I mentioned in an earlier post that one of the things needed in our discussions about contemporary foodism is more careful attention to basic logic. Related to this is the careless use of certain terms that are not defined as they ought to be, and are not used consistently thereafter.
Whenever we are beat up with jargon, we don’t really learn what the debate is actually over. If someone were stridently opposed to what I am willing to put into my mouth, and I asked him why, we are not going to get very far if his objection is that my food is made up of molecules. So is his food, and so now what do we do?
When someone objects to “chemical additives” but loudly applauds “nutritional supplements,” we should be forgiven if we believe that some obfuscatory handwaving is going on. Now, please note that I am not saying that all chemical additives are good or that all nutritional supplements are bad. I am saying that, so far as our definitions have gone, they are the same thing, some of them good and some of them bad. Nothing is bad because a factory put it in a bottle, and nothing is good for the same reason.
Discussions on this subject are plagued with this kind of thing. Objections are commonly made, for example, to the fact that the shelves of our grocery stores are stocked by “food corporations.” Okay. Who stocks the shelves at Whole Foods? No corporations, I hope? No big business, I trust? And I sincerely hope that no money changes hands.
And who stocks the mini-Whole Foods tucked away inside a Safeway near you? Not corporate entities with a budget anything over a million a year, let us hope? For, as we all know, that kind of thing would be inherently corrupting.
When I hear people discussing this kind of thing, I frequently hear words used disparagingly of one kind of food, or in praise of another kind, and for all I can make out, the words apply in equal measure and in the same ways to both alternative. This bacon cheeseburger is full of molecules.
This is not to say that there are no real differences in food choices — there is, and we will get to that in subsequent posts — but rather that in popular discussions, a good portion of the energy is spent on scrambling for a right to use the good words for oneself, and the bad words on the eating habits of the other side. This is like one presidential candidate saying that his opponent would be a disaster for the nation because he stands behind wood lecturns at debates, with this salient point being made from behind a wood lecturn at a debate. No, it is not like that, because if this happened at a presidential debate, everyone would be howling with laughter. When it happens (as it does, all the time) on the subject of natural food, everybody just sits there, solemn as a judge. Chemicals? Really?
“Food corporations” — so is natural and organic farming big business or not? “Factories” — do those green and healthy-looking tortilla chips make themselves? “Pills” — but only pills with chemicals in them are bad and those with nutrients in them are good. Glad that’s settled. “Factory farming” — when the demand for real healthy milk gets up to the gazillion-dollar-a-year level, which should be any day now, I will be really interested to visit the dairy farms that will no doubt be right there to meet this demand, and to take careful note of the ways in which such operations do not resemble factory farming. “Health food” — a bit like one Christian saying that he attends a “Spirit-filled church,” wondering what kind you attend.
These are words that are being used to obscure. Scripture requires equal weights and measures. If one side gets corporations, then so does the other. If one side doesn’t get to have them, then the other side can’t either.
And if I may make an important point in passing, if anyone seriously thinks that by going natural, he will be escaping the Establishment, finally getting away from “the Man” and from the clutches of the food corporations, I have a bit of bad news. The corporations are way ahead of you. There are high-powered boards sitting around half-an-acre mahogany tables on the 33rd floor of skyscrapers in New York City, and they are meeting right this minute, and they are making decisions on the marketing of the Ponderosa Pine bark chips, lightly salted. If you slice them thin enough, they approach being edible. We are long past the point where the money involved in all this caught the attention of the “food corporations.” The Man knows all about you and your penchant for dinners that are synchronized with the rhythms of the earth. The Man likes your penchants, and he is there to serve them.
A fancy resort hotel a bit north of us here offers their rich clientele botox treatments on a walk-in basis. Now let us assume we have got ourselves four fake-baked platinum blonde types with eight silicon implants between them, and “the girls” decide to all go in for some of the available botox treatments, and so they make a party of it. That important task accomplished, they all decide to go out for lunch. We follow them to an up-scale fern bistro to see what they are having. Now I have twenty dollars here that says all four of them order a salad with twigs in it because eating “natural” is important to them. Now am I the only one in the world who thinks that there is something in our culture’s approach to “all natural” that is seriously demented?
Now please note. I am not saying that everyone who wants to “eat healthy” is motivated this way, or is “seriously demented.” Of course not. If you live in Boulder, CO or Santa Cruz, CA, and you want to stay alive, you pretty much have to eat this way — yogi fogi or nothing. But I am saying that the fact that a lot of this kind of faddishness-on-plate is largely invisible to a large number of people means something, and that something is not good.
Okay, to sum up. We are choosing (generally) between two different styles of lifestyle eating. Both involve manufactured and processed foods that have passed through factories, and they all have chemicals in them. All the factories are owned by corporations. What do we do now?