  Figuring out ways to make it available to all people is going to be difficult.  But starting with schools as Waters and others are working toward is a good place to start.

So tell all you're non-foodie friends to see Food Fight if it reaches their neighborhood.


Postscript: as noted in the comments, Russ Parsons and Mark Peel will be in attendance at the Saturday screening for a discussion following the film.


55 Wonderful responses to “Food Fight: a documentary”

  • Tags

    Oats always cost more before they’ve gone through a horse.

    Pitch Quality.

  • chadzilla

    Keep the exposure… it’s not easy for chefs to be the ‘social reformers’ alone without consumer demand. If there’s anything we’ve just learned, it’s that if we want change and speak loudly enough we will be heard… but, speaking isn’t enough.

  • Blushing Hostess

    Agreed. I recently had a conversation with a mother who just bought a McMansion in Westchester and has three huge cars for three drivers. Her 2 month old son was having trouble digesting his formula. I asked if it was Sensitive pre-mixed or soy and had she spoke to the pediatrician? “I’m sticking with the regular powder.” She told me. “He’ll be fine. We’ve got other bills, I don’t need that adding up too.” Holy cow. Every generation of my family has kept really good, excellent quality food in the house even it hurt, badly. Not because they/we were politically motivated but because our matriarch always said you buy the best food, or pay three times that to the doctor and leave this earth early anyway. I would like to tell you I am always aware of why I shop at farm and fresh markets and that it is very high-minded: But the truth is, nothing but the best thing I can find is going into my kids – and I like to be sure of that by growing it myself or being able to look in the eyes of the person who produced it and be reassured we are in this thing together for them. It starts at home, to your point.

  • sarah

    Really great post and will be seeing the movie! It is fascinating to me what people will spend money on and then they serve fast and over processed food to their family. My sister and I are obsessed about the topic of fresh, better foods. To your point Ruhlman, I think the most difficult part is getting people to actually pay more for food in light of financial and the ecomnomic climate today. You can educate people on the benefits of better eating but will they really do it?

  • Geoff

    As much as we in Minnesota would like to take credit for electing Ron Kind, he’s a representative from our neighbor to the east, Wisconsin.

  • claudia (cook eat FRET)

    i preach this to everyone i know and have gotten the reputation as a food elitist that can afford to buy expensive food.and i’m always saying “it’s a way to support being green and support our farmers – and it tastes better and is often healthier”… and really, those that care, get it. but so many people are just closed off to the idea. i have been heavily chastised on our local free press food blog for cooking things that are too high brow for the masses. it gets tiresome to defend.

    my mom is in nyc and although she does cook, she’s not going to the farmers market. she is going downstairs to her local supermarket and buying what’s there. or to zabars – or citarella. convenience. convenience. convenience…

    but yes, i will spread the word on the flick. i hope it hits nashville.

  • milo

    Anyone have recommendations for blogs, websites, or advocacy groups covering agricultural legislation or attempting to reform it?

    I’d like to get involved with trying to get the farming laws changed, whether by just writing my representatives or getting involved with a group. But it seems like these issues rarely even make the news.

    I’d love a recommendation for a good resource that keeps up to date on what the government is considering and what can be done to influence the decisions.

    Thanks in advance.

  • Pierino

    California’s Prop 2 did pass. California chickens will now be able to have exercise time in the prison yard. They’ll have a short life but a merry one—I guess.

  • carri

    The ground war has been raging slowly but surely, however, you are right, it’s time that it be propelled to the national stage…imagine if Obama had included in his platform healthy school lunches ‘for all children’ (can’t you just hear him saying that?!)…unfortunately, though, as with the situation with gas prices this summer…it will take a crisis to get more people to inform themselves and actually act!

  • milo

    Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.

    Any other suggestions would be appreciated.

  • Kate in the NW

    It’s hard times for a lot of people, so it’s difficult to argue they should be shopping at Whole Paycheck (especially when there IS no paycheck…). But hey – even at MallWart you can make the choice to buy dried beans and fresh (or frozen) veggies and MAKE food rather than paying more for prepared food. Small steps…

    I care for a variety of dogs, horses, and other assorted non-human species, and though I pay almost twice what others do for their food, I pay about 10% the vet bills – because my animals are HEALTHY. Because they EAT WELL.

