sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

July 2, 2012

Is Gluttony Still a Sin?

I don’t recommend arguing with sanctimonious Bay Area mommies; they are bullies and it’s generally a good idea to stay away from them.  And while it’s doubtful there is an argument out there that can change their mind about an issue, their worldview is destined to collapse in a decade or so (at which point they pick up a new cause). But it’s worth knowing why they are wrong.  Currently, their biggest cause is food, which has to be sustainable, organic, perhaps government-mandated and, above all, local, because that’s what good for the planet.

And so it’s paramount to teach our children to grow and consume local, and every self-respecting elementary around here boasts some sort of gardening patch.  I call them botany labs.  I remember having an assignment like that in my Soviet school once.  We were to place a leek in a glass jar filled with water and try to grow an onion.  It was exciting at first, but after watching the root swell and the greens spout for a few days, I was through.

Blogging buddy An American Housewife [Occasionally] in London (and now on PJMedia) had a terrific post about foodie educational priorities with a terrific link to Caitlin Flanagan’s essay on gardening programs in California public schools.  Annoying, white, upper middle class SAHMs (don’t call them housewives) are shoving grade school gardening curriculum down everyone’s throat, and at the expense of what a few decades ago was considered learning:

The cruel trick has been pulled on this benighted child by an agglomeration of foodies and educational reformers who are propelled by a vacuous if well-meaning ideology that is responsible for robbing an increasing number of American schoolchildren of hours they might other wise have spent reading important books or learning higher math (attaining the cultural achievements, in other words, that have lifted uncounted generations of human beings out of the desperate daily scrabble to wrest sustenance from dirt). The galvanizing force behind this ideology is Alice Waters, the dowager queen of the grown-locally movement. Her goal is that children might become “eco-gastronomes” and discover “how food grows”—a lesson, if ever there was one, that our farm worker’s son might have learned at his father’s knee—leaving the Emerson and Euclid to the professionals over at the schoolhouse. Waters’s enormous celebrity, combined with her decision in the 1990s to expand her horizons into the field of public-school education, has helped thrust thousands of schoolchildren into the grip of a giant experiment, one that is predicated on a set of assumptions that are largely unproved, even unexamined. That no one is calling foul on this is only one manifestation of the way the new Food Hysteria has come to dominate and diminish our shared cultural life, and to make an educational reformer out of someone whose brilliant cookery and laudable goals may not be the best qualifications for designing academic curricula for the public schools.

Flanagan is mostly concerned with the children of Mexican laborers who are overrepresented in California public schools.  The “cruel trick” she talks about is the return of students to their agrarian roots, the roots that they presumably try to escape.  But the post-educational (I don’t know what else to call them) attitudes of upper middle class mommies don’t do much for white kids either, considering that so many of them find themselves unable to compete with their Asian peers.  We see it in Cupertino, CA where white students are outperformed by their driven Asian neighbors that Caucasians are fleeing the area.

Stephen Budiansky reviewed some freshly pressed foodie literature for a recent issue of Wall Street Journal.  One of them, “The Locavore’s Dilemma” by Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu sounds like an interesting read:

Mr. Desrochers and Ms. Shimizu, a married couple who are both professional economists, present a counterintuitive but well-supported case that local self-sufficiency is the worst thing you can do for the environment, since it requires many crops to be grown in the wrong places, with damaging ecological consequences. American farmers, they observe, used to grow wheat locally in the Shenandoah Valley, tilling steep and rocky slopes—and unleashing a torrent of soil erosion. With the shift of grain farming to the far more productive and erosion-resistant soils of the Midwest, “more grain is now being produced on fewer acres and, overall, more habitat is available for wildlife.” Their study of the history of American agriculture is one of the strongest points of this book.

Famines were common in the past precisely because food security rested on the vagaries of local conditions rather than the resiliency of trade, they observe: “Subsistence farmers periodically starve while commercial agricultural producers who rely on monocultures for their livelihood don’t.”

Budiansky notes the didactic tone of most of the foodie books.  Unfortunately, the whole foodie culture is permeated by smugness and moralism.  One of the nice things about living in the Bay Area is that food is superb; quality and variety is outstanding.  DH keeps telling me that we will never leave California because I can’t survive without my $8 sandwiches (he has a long list of thing without which I wouldn’t survive).  Seriously, gastronomy is one area where hippies are allowed to excel — except that they have to ruin it all with their self-righteousness.

Ironically, they all went to 4-year colleges where they’ve heard of Nietzsche, and Dionysian ecstasy and how Judeo-Christian morality prevents people from enjoying life.  Personally, I don’t blame Judeo-Christian morality.  Around here we are not allowed to enjoy sex because of feminism and can’t have humor because of political correctness.  And while everyone is into food, being fat and jolly is an affront to liberalism, alone with sipping a cup of coffee not stamped “fair trade”.

