The Last Politics

Yesterday’s article by Laura Miller in Salon was at once totally inspiring and a little bit dispiriting. Dispiriting because between Miller’s story and the Mark Bittman book she writes about, I feel like I don’t need to write another word. I’ve been passionate about sustainability for years—since before I knew there was a name for it—and now I wonder if I can just put down the pen, close the laptop, move to Vermont—or maybe Mendocino—let the hair under my arms grow out, and live happily ever after on a high-grain, low animal diet.

When I did an internship at Chez Panisse five years ago—before books like In Defense of Food , The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and and Fast Food Nation started to get this message into the mainstream, I asked one of the cooks there why it was that my hippiest friends would rather eat burgers made of turkey meat—dry, flavorless, and who knows how the meat was raised and processed (it probably had someone’s finger ground up in there) than pork that they knew was raised in a conscientious manner and fed stuff you wouldn’t mind want to put in your own body (since that’s where it eventually goes, right?).

“Food is the last politics to hit people,” the Chez chef said. Then he relayed an anecdote about how when they were marching against invading Iraq, marches that they called Chez Panisse for Peace, some of the marchers, when they got hungry, would walk into McDonald’s. “They just didn’t know. They didn’t see that there was a connection between politics and what we eat. We had to explain it to them. ‘Every time you eat, you are casting your vote, and that’s a vote for McDonald’s.'”

It looks like that politics might finally be hitting people. That’s the part where I am inspired. And no, I am not going to close the laptop. The more laptops screaming, the likelier it is that people outside the choir, maybe even Obama’s people, will hear.


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