    Stands to reason humans are the same way, we being animals and all. Buying “cheap” food is penny-wise and pound-foolish (both in the original British-Pound-money sense and in the good ol’ American obesity sense). I bet for every dollar we “save” at the register, we spend three at the hospital.

  • jscirish27

    It is all about choices, and for years this country has believed that food should be cheap and plentiful. Look at how it is marketed. In chains it is all about portion size/price ratio. In Supermarket flyers it is all about the price per pound. Quality rarely enters into the equation. When people in the U.S. think about eating well volume usually trumps all.

    I am a little bit of a zealot when it comes to this issue. I cook in NYC and see people make extravagant purchases everyday, on food and material items, yet they balk at the cost of a farmers market tomato. Our priorities are all wrong. The same people who would never think of putting anything less than Super Unleaded in their sports cars will put regular (or less) in their bodies. How many people have to get sick; how many obese children do we need; how many more with autism and diabetes and heart disease; before we refocus on the value of our nation’s food supply.

  • Chris Taylor

    Thank you for getting the point of the movie, unlike Ethicurean. I made this film, not for the choir who already know Alice Waters’astrological sign, but for the millions of people who don’t go to Farmer’s Markets but would if they had a good reason. These are the next tier down in potential food activists who need some positive incentive to make a change in their eating habits. And unlike most documentaries I tried not to make it look like taking medicine, but instead to show the positive reasons for food empowerment on a personal, daily basis.

    Chris Taylor

  • Lon

    The “buy staples at the lowest price so we can splurge on the trinkets” is an epidemic of modern society. Over the next year or so we will begin paying the real cost of that folly as federal bailouts start hitting our pocketbooks. It’s time for all of us to refocus on what’s really important and that’s the real quality of our lives.

  • Hollywood Robin

    Thanks for the heads-up about this. Does anybody know if there’s any way to get into tomorrow’s screening? I live, quite literally, three blocks from the Chinese. I’d love to stroll down and see the film.

    Just a stone’s throw from the theater, by the way, is one of the best Sunday farmers markets in southern California, and I’m always pleased to see it packed every weekend. People are learning, slowly but surely.

  • Tags

    Being willing to pay a lot for food isn’t enough.

    We have to learn about what is good food because charlatans are more than willing to take more of your money and still pass off lousy food as “premium.”

    I just saw “Tyler’s Ultimate” where everyone was oohing and aahing over a Smithfield ham. It’s not Tyler’s fault, unless he already read Peter Kaminsky’s “Pig Perfect.”

    I blame the Smithfields of the world, passing off factory ham as premium ham.

    Get to the library, you can even look online to choose the books before you go.

  • Chris Taylor

    Hey, Hollywood Robin,
    It’s a free screening, there are no hard tickets, first in line, first in the door. Come a little early (2:30pm) should be no problem. Screening time is 3:15pm. Russ Parsons and Mark Peel (Campanile) will be there for a Q&A after.

    See you!

  • Rhonda

    Hi Michael. Hi all.

    Thank you for this post. I think this is an extremely important topic which is ongoing for us as a Group. Subsequently, I contacted Chris Taylor the Director of this film.

    Chris has given me permission to let everyone (especially all you Candians)know that “Food Fight” will be screened at the Whistler Film Festival on December 6th. They have made a submission to other Canadian Film Festivals as well so hopefully it will be seen in your city. I used to be a Film Insustry Executive in a former life and have offered to help Chris in any way I can to get this film into the hands of those that need it most (Non-Foodies).

    I have also urged Chris to start selling copies of this film on his website because the holiday season is rapidly approaching and this would be a great addition to a “Host/Hostess Basket” should I ever stop preaching and get an invitation to dinner ever again.

    Chris also said that they have a mailing list which will provide updates on progress.



  • johnmark7

    “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times … and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK,” Obama said.

    “Barack will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.”

    All Hail Ruhlman and Big Brother! Barack is watching you!

    Tell me again, Ruhlman, how much you love the US Constitution, The Declaration of Independence, and liberty.

    Where in the Constitution does it say you get to set prices because you feel morally superior to your fellows?

    All hail Big Brother and Ruhlman!

  • johnmark7

    Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and a top UN official urged industrialised nations Friday to alter their lifestyles and not let the global financial crisis hamper climate change efforts.

    “The developed countries have a responsibility and an obligation to respond to global climate change by altering their unsustainable way of life,” the state news agency Xinhua quoted him as saying.

