Eat Your Privilege

A few excerpts from a stellar piece on The Awl by Claire Zulkey, “The Rich Are Different, They Eat More Money.”

Following food trends is secretly an upscale way of justifying eating things you probably shouldn’t. No, a hamburger or glass of pop or cupcake now and then won’t kill you, but the point of a craze isn’t moderation: if you’re really going to consider yourself up on the soda trend, you’ll know the difference and have opinions on Brooklyn Soda Works versus P&H Soda versus Fort Defiance and so on right now. Get in on it while it’s hot: it’s fun, it’s old-timey! It’s not going to be fashionable for long so you need to get in there and try it and have your say. Being part of the communal tasting moment is part of the experience, but it’s a luscious bonus that the majority of the experience is eating something sugary, fatty and/or delicious. Eating indulgently somehow seems less sinful when it’s the thing to do. Eat a cupcake because you feel sad: that’s sad. Eat a cupcake because the gals on “Sex and the City” did it: well, now you’re living the life. That’s aspirational eating. It’s not so bad for you if you had to wait in line for it and pay a shit ton of money for it and do it in high heels.

There seem to be two issues at play these days when it comes to what makes foods “good” and “bad” (of course poor, innocent foods are not actually “good” and “bad” the way, say, the Holocaust was “bad” and eight hours of sleep is “good,” but you can’t deny that certain foods are more nutritionally valuable than others): calories and content. Take a Hostess Twinkie and then a “Twinkie” that is not actually a Twinkie but a dessert created by a trained pastry chef out of the finest ingredients in the kitchen of an exclusive restaurant to look like a Twinkie (this sounds like a great challenge for “Top Chef”). Many of us wouldn’t be caught dead eating a Twinkie: we’ve all been told that Twinkies never age because they’re made of wicked unnatural ingredients, Twinkies are filled with whale blubber, Twinkies will give you cancer. Yet you’d pay $12 for the honor of eating the “Twinkie,” even though they both may have the same amount of calories.

There’s a double standard when it comes to food that’s calorically bad for you. Hell, there’s a double standard even when it comes to food that’s good for you. Those of us who allegedly can afford it and “know better” aren’t supposed to eat baby carrots anymore: we’re supposed to go to the farmers’ market to purchase beautiful fresh-from-the-dirt carrots with green tops, or have them delivered to us in a weekly produce co-op box. You don’t cram them in your face to fill the void and grimly just take it because the food suits its purpose and is filled with these goddamn vitamins and nutrients—you thank Gaia for the soil and the sun that brought it to you and consider yourself one of the “good ones” next time you read a Michael Pollan article.

Try reading it without a kneejerk defense of “That’s not me!” and “I don’t do that” or even “Those assholes.” Just read it and think.

Huffing and Puffing

Update and correction: The editor of the section just emailed to say that the food section isn’t live yet. However, I still think the Recessionista lady is whack. Also if they offer us money, anything could change.—Snacktime

Oh thank god the Huffington Post has launched a food section. Because really, we don’t hear enough on the topic, and there are too many writers getting paid anyway. We need more places where people can write for free!

If they hadn’t created this important space, we wouldn’t know about heiress Anna Getty’s new book on healthy affordable food. Not only does the author of the post blithely accept Getty’s handwaving about how you can always save money by going to the farmer’s market (me, I just flip the big “CHEAP HEALTHY FOOD” switch in my living room, don’t you have one?), she obligingly lists all the corporate food sponsors of the launch party, including a place that sells vegan organic chocolate truffles for $3 each.  She also pimps out the site of the party, an expensive garden shop in Los Angeles. And this lady is billed as “The Recessionista!” Her other articles include one on Emporio Armani and one on Alexander McQueen, so I think she has really earned the title. Look out, Alex Kuczynski.

Really with this kind of great reporting, and some folks who make their own ketchup, the HuffPo is going to fit right in on the food scene.

The Answer is Access, Access, Access


The “It’s Too Expensive to Eat Healthy Food” Debate


There are some views held by well-meaning reporters and food bloggers that are so specious that it makes me want to hammer a nine-inch nail into my head.

The worst of these shibboleths is that it’s too expensive to eat healthy food.

Except that it’s pretty well-documented that eating a healthier diet IS more expensive, whether you go by the price-per-calorie model or not. And, what constitutes a healthy diet varies by person, so just because one person is able to eat healthily and inexpensively, doesn’t mean we all can.

What bothers me the most about this post, though, is that the author seems to ignore the fact that the expense of eating healthy foods is NOT just about the cost of food itself. It’s about access. How many grocery stores are in your area? Do you live in a food desert? Do you live out in the middle of nowhere, where there’s only one store around for miles? So much for comparison shopping. Do you live in an urban neighborhood, where there’s a fast-food joint on every corner, but the nearest Whole Foods is 15, 20 miles away? Do you have a car to drive to that Whole Foods? If not, what about mass transit? Does it even go there? Is it affordable to take it that far?

It’s also about time. If you’re working multiple jobs just to keep your bills paid, food shopping several times a week for fresh food might not be an option. Neither is taking the time to venture out to the suburbs to the aforementioned Whole Foods. Or taking the time to read through labels to avoid government-subsidized ingredients in processed foods, like HFCS. Or going to different stores to compare prices. And what about the time that goes into preparing a meal from all these fresh foods? What about the space required to store them? I’d love to stock up on boneless, skinless chicken when it’s on sale, but my freezer only holds so much.

And while the author keeps his/her post strictly about food, let me go beyond that to the subject of exercise. Being able to afford a gym membership is a privilege. Being able to go for a walk or jog in a relatively safe neighborhood where random shootings and muggings and rapes are not a huge threat? Also a privilege. As is having a home big enough to store exercise equipment. Or having time to devote specifically to exercise as well.

These are not excuses; it’s reality, for many, many people. We’re privileged enough to be sitting here on the internet, yammering on about all this, when people out there can only be concerned with surviving. And for a lot of people, that’s grabbing a cheeseburger and a caffeinated beverage from the McDonald’s dollar menu while on the way to work, just to have enough energy to work, because that is all that time and money allow.


-Julia Childless