NYT Dining and the food crisis in America

So it’s beginning to feel like I'm beating a dead horse (isn’t that how the horrible saying goes?). However, the issue keeps coming up over and over again, signaling to me that the “food crisis” in our country is relevant and important.

First, check out Nicole’s response to my posts: this brings the contrast between cultures into sharp relief. I was actually surprised by how many of the food displays included soda: U.S., Egypt, Mexico, Italy, Germany, Poland. I was particularly struck by Mexico – so much beautiful produce on display…and soooo much soda. Alas.

The Dining section of the New York Times has an article this week, “Good News About Rising Food Prices,” which discusses how the cost of food in the U.S. (is it happening elsewhere too?) is skyrocketing as a result of the rising cost of fossil fuels and ethanol. It’s costing a whole lot more to transport our food from Mexico to New York, from Holland to Chicago. Is this a blessing in disguise? Given the rising costs, will people really forsake their sodas? Will people turn to local produce and local purveyors of meat and dairy? Naturally, the article mentions Alice Waters, who has reportedly been a vocal advocate of higher food prices. I see her point: with food being more expensive, people will need to make smarter, healthier choices. If food costs more, people might eat less of it. On the other hand, lots of people argue her opinion is elitist and/or classist. Rising food costs makes me a little glad, I admit it. But what about the lower-middle class? People who are “on the fringe”? I honestly don’t believe they’ll suddenly see the light and start eating local, organic fruits and vegetables. It’s not as simple as that, as anyone will argue, I’m sure. You don’t have a paradigm shift in a single month or a single quarter. Heck, when we’re talking about an entire revolution in the way we think and we eat, that can’t even happen over the course of a single year. Eating is too emotional, too personal, too culturally entrenched. So do I think rising food costs are the magical solution? Absolutely not. But they just might be the impetus and, for that, I’m excited to see where we’re heading.

If you’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, you know how Michael Pollan feels about corn. And he converted me to his way of thinking as well. So I read the Boston Globe’s headline, “Food Prices Might Increase as Farmers Plant Less Corn”, with a bit of warmth in my heart. Yay, less environmental impact! Yay, less high fructose corn syrup! Because that’s the kind of gal I am: I react first, think later. Which gets me in trouble sometimes. It was later that I realized this wasn’t going to magically cause meat producers to allow the cows to roam free and eat the grass they’re designed to eat. Nope, ain’t happening. And then two-thirds of the way through the article, the bomb is dropped: soybean planting is up 18 percent. Which, again, if you’ve read Omnivore’s Dilemma, you know this is still perpetuating the unhealthy, environmentally unsound monoculture issue. Where in the world are we heading?

Okay, this is getting depressing. Less doom and gloom, I think:

Since we’re sort of on the topic of healthy, seasonal food, let me take this moment to share with you an article from the San Francisco Chronicle, “Asparagus Fans Support the Delta’s Stalk Market” by Melissa Swanson. As a California native who grew up in the Sacramento valley, I got all warm and fuzzy reading this. Not to mention that I also felt bitter living in NYC where root vegetables are still the stars on parade at Union Square.

Lastly, given the name of my blog, it’s appropriate that I link to the NYT Dining section’s article on California Pinot Noir. I applauded the article because he’s right: California Pinots are so hit-or-miss and tend to be too big and fruit-forward for my tastes. I much prefer the Oregon Pinot Noirs, particularly King Estate. Nevertheless, Asimov includes a list of wines so feel free to have your own taste test on a beautiful spring afternoon!


Nicole said...

Thank you for the mention Laura! I appreciate it.

amy cray said...

watch the times lately. food riots happening all over the world because of our corn crops. cost of flour has tripled and people don't have bread. such a mess.
hoping next administration will kick this, but doubtful.. such a mess. and i had really great sushi last night.