    So Obama, Ruhlman, and China thinks a weaker, poorer USA is the way to go. Putin probably agrees with this, too. Hugo Chavez certainly does, along with Castro.

    Is it possible that a weaker, poorer USA is in the interest of our enemies and not in ours?

  • milo

    “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times … and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK”

    I’m not sure what your problem with that is, you think if we do all those things, other countries are going to be happy making the necessary sacrifices instead? If nothing changes, we simply won’t be able to do those things, not because it will be illegal (or whatever other paranoid thing you’re imagining) but because it will be prohibitively expensive. We’ve ALREADY seen people have to give up their SUVs because of gas prices.

    And who said anything about “setting prices”?

    Sure smells like a strawman to me.

  • milo

    “So Obama, Ruhlman, and China thinks a weaker, poorer USA is the way to go.”

    Another strawman. Nothing on this page has said a word about being weaker or poorer.

  • johnmark7

    “Be willing to pay more for your food. Get used to that idea. Embrace it. We spend a ton of money on personal entertainment and cool computers and cell phones and impressive clothes.”

    Who’s we? I don’t spend a ton of money on entertainment, computers, cell phones or clothes. I know few people who do. But I guess Ruhlman and all the people he knows do. Put your own house in order, pal, pull the mote out of your eye first.

    How does my driving a truck or SUV, keep home temp at 72 and eat as much as I like hurt anyone and when do other countries get to tell me what I can eat, drive, or how to cool my home?

    Everything I have is bought from other people selling their goods and services as freely as they are able to. That’s called liberty. That’s called what our country was founded on and for.

    Ruhlman, Obama want this country to be much poorer, hence weaker. Just wait and you’ll see it happen.

    The Democrats drove up gas prices and forced people to give up their SUVs. Hardly a voluntary program which also causes the deaths of thousands of more people on the road due to driving lighter cars. Nice trade-off, that.

    Want electric cars? Obama promises to bankrupt coal fired plants and won’t build nuclear ones. Where you going to get the power? The electric grid right now is in near overload regarding carrying capacity but no plans for more infrastructure and power plants. Rolling brown outs in Cal are going to become much more frequent in the near future.

    You don’t think our enemies love the result of Democrat policies?

  • Hollywood Robin

    Chris–thanks so much for the screening info. I’ll be there!

    And johnmark7, please take your ignorance elsewhere. Consume all you want. Go on with your bad, unenlightened self.

  • Rhonda

    I have been thinking about this and chadzilla is absolutely right. We cannot leave Chefs holding the bag on this one. It is not fair.

    I live in a small suburb and am very forward. I have met the Managers of the large grocery stores in my area (wasn’t hard – there are only two) and the small purveyors in my area. THEY want to know what is wanted and needed more than anyone else. They don’t want to bring in items that will only go bad and cost them money in the end.

    My Grocery Store Manager here is excellent. We demanded certain items. They are here. We were also pissed that we all drive by blueberry and cranberry farms and have to pay 3x as much for local fair as opposed to what was being brought in. He put out a special newsletter to all customers explaining why (the season). EXCELLENT MANAGER!

    I highly recommend introducing yourself to your local store managers. At the end of the day, they do not really want to sell shit either. They will also explain the economic realities of their job.

    Once everyone is educated, the demand for crap will subside. They (Grocery store managers) are not evil. They will help you.

    Don’t leave the Chefs holding the big bag of shit. It is not fair.

  • Tags


    try these


    Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy



    Marion Nestle

  • FoodPuta

    That works well, if like you say, you only have two markets (Which I will guess are independent stores). But take for example in my area (Austin, Tx). You really have 3 major choices. HEB which are pretty much cookie cutter chains, that carry the same thing from store to store, and pricing seems to be the major focus to their product line, but quality is “ok”. Then we have Central Market which carries a better variety of goods, but comes at a premium price. Then of course the flag ship Whole foods, which product line and pricing is generally in the same range as Central Market.
    It’s pretty easy to see within these three examples what it’s going to cost you for premium quality groceries. For the general population, it’s going to be HEB.

    I’m pretty bad about peeking into what people have in their carts down the isles and going through checkout. I can say, that the vast majority are pre-packaged instant style, cheap and easy. Fresh/Quality doesn’t look like it’s a primary concern for the masses. Americans eat 40% of their meals away from their homes, and from what I can see, that fast food, easy peasy applies to the meals they eat at home as well.

    If I’m a store manager, and I want to push product, it’s going to be Kraft Mac&Cheese.

