18 Apr 2009

Let Them Eat (Organic) Grapes!

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National Review’s Julie Gunlock responds with dudgeon to some haute bourgeois foodie condescension from Berkeley, California restauranteur Alice Waters, suggesting that just possibly not everyone can actually afford terroir and that “fresh, local, and organic” may not fully address the difficulties faced by American families in bad economic times.

Alice Waters — the organic-food world’s most active and least humorous spokesperson — commented on the new White House vegetable garden: “The most important thing that Michelle Obama did was to say that food comes from the land. . . . People have not known that. They think it comes from the grocery store.”

Oh, really — is that what people think? To whom, exactly, is Ms. Waters referring? Is she referring to the millions of people living in the grain-belt states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri — states one cannot drive across without spending hours staring at corn and soybean fields? The millions living along the Pacific Northwest coast and Alaska who are supported by the fishing industry? The fishermen of Gloucester, Mass.? Maybe she is talking about people living in Wisconsin — where dairy farms and cow pastures are as ubiquitous as art galleries in New York. Or perhaps she is referring to the thousands of people like me, who — in the suburbs of an East Coast metropolis — just throw a few Lowe’s-purchased plants in the ground, and hope for some rain to support a small backyard garden. Yes, Ms. Waters, even these “people” know that the grocery store doesn’t spontaneously produce food.

Her condescension is typical of a food culture that is increasingly withdrawn from mainstream America — a food culture that increasingly preaches to the average American consumer that eating non-organic food is bad for you. The truth is, organic food is an expensive luxury item, something bought by those who have the resources. Those who can afford it and want it should have it, but organic food is not a panacea for the world’s ills.

It may be easier for Ms. Waters and her cadre to simply label Americans stupid and ill-informed than to tackle the real reason people are not eating more organic and locally grown food — i.e., most Americans simply are not able to afford it. Even 60 Minutes — known for asking tough questions and making interviewees sweat — basically punted on this issue. Highlighted on the program earlier this year, Waters introduced Lesley Stahl to a man that grows organic grapes and sells them for a staggering $4 a pound (to give non-shoppers some perspective on this price, grocery-store grapes usually cost under $2 a pound, and even most meat comes in under $4 a pound).

While Stahl did seem surprised at the high price, Waters never directly addressed the cost issue; instead, she made an offhand remark that people would simply have to make the choice between expensive grapes and Nike tennis shoes. What she fails to appreciate is that some people can’t buy those tennis shoes either.

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Will Stevens

I live in Napa, another hotbed of “foodie-ism”. Our local government was duped a few years back into allowing a hideous white elephant named “Copia” to be built in Napa. The whole thing had the blessing, and money, of our very own local saint; St. Robert Mondavi. It was allegedly the food and wine capitol of the world! Gourmet cooking classes, wine seminars, artwork related to food and wine. When it opened the local papers gushed that it would be surpassed only by Disneyland for bringing in tourists. Needless to say, it is now bankrupt as very few people actually gave a rats rear end about food and wine.

As for Alice Waters, I have been waiting for a first rate takedown of this pretentious short order cook for quite awhile. All I can say about her and her cafe is that 99% of people would get a more satisfying meal off virtually any taco truck in Napa than at her food palace in Berkeley.



Maggie's Farm

Sunday afternoon links…

More links later tonite – probably.
Good news: people increasingly AGW skeptics. As John says, The public is catching on. Follow the money…
Related: Lefty Court disallows Alaska offshore drilling. Insane.
Alice Waters: Let them eat organic gr…



greenmtnpunter

The irony of it all is that dear Alice hails from New Jersey, a/k/a The Garden State. She was so overcome by the ultra California cool Beserk-ley Scene that she forgot about all those gardens back home.



garrett

Back in my days as a fishing guide I had the opportunity to take a getleman from northern/central Ca. out for a day on the water. He owned a large Vineyard, and was also the head of his local “organic” growers assoc.. He assured me that there was no such thing as an organic vineyard (this was in the late 90’s.). He then went on to tell me that the consortium of growers that operated under the guise of “Organic” vineyards had there own petro chemical company to provide the fertilizers and insecticides that were, “…necessary to maintain a profitable business. We have to bring the stuff in overnight and we need to be very careful to apply it at the right time and place to make sure we don’t jepordize our standing as an ‘organic vineyard’. “. If what he claims is true, there is no such thing as a profitable organic farm. “At least not in California…”.

I was quite surprised by his candor, but not in the least by his assertions.

FWIW – I doubt that Alice Waters has ever slaughtered a bovine, caught a fish, harvested her own Wild Game or heaven forbid, force fed a Goose in order to fatten its liver.

Am I to assume that she thinks Wagyu Beef, Fois Gras, Venison or Cornish Hens just magically appear in the kitchens of her servants? No, because that would make an ASS of her…

and of myself!



Deputyheadmistress

I am sympathetic to the preference for organics. I’d rather go that route, too, and manage it for a few things. We’ve also raised our own hogs and chickens.

but we buy our shoes at thrift shops, and we only eat grapes in season when they are around a dollar a pound. Alice Waters doesn’t have a clue about how real families live.



jeanine wisniewski

while i agree that alice waters may not be in touch with the average american or the average american lifestyle, she is to be credited for her political advocacy work. she’s not simply sitting in her ivory garden munching organic grapes (with the proper chevre and chardonnay); she is also attempting to get the word out that organic and local are the way to go. in time, hopefully more people will be able to follow her.



Adrian

THANK YOU for pointing out the nudity of the emperor!! Waters makes my skin crawl — the feigned wispiness, the affected speech, the utter disdain for the great unwashed…. She may be politically active, but she’s socially retarded.



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