Fisking this article

A friend pointed out this article. I read it and felt that I needed to provide some counter points. I will use italics to quote them and bold for my responses.We hover between ridicule and shame when we remember how our mothers and grand­mothers enthusiastically embraced canned and frozen foods.

Watch how you use we there. I see nothing ridiculous or shameful in how my ancestors used and loved processed food. I understand that they did not have the information we have and circumstances were different at that time.

We shun Wonder Bread and Coca-Cola. Above all, we loathe the great culminating symbol of Culinary Modernism, McDonald’s — modern, fast, homogenous, and international.

Well, to much of any of these are not good for you. As to McDonald’s, there are better places to get a burger. And, these places don’t cost much more.

Meanwhile Slow Food, founded in 1989 to protest the opening of a McDonald’s in Rome, is a self­-described Greenpeace for Food;

If any group describes themselves as the Greenpeace for a cause, run away. That means they are borderline terrorists and scam artists.

As an historian I cannot accept the account of the past implied by Culinary Luddism, a past sharply divided between good and bad, between the sunny rural days of yore and the gray industrial present.

This I agree with. Way to many people glorify the past and how things were done then. Just look at how some people glorify the 1950s in the USA. What they are actually in love with is the 1950s as portrayed on shows like Leave it to Beaver and My Three Sons.

Fresh meat was rank and tough; fresh milk warm and unmistakably a bodily excretion; fresh fruits (dates and grapes being rare exceptions outside the tropics) were inedibly sour, fresh vegetables bitter.

This is where the author and I start to diverge. The reason all of these were this way is because of the lack of modern food storage and equipment. It also shows how far we have come in selective breeding of plants and animals. Through a slow process of selective breeding the plants and animals are both better tasting and provide more food.

(I many paragraphs about how bad things were before modern times. Anyone with a brain knows that they were bad. That is why we changed the way things were done.)

Yet while we fret about pesticides on apples, mercury in tuna, and mad cow disease, we should remember that ingesting food is, and always has been, inherently dangerous. Many plants contain both toxins and carcinogens, often at levels much higher than any pesticide residues. Grilling and frying add more.

This does not mean we can not try to do better. We should try to lower the bad things we intake. But, we also must realize that life is always a risk.


I’ll conclude with this. It seems almost like the author is saying we should no longer try to innovate and find a better medium between the highly processed foods that have come about in the last couple of centuries and the eat it only raw organic food some people demand. I find that the heirloom tomatoes (also a fairly recent development, despite their names) taste better than most of what you see at the grocery store. But, that is because the heirlooms were bred for taste above all. The tomatoes in the stores were bred for transportability, yield and looks. The same goes for many other things I like to pay a slight premium for. Local fresh eggs generally have a better taste and color. Grass free range/pasture raised meat (whatever the meat) will have a better taste and does require slightly different cooking methods. Food, like all of life, is a series of trade-offs. It is best that we make informed decisions that lets us decide what we feel is best for what we want out of our food.

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A Plea for Culinary Modernism | Jacobin
Modern, fast, processed food is a disaster. That, at least, is the message conveyed by newspapers and magazines, on television cooking programs, and in prizewinning cookbooks. It is a mark of sophistication to bemoan the steel roller mill and supermarket bread while yearning for stone ground …

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