Friday, August 22, 2008

My Slow Food Problem

Now don’t get me wrong, I love the flavor of freshly-picked, $4.50 per pound farmer’s market heirloom tomatoes as much as anyone.  Maybe more.  For lunch today I cut some up in thick slices, and laid them out on organic bread slathered with Hellman’s (OK, I am weak) and sprinkled sel gris on top.  And I have been known to pay $20 dollars for a couple of not terribly weighty pork chops and, yes, they tasted lardy, gamey and delicious the way pork chops are supposed to taste and, yes, I abhor the way that clever animals like a pigs are crushed and abused worse than commuters on the No. 6 train

But I am also white, middle class and food obsessed.  Still, I am not delusional.  And when I hear one of the organizers of the Slow Foodapooloza in San Francisco start talking about reviving the idea of the Victory garden as a way of giving disadvantaged people in the United States access to fresh, wholesome food I am convinced that the Slow Foodies are so insulated from reality that they make George W. seem like a reincarnation of Upton Sinclair.  Anya Fernaldis, the Executive Director of Slow Food Nation, readily admits that minimum wage workers are hardly worrying about sustainable agriculture.  So her suggestion is that they plant gardens and harvest the fruit  of their labor.  It worked for middle-class, suburban and rural families during the two world wars.  So why not in the ghetto or the trailer park?  She says that’s it’s a question of time if you don’t have the money.  Time?  Is her head so deeply buried in the compost that she think single mother’s are just hanging around the house watching Oprah?  That families that have seen their wages erode and erode to the point where practically every family needs two wage earner’s to keep their heads above water has time?  Has she any idea how much lead there is in the ground in the inner cities?  Does she think that the people who can’t afford my $4.50 tomato have other things to do with their free moments than to dig in the soil with the hope that 5 months later, they will be able to harvest a crop of zucchini?  This seems like the kind of prescription Marie Antoinette would have cooked up had she been a soccer mom.

And anyway, I’m not really sure that the concern of most slow foodites is to take the revolution to the people.  The organization is fundamentally about class anyway.  Or to be fair, it’s about eating really good food which can only be produced in labor-intensive ways which makes it unaffordable to the commoners and thus makes it a very convenient class marker.  Like the opera or the ballet but tastier.  That doesn’t make it “bad,” just a little delusional.