  • Maura

    I can’t even believe I’m putting myself into this discussion, or that I feel I have to do it once again.

    I would pay more for food if I could, but I can’t. To clarify, I don’t live in a McMansion, I don’t drive an SUV, and we don’t spend our money on high-end electronics. It’s all we can do to go to the movies. Going out for a beer is a big deal for us. Forgive the “too much information”, but here’s why:

    I don’t work because I can’t. My husband works part time and does freelance graphic design. He’s frantically looking for a full time job, so we can get out from under our fucking crushing health insurance premiums of $2500/month.

    I buy the best food we can afford. Luckily, I have a freakish talent for stretching money and food. We do most of our shopping at a locally owned corner food store, and at the farmer’s market. On the rare occasion I do go to a chain grocery store ( haven’t been inside one in months), I’m also appalled at what I see in other people’s carts. But dammit, I’m asking all of you to not make sweeping generalizations about why some people don’t buy higher priced food. Because it’s not always a matter of “buy[ing] staples at the lowest price so we can splurge on the trinkets”. I would love to pay $5/lb for organic chicken at the market. But the money’s not there. And I’m not the only American in this situation. If y’all don’t know that, then you’re the ones with your heads in the sand.

  • geology byotch

    “Be prepared to pay more for your food”: kiss my arse. How about pay more for stupid unecessary items? Food is essential to survival. If you are talking about paying farmers a fair price, that is the fault of big corporation farms and supermarket chains like Kroger, who where I live, sell tomatoes from 3000 miles away for a dollar cheaper a pound than locally grown tomatoes in season.
    I am a single mother and raised my son alone for the past 14 years. I am an earth scientist and on a $40k salary, between car payment, rent/house payment, and putting clothes on my son, I never paid alot for food. I am a good cook and my son has turned out to be a cook by trade. I had to learn to cook good meals for not very much money. I also fed many of his friends for years, whose parents who were asleep at the wheel never seemed to know or care what their sons ate or even where they did it.
    When I lived in the UK, food was cheap. Organic and locally grown food was also cheap. Petrol was not cheap.
    All this being said, I will never pay alot for a food item just for the ponce effect. Case in point: I bake fabulous cookies from Gold Medal unbleached flour. I am not going out and buying some pretentious brand of flour and if I did my cookies would not taste any better. And thank God for Gold Medal flour because I made a bunch of teenage boys very happy and gave them my love through my cookies and I was able to afford to do so.

  • jscirish27

    Hey johnmark7 (wow, suddenly my two least favorite Gospels), is it really the loss of liberty you are bemoaning, or the fact that Americans are no longer beholden to big agribusiness. Are you going to tell me a farmer like Joel Salatin is opposed to liberty? The fact of the matter is that the US government is in constant opposition to the small farmer, the small independent business, and the little guy. If you can pay to play and lobby your elected officials, you have unlimited access, get it?

  • Aunt Jenny

    There is a SERIOUS disconnect happening in this post and its responses that only Maura has really addressed: You’re ignoring the gaping void between those who have disposable income (of ANY amount) and those who have NO disposable income (and plenty little dedicated income, at that).

    YES, we should all be mindful of our food’s origins and nutritional value. Yes, we should all provision ourselves and our families with the highest-quality sustenance within our grasp. Yes, we should value the role of wholesome food in our lives, and do everything in our power to make sure it functions as a primary (physical, spiritual, and emotional) building block of our day-to-day existence.

    But more and more of us out here are mindful, educated, talented cooks and eaters and we are TRULY FUCKING BROKE… as in “Ooh, ten pounds of dried Great Northern beans ON SALE! I suppose I could stash them in the broom closet…”

    I go to farmers’ markets when I can. I buy organic when I can. I cook at home 19 meals out of 20. But Maura and I are unusual in our “poverty” in that we actually have TIME to cook; most poor people don’t have that time Shitty fast food is cheap and easy for those working (sometimes) multiple low-paying jobs, and THAT’S why it’s what they eat. Go ahead– try to convince a single mom earning under 20 grand a year she should be spending her five free minutes and five free dollars a week on a single heirloom tomato; she’s scrounging for change in the couch cushions and reveling in the “deal” she got on plain-wrap detergent SO SHE CAN DO LAUNDRY.

