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.