Guilt, Peer Pressure, and “Good” Food

One of my dear friends shared this article a few days ago, and I’ve been pondering it ever since. The article provoked several reactions,  but this statement was shocking.

The primary reason I refuse to place “eating correctly” at the center of my consciousness is because in doing so I would lose ground on my essential life project: living a dogma-free existence while maintaining psychic (and actual) time and space to write fiction.

Is it just me, or did she just refer to the constellation of sustainable agriculture/local food/urban homesteading as dogma?

When did that happen? Not too long ago finding and purchasing food from local farms and producers was spurred by passion and inspired by Slow Food International and the first sustainable agriculture and alternative health gurus, like Wendell Berry and Sally Fallon. Joining a CSA was a radical action. My friends thought I was crazy for buying food from the farmer’s market, back when there was only one. I drove to farms to illegally purchase meat, instead of the grocery store like a normal person. Who did that?

Then it was discovered by upper-middle-class twenty-somethings looking for something to rebel against, just like our hippie parents had done at the same age. Farmer’s markets became fashionable. Then $100-per-plate farm-to-table dinners. Then chickens and canning.  It became trendy. The sustainable agriculture “movement” dovetailed neatly with the frightening specter of global warming.  The author is exactly right about the self-judgement and guilt. Blogging has possibly made this peer pressure worse. How can we compare ourselves against women posing in beautifully-framed, clean kitchens who canned 50 pounds of tomatoes? This has become part of the twenty-something lockstep hipster liberalism.  There is only guilt in comparing oneself against some impossible ideal, and then failing to achieve it. We must resist this trend becoming guilt-inducing dogma, something to rightfully reject.

I reject guilt. I reject dogma. I reject that all of this is “only a trend“, because trends will fade into dated obscurity, and I think plenty of people will continue this work after the trendy status has passed. I would say “I reject lockstep hipster liberalism” but you all already knew that. There is too much good work being done, but it will only survive if people are doing it because they believe in it and enjoy it. I do this work for a million reasons, but if I didn’t find joy in it, I wouldn’t be doing it. I hope you all feel the same way. Now I’m going to stop on my way home from work and buy jarred marinara sauce. No guilt!

Though I believe in both healing the planet and in restoring value to the sacred ritual of eating (so that our chubby nation can slim down, and so the rest of the world doesn’t have to starve), I will not fetishize food, because an obsession with bacon (or oat bran, or fresh eggs, or salmon roe, or ramps) is both decadent and boring.

Damn straight.

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