    You’re not realistically addressing our growing underclass, but admonishing the Snadra Lee tablescapers who have more money than sense and are poisoning their families and wasting their “disposable” time and money on carving bunnies out of box-mix cakes and using sodium-laden “seasoning packets” instead of chopping fresh vegetables and making stock from scratch (quite the money-saver, by the way). Not that the tablescapers don’t need to be admonished, BUT…

    I respectfully suggest that a little recognition of actual economic reality is VERY much in order.

  • jscirish27

    I am a single father and a line cook in NYC, so I am hardly rolling in dough. I just make my food money go farther. I buy one farmers market chicken and make soup for a week. I buy cheaper organic cuts and make stews and chili. I understand the economic realities as well as anyone. Also, if you are on a tight budget, buy standard produce and splurge on the proteins (the higher on the food chain the more important organic is). A slow cooker is also a great money and time saver. You can do the laundry while your meal cooks away slowly and happily.

  • Cameron S.

    Thanks Michael – looking forward to seeing this. For those who can’t afford good food and say unhealthy food is cheaper – you can buy a lot of stuff for cheap if you can join a farmers co-op or one of those farms where you purchase a share. Such anger at a simple statement.

  • Aunt Jenny

    Cameron, it’s not just money, it’s TIME. A bag of quality produce that provides meals for a week may be as cheap/cheaper than fast food, but it means NOTHING to those who have, literally, NO TIME to cook.

    And farmers’ co-ops and CSAs are wonderful, but they are still a luxury (and often unvailable, to boot) to urban dwellers on tight-unto-impossible budgets.

    Those of us who are “angry” don’t disagree with ANYTHING Chris Taylor, Michael Pollan, and Michael Ruhlman have to say on the subject of improving the quality of food/cooking/nutrition in this country and the world; we just want some attention paid to the economic reality of the working poor with cripplingly limited time and financial resources.

  • CaptainK

    I think Aunt Jenny hit the nail on the head. Living in Michigan as I do, we don’t have nearly the growing season of the southern states. So, yeah, when the farmer’s markets open up in August, I shop there (and yes, I used some of Ruhlman’s ideas for tomato sauces, BTW). But normally, I can either get high quality, high-priced produce, or shop the chains for lower-priced, lower quality food. In Food network terms, I would love to make Ina Garten’s recipes, but can only afford Rachel Ray’s ingredients…

  • Maura

    Cameron, I buy very little packaged food. What I do buy is generally in the form of potato chips and Oreo cookies, and I don’t buy either very often. I cook almost everything from scratch, and use the highest quality ingredients I can afford. And yeah, I’m angry. I’m angry at the suggestion that people who aren’t willing to pay more for their food won’t do it because they’d rather spend it on big cars and overpriced houses. The fact is that for some of us who care about what we eat and where our food comes from, it’s hard enough to cover the staples for a decent kitchen. Anything else is a luxury. I don’t even buy capers, and bacon is a memory. And that’s enough to make any food lover cry.

    I believe that local farmers deserve every penny they charge for their produce and meat. I buy what I can from them. But if it’s a hardship to spend $3.59/lb on a decent piece of chuck at the local store, it’s nigh unto impossible to spend more than twice that at the market. This isn’t a matter of just rearranging priorities so that I can conform to someone else’s idea of what’s acceptable shopping behavior. It’s simple math, you know.

    jscirish, I’m a big fan of the slow cooker. And seeing as how my washer/dryer is in my kitchen, I’m very familiar with doing the laundry while dinner is cooking. I don’t even have to leave the room 🙂

    As for stretching my food money, if I stretched it any further, it would break.

  • ruhlman

    thanks, maura and aunt jenny for your comments. I did say in the post that the hard part would be making this food available to all people. i never meant to imply that all people have access to this food. i guess my hope is that were all people given access to it, they’d know enough to choose it.

  • Aunt Jenny

    >>i guess my hope is that were all people given access to it, they’d know enough to choose it.

    Thank you, Michael. From your mouth (pen? keyboard?) to the powers-that-be’s ears.

  • luis

    Michael, you are getting very political… on one hand you are eating offal which Dc Nathan Pritikin will tell you it is health wise a NO-NO!( If need be I will tell you what he wrote about such tainted protein…) The dude is serious straight about what we should eat… be that as it may…
    YOu can not control what people do or eat or crave. You can not tell the heart what to do and you definitelly can not tell the stomach what to crave.
    I just did a Boston Butt in my new slow cooker.. like Butter is an understatement…No fat no Collagen to deal with.. But the seasoning… well… I need to dial that in better.
    This is were it’s at man. Now that the financial world finally crashed and is facing some serious issues…and we elect a socialist leaning president you think a blog can change the world??? Oy..Veyyyy!!!! you are giving me gas…man.
    The thing I can not understand is why you don’t take a clue from CLUELESS BOURDAIN and just lay low for a while see which way the wind really blows????? just a thought… and I still love you man.

