The days of original recipe foodies thinking helpful anyone who spreads the word about our food system are over. The faux foodies, at best, have shown themselves to be nothing but conformists who say the same thing over and over. Just varying the packages slightly.
At their worst, they are harming the local food movement by encouraging ignorance about important issues and getting information out there that dilutes and obfuscates.
Faux foodies know how to make their message most palatable for the masses. It’s why they are successful. What that means is they process their work until it is the least likely to offend anyone or make people think for themselves.
Similar to the way food is processed in our country, so people’s bodies don’t have to work to digest raw nutrients. Hmm, interesting.
When I first became part of the local food movement one of the things I liked best was how super supportive people were of one another. And that still exists, just not among the nouveau fashionista “foodies” who are team players of a different ilk.
The type where some people might not want to cross them (i.e. think for themselves – the bane of the mean girls.)
One run-in with them
I wrote a story for a newspaper which local fashionista foodies did not like, because the person involved thought it hurt their image. That person rallied their friends (because that’s what bullies do).
And, really, there was seriously nothing bad in the story – just someone’s ego.
Enter a foodie mean girl hit squad.
They were vicious, choosing cowardly emails so they could hide behind computer screens, and basically assailed my freedom of the press. Which I did not take lightly. I told them point-blank what I thought of their tactics.
When the local food movement became trendy it must have been like a revelation, a hallelujah, to some small family farmers. Here they were – being lauded, being made into heroes and romanticized.
The reality, though, is that farmers are people just like you and me and the guy next door. And sometimes we all make mistakes or take wrong turns.
So, when the message became, we like farmers – let’s give them a break, some took advantage. They grew their businesses quickly and exponentially. Cut corners and became less concerned with sustainability and more interested in cashing in on the trend before it went away.
Other farmers stayed small – or at least manageable – and continued to take great pains to nurture their soil. They use cover crops to restore nutrients to the ground. They might make their own compost, rotate crops and let portions of their land lay fallow.
Composting and cover crops feed the soil while synthetic fertilizer feeds the plants. I want my fruits and vegetables to be fed by the soil, which is, after all, the most important part of farming.
For a long time, Laura Modlin liked snow, then she didn’t and then… As the first snow of the 2014-15 season began to emerge through the rain that started the day, she asked herself a question – how come I stopped liking snow?
She shuddered, though, as she recalled the incessant snow-blown 2010-11 season when it just never stopped. The fortuitous thing that year was that the newspaper and magazine journalist had become an owner of the best all-wheel-drive vehicle EVER. But, she rarely hit the roads because not everyone had such a great car and there was lots of slip sliding. Besides, the snow was piled so high it was scary to not be able to see when you exited a parking lot.
It took late into the spring that year for it all to melt.
When I got back to Connecticut a couple weeks ago after some time in NYC, the first thing I noticed when I exited the car was how fresh and clean the air smelled. The next thing I noticed, once inside my home, was that the fridge needed restocking.
Enter the wonderful New Morning Market, which is what I did.
At one point, I considered moving to Woodbury, CT just so I could live in the same town as what I have come to see is the store that knows me. I decided that living within driving distance is good enough, although I do love the down-to-earth nature of the town….
Hello GMO-free fruits and veggies!
When I first entered the store that day, I was greeted by the familiar and fabulous Non-GMO Project Verified produce department. It really was like coming home – to a selection of local and/or organic responsibly sourced lettuce, kale, eggplant, apples, bananas, berries and SO much more!
Ah, a farm-to-table cookbook. What could be more farm-friendly? Photos of pastoral scenes and giving kudos to the nice folks at restaurants that support farming. They are all the rage right now.
Sadly, though, in my opinion they underscore a basic problem in the bandwagon approach to the local food movement – a lack of accountability and sustainability.
Many of these types of books are out-of-date by the time they are published. Farms go out of business, chefs stop sourcing from a farm they are noted as having an association with in the book, people exaggerate claims and – they are often a marketing ploy.
The farm-to-table cookbooks also perpetuate a lack of understanding on the part of the public as to what farm-to-table is and the issues surrounding it.
There are still a lot of people who think when a restaurant calls itself farm-to-table that the food is from a farm. Not always.
It is a big moneymaker right now. And whenever something generates a lot of money, it creates a market and people who will exploit the market. I’m not saying that every farm-to-table cookbook is about exploitation. But, at best they are unreliable sources to learn which farms sell to which restaurants. That relationship is ever-changing. But, once it is in print, you cannot take it back.
What a crazy modern world we live in these days – as it turns out you don’t have to really be dedicated to a cause to be an advocate anymore. After all, there are so many more important things to do, like socialize with friends on Facebook, shop and take selfies.
I think an advocate is a public voice for a cause. And when you are a true advocate, it’s not like work. It is more like something you cannot not do. You live it and your cause inspires you. Researching and educating others lights you up inside.
Lately, I have been writing a lot about the fakes out there. And, as it turns out, I am not the only one who sees them. I have been getting a great deal of positive support. It’s encouraging.
In my neck of the woods, there are a lot of rich, spoiled people who really don’t want to take the time to do things right. They want to believe that the world will roll over for them for a minimal amount of effort on their part – and that they will get what they want on the first try and then get back to their lives.
So, for those who don’t know yet, I have embarked on a new project – writing a novel. And, as of the time I am posting this, I have just under 70,000 words left to write!
The other day, a friend of mine posted on Facebook that she finally finished her first novel (writing, not reading – although, I cannot entirely, accurately attest to her reading prowess.) It took her 20 months to write and she is aptly proud.
It was a challenge and I can totally see that. I mean, really, how does anyone find the time and focus and determination. But, then I started thinking about the last several years and some of the difficult things I have faced and how I have made it through and am better for having gone through them. Stronger, more self-aware and with a revamped sense of priorities.
Nestled on the corner of 85th street and Lexington Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side is the latest addition to the Fresh & Co. restaurant chain – but where it falls on the local food movement chain is a little fuzzy.
I noticed it the other night. Brand new, shiny and full of local food…. uh, year round. Really? No, not really.
When I went inside, I had some questions.
My first question was, is the food organic?
Sure, one of the servers said. All the vegetables are organic, he insisted.
I was skeptical. Nowhere did I see it noted that the produce was organic.
I asked to speak to a manager.
The manager said, no, the vegetables are not organic. That’s not what they are advertising, he said. Their thing is LOCAL.
I saw it as I walked by a Manhattan “creative salad” eatery the other day. So eye-catching: “NY loves local.” Why, yes, New York and its residents have an affinity for home grown. How clever to call that to my attention.
But, c’mon, you and I both know that people don’t take “local” seriously anymore. Nobody actually thinks it means the food is fresh, grown nearby or even healthy. I passed this restaurant and then walked back to look again.
I saw the map on the door with dots indicating where food was sourced. I was hoping for local lettuce, tomatoes, cheeses – all grown organically on NYC rooftops and pollinated by their own honeybee hives… I wanted it all to be local and organic – free of pesticides and other chemicals and there to help promote the health, the immune systems, of its customers.