These days fast food chains put nutritionally correct items on their menus.  And yet I noticed that they also come up with indulgent and irreverent items, like a bacon sundae, just to let their customers know that they didn’t completely sell out.  Well, at least somebody in this country is free to have fun, and it’s not the foodies.



  1. Reblogged this on All about everything and commented:
    PC comes to eating…hahaha…this from a fellow blogger whom i find to be an extremely brilliant thinker. This is just perfect subject matter for todays eco-elitists. Might even serve to wake them from their dream world. Okay, probably not.

    Comment by calihurder — July 2, 2012 @ 10:50 pm

  2. No sex. No humor. No bacon cheeseburgers? Bah humbug. It’s fascinating watching religious puritanism morph into secular nanny state puritanism.

    Now if you;ll excuse me I’ll have a bacon cheeseburger, tell a few dirty jokes, have a few beers Well three out of four ain’t bad.

    Comment by Infidel de Manahatta — July 3, 2012 @ 6:46 am

  3. Why do you think it will collapse in 10 years? Just a passed fad?

    I think it is important for people to know where their food comes from and what might be in it, and kids in urban areas have probably never seen a farm but you can’t transplant a lifestyle.

    I used to date a girl from the Ukraine and she told me, maybe in her mother’s time, about how people were forced to spend the summer working on a farm. A lot of girls got pregnant…

    I think it would be instructive for a kid to spend a month on a farm working and not playing Xbox and on their cell phone. A friend of mine did this for a month on summer in high school and he learned a lot. But I do not think these “foodie” people want that, they seem to want the result of hard work without the effort.

    Comment by Harrison — July 3, 2012 @ 9:53 am

    • I do think it’s important to know where our food comes from and how to make a good meal. However, the anxiety of city dwellers about food is not a recent phenomena (we have FDA for a reason). What’s recent is the widespread acceptance of the idea that subsistence agriculture is a superior type of social organization.
      We all went to countryside in the Ukraine “to help the collective farms”. In reality, peasants were demoralized and had no intent to work. I was 15 or 16 when my class went in summertime. My parents were regularly taken off work and ordered to go in fall. It’s a long story; maybe I’ll post about it at some point…
      I agree that working the land *can* be a valuable experience, particularly for teens. However, it shouldn’t come at the expense of teaching math, literature and sciences that are not ecology, and teaching in general should not be centered around a pumpkin patch. There is more to life than growing veggies.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — July 3, 2012 @ 1:05 pm

      • We don’t want Johnny to grow turnips but not know how to read.

        Thomas Jefferson believed America should always be an Agrarian society and George Washington was very big on gardens and of course he owned and ran a farm. There is a romanticism in America about working the land, going out west, and also moving to the big city and proving yourself. Ironically people have been casting off their agrarian roots as fast as they can… it’s grueling work.

        I heard about the semi-forced summer labor on the collective farms in the Ukraine and I wouldn’t like it. Anything I learned being a “farmer” I would certainly resent.

        There is something very sad about these dopey yuppie “foodies” who live in the ‘burbs and think they can impart the wisdom of the countryside whilst strolling the aisles of Whole Foods are browsing at the farmer’s market.

        Comment by Harrison — July 4, 2012 @ 5:33 pm

  4. “I don’t recommend arguing with sanctimonious Bay Area mommies; they are bullies and it’s generally a good idea to stay away from them.”

    You are missing out on a lot of fun, Edge. Argue with them. Tell how asinine their ideas are. Get right in their face. Then walk away with your head high. It drives them bat shit crazy. It’s fun!

    Comment by Conservatives on Fire — July 3, 2012 @ 10:13 am

    • I don’t want my children to be ostracized.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — July 3, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

      • A tight spot indeed. One does what one has to, with regard to the kids. Oh, how often I have kept my mouth shut so that the boys may continue with their play dates unabated.

        I want to hear about that help for collective farms, whenever you are ready.

        I have never actually heard or thought of the point you made regarding local growing: it is riskier than specialized growing for a larger market. Makes total sense, though.

        Weird, how day-to-day choices are driven by “fashionable” opinion that carries the weight of religious belief, nowadays.

        Comment by nooneofanyimport — July 3, 2012 @ 8:50 pm

  5. […] Harrison of Capitol Commentary mentioned that a friend of his remembers young women getting pregnant working in kolkhoz.  It’s easy to see how something like that would happen.  In our case, we were 15 and most of us still reasonably innocent.  We were housed in a dormitory with large rooms; I think there were four rooms for nearly 40 of us, and we were chaperoned by a teacher called class leader (klassnii rukovoditel).  We were begging for a disco, and it did happen, but only on the last weekend of our stay.  Mysteriously, one girl was sent home early.  But if anyone got pregnant, she didn’t carry pregnancy to term.  My mom, however, who went to kolkhoz multiple times in her youth, had all-girls assignments. […]

    Pingback by Soviet City Youth in Kolkhoz « sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue — July 8, 2012 @ 11:07 am

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