  • Cameron S.

    Aunt Jenny, Maura, if you don’t have time or money – then don’t do it. Read this part again.

    “So there it is. Vote with your fork. Be willing to pay more for your food. Get used to that idea. Embrace it. We spend a ton of money on personal entertainment and cool computers and cell phones and impressive clothes. Paying a little more for your food is not a bad thing. Figuring out ways to make it available to all people is going to be difficult.”

    See the last sentence?

    “Figuring out ways to make it available to all people is going to be difficult”

    Try not to selectively read things and then react. You are not the only person living on limited means and having little time by the way. A friend of mine who works 3 jobs still makes time to prepare nutritious meals, her deadbeat husband disappeared and she is keeping her mortgage and kids going. She isn’t eating filet mignon, nor does she want to.

    Maura said: “And yeah, I’m angry. I’m angry at the suggestion that people who aren’t willing to pay more for their food won’t do it because they’d rather spend it on big cars and overpriced houses.”

    Maura – There are people like this you know – this doesn’t apply to you I would think. Do you own a big car or an overpriced house? I bet not. You weren’t the target of these statements.

    Aunt Jenny said: Those of us who are “angry” don’t disagree with ANYTHING Chris Taylor, Michael Pollan, and Michael Ruhlman have to say on the subject of improving the quality of food/cooking/nutrition in this country and the world; we just want some attention paid to the economic reality of the working poor with cripplingly limited time and financial resources.

    Aunt Jenny – I can completely sympathize and relate with your statement. These films, books and web sites are talking about a broader perspective. The problems of the poor are big and growing with each year. They are being left behind on many levels. I am not sure if Ruhlman or these others can be blamed for not offering solutions.

    Luis – you ever heard of the FIRST AMENDMENT? It is simply UNAMERICAN to suggest people would even have to lay low for daring to speak their opinions. To think of the sacrifices my grandparents made in World War II, and the losses my family suffered to fight for freedom and we have people wanting to silence different opinions. Learn about history and your constitution, it might help you.

    Also, there is no EVIDENCE that Obama is a socialist. We just saw a massive socialist bailout of wall street that was only dwarfed by World War II. Think about that a little – then grab a seat on the clue train. Focus your poorly thought out ideas on that. I am sure you have written letters to congress, phoned your local representatives and joined an organization that is fighting against this bail-out right? Because you are such a fighter against socialism?

    Also, Bourdain is not clueless. He is articulate, well informed and experienced. I don’t see your books, tv shows or speaking tours Luis. Jealous much?

  • Bob delGrosso

    That quip by johnmark7 about the Democrats controlling oil prices got me thinking about how many people think that one group or another is in control of everything and out to destroy their health and wealth, take over their minds or take away their free will and or their liberty.

    Back in the day, it seemed that most of the food obsessed people I met were secular leftists who, when they observed the take- over of farming and food distribution by large corporate interests saw it for what it is: the natural result of living in a capitalist society that is not comfortable putting limits on how big a business can get. But I’m increasingly meeting more and more rightist-type people who believe that everything (including food production, supply and distribution) is being controlled by national entity ( a political party, the Federal Government) which in turn is controlled by a global authority whose real aim is to gain control of our minds prior to initiating a series of events resulting in the demise of most of the human population.

    Those people who see evidence of a global conspiracy to deprive us of healthy non-GMO etc. etc. food en route to reducing the population (the most commonly cited number is 500,000,000) tend to identify themselves as religious conservative republicans and libertarians and refer to the leaders of the conspiracy as the “Illuminati.”

    They echo the old style Marxists who always cited a plot by Bankers and Industrialists to enslave workers, or the National Socialists with their “International Jewish Conspiracy.”

    I’m not sure what is more interesting, the fact that “One World Order” conspiracy theorists have become part of the no-GMO, locovore, organic, food counterculture or that many people seem to have the need to blame powerful forces beyond their immediate control for their unwillingness to understand the world as it really is: the messy result of the clash of competition between species, populations, ideologies, brilliantly and ill conceived laws and regulations etc.

  • Maura

    Cameron, I don’t think I’m the only person in my situation. I did something I don’t usually do, because, seriously, I don’t normally see the point in injecting my experiences into this kind of discussion. It sounds like whining and turns into “it’s about me”. And it’s not just about me. It’s about everyone who’s in my same situation.

    You suggested that I don’t do it, except I can’t do nothing. Buying locally and knowing where my food comes from is very important to me. Is there no place in the local food movement for poor people? If not, then participating in it just becomes a luxury for the more fortunate. If you’ll allow me to get carried away for a moment 🙂 (because he was talking about civil rights for black people, not friggin’ food), Frederick Douglass said that just because you can’t do everything, that doesn’t mean you can’t do something.

    Maura – There are people like this you know – this doesn’t apply to you I would think. Do you own a big car or an overpriced house? I bet not. You weren’t the target of these statements.

    You’re correct. I don’t own a big car or an overpriced house. And oh, hell yes, I know there are people like that. I used to see them all the time when I shopped regularly at chain grocery stores.

    Here’s the thing though. I read what I think are sweeping generalizations about people who don’t buy only organic, locally grown food. Until I posted my admittedly very angry rant, I think one other person brought up the subject of not being able to afford to pay more for food. I’m not knocking anyone for being passionate about the subject, because it’s obvious I’m passionate about it too. But I think that it’s not a subject that can be discussed in a vacuum. By its very nature, it has to do with money, and that can’t be ignored.

    I hate that food has become such a divisive issue. It feels so much like “us vs. them” and “all or nothing”. This is not a fight that can be won by judgment.

    And I’m starting to want to kick my own ass, so I’ll stop now.

  • jscirish27

    Maura, I sincerely empathize with you. I don’t think it is a zero sum proposition either. You do what you can afford, and as more people realize the value of local and organic, the price will come down. Also, technique can stretch your food dollars farther than imagined: slow cooking, stews, soups, braises not only stretch dollars but taste great (I wanted to pun make sense but I just couldn’t do it). CSA’s are good as well, especially if you can go in with some friends. No one is (or should be) making light of the economic realities of the situation, and you are right, dinner shouldn’t be divisive. This is something we all can get together on.

  • eriq

    As a Californian who voted for prop 2, I’m confused by the comment “or drives the small guys out of business”. I get my eggs from one of the “small guys”, and as near as I can tell, they will need to make no changes to comply with the new law. (at least based on what’s on their web site http://www.glaumeggranch.com/ )

    I’m hoping the other small guys are like the small guys I support. Assuming that the prices for the more industrial eggs will go up, it seems like it would make the “small guys” even more price competitive, not less so.

  • Jackson-food

    I have some small info share with you! Oil makes the food tasty and increase appetite and makes the food soft. It is not good to avoid oil completely from our foods. But it should be limited. Thank you!!

  • carri

    Did anyone go to the screening and the discussion? I’d love to hear how it was and what they talked about afterwords…!

  • russ parsons

    as the one who made the comment about “drives the small guys out of business,” I’ll explain: not all small guys do cage-free or whatever they choose to call it. And because this is a process that requires a lot more space, it is naturally easier for the big egg companies to afford than it is the smaller ones. this is not hypothetical: when the EU passed its food regulations, there was a great outrage because, it turned out, the food safety requirements would have been prohibitively expensive for most smaller producers to meet. (the answer in europe was to declare certain foods “cultural heritages” and exempt them from the regulations). Probably more to the point, since the regulation applies only to eggs laid in California, not to eggs sold in California, I’m afraid most egg producers will just up and move to our neighboring states of Nevada and Arizona. This will do nothing for the well-being of the chickens and will result in longer transportation times and less state tax revenue.

  • luis

    Came back from Whole Foods Market today. My tiny indulgence in life anymore. I don’t remember the last time I needed to purchase clothes?? or anything else for that matter.
    I think vitamins were the big expense, not that I need them. Enjoying a nice bottle of Chilean Wine. Nice. Chile can make nice wine cheap.
    It’s a global marketplace. Whole Foods shrimp come from the shrimp farms in Thailand. Publix’s too….From japan I bought raising cinamon Mochi? hell if I know???what to do with it…? From India I bought Cardamon and Garam Masala spices. Oh yes my spice collection is actually growing..not getting focused and not getting smaller. I walked the beast tonite…(Rat Terrier) Rambo… Swear that dog is fearless… then we came upon a beautiful pristine spice rack thrown out in the leaves pile. (This is why you walk the dog in an upscale hood…..). So I take that as a sign I should have lots of spices. The point of the rant is simple…really. As the fog of cooking begins to clear in my mind, my kitchen will give way to better and better things as truly real homemade stocks.. not from bases but from the real things. Again the point…again the point. This is a learning process. Great food is all about how sophisticated we really are. Lots of folks in America are becoming more educated about food and this bodes well for the small farms in the future.

  • Paula Maack

    People who are not feeling the pain of this financial crisis need to be sensitive to the fact that the people who are struggling right now… ARE ANGRY. And, they have reason to be. If you were in their shoes, you might be, too. We do not need to deepen the growing tension or the class divide.

    This food “movement” is an ever important and passionate one, but it is also wrought with elitism and snobbery to a disgusting degree.

    I am not struggling financially right now and I am fortunate for that. However, I sense the anger everywhere, and try to be sensitive to it. I have struggled in the past, and I completely understand the aversion to people treating you like you are doing something wrong, when you are doing the best you can for family, yourself, your body, your community and the environment, and to just survive.

    When I was an out-of-work single-mother during the dot-bomb crisis, I sometimes (tragically) had no choice but to feed myself and my daughter many meals in a row based on 8-cent ramen packages (that I tried to make healthy by avoiding the flavor packet and adding tamari with canned tuna or peas and an egg or something similar), and sometimes I even resorted to the (gasp!) fast food dollar menu’s, when I was just too weary from job hunting and motherly duties to shop or cook or even stand another minute on my feet, but had to feed us something and only had $2 to my name. It was horrible. We didn’t eat as much produce and proteins as I would like, and forget the concept of organic, but we survived to shop at farmer’s markets once again. Just as my divorced, single-mother of a grandmother and her four kids survived the food rations (I have seen the government issued ration tickets as proof) here in California during World War II.

    Food became industrialized as it is for a reason. For better and for worse. What is unfortunate is it’s absolute decline.

    And, grocery chains are not evil. You were most likely raised on them, and they were a godsend to your mother – no doubt, as they are to people in rural and suburban areas across the country. We would be lost without them.

    I am not a “locavore”, but I try to eat locally as much as possible and always have – long before I knew there was a political “movement.” But, I am also extremely grateful for the fact that I can buy food items from around the world, even in my lame suburban neighborhood. I believe in import and export. Trading. Sharing. Exploring. I really don’t see that changing, nor would I want it to. We would never know global cuisine as we do, without it.

    What I do want is for food quality and access to improve. For the food industry to become sustainable. And most importantly, for honesty and integrity in food practices across the board, starting with artificial flavoring that genetically alters your taste buds for the sake of “flavor.” (see the July issue of Gourmet Magazine on the Science of Flavor if you have no idea what horrors I am talking about).

    Every effort to improve our food quality, sources and practices should be applauded, but those efforts should not come in the form of criticizing supporters of the same goals. Especially in these financially desperate times where people who were just recently accustomed to a grander lifestyle are now forced to go without and struggle daily for their mere survival.

    Just like religion, no one will follow you if you act holier than thou and try to beat everyone over the head with your dogma, and guilt and shame them into thinking that their natural pleasures and desires or methods of survival “wrong.”

    It’s human nature to resist what is shoved down your throat.

    People will more likely follow you in this “movement” if you are obviously involved in or enjoying something special that they will want to seek out, as well. People will naturally want a piece of whatever it is you are enjoying so much.

    Most people do not respond favorably to attempts to shame them over something as deeply personal as what they choose to, or can afford to, eat. We foodies should be able to understand this, since food is so obviously important to us. Right?

    Finally, this lengthy post is not directed at Michael (Michael’s post was informative and right on point, and I look forward to seeing the film and spreading the word – thanks Michael and Chris!), or anyone in particular, for that matter. It is to all of the (hopefully) well-meaning people who don’t realize that they are often being arrogant, insensitive, pushy, offensive and rude – especially to those who actually support this “movement,” yet can’t afford to live it full-time, and in some cases not much at all.

    Those well-meaning people may actually be hurting the “movement” with their poor manners, and need to re-assess their tact.

    That’s all.


    ~ Paula
    (of Ambrosia Quest)