Wednesday, September 08, 2010

James and the Giant-Priced Peach

James McWilliams discusses the notion of expensive farmers' market, organic food and whether junk food is actually cheaper than non-junk food - in a sense, "fair-price" (for the growers, anyway) in the food section today's Atlantic Magazine website. Michael Pollan and Alice Waters have spoken passionately about expensive food that you just don't buy as much of, like a $3.90 peach or an $8 dozen of eggs. Famous and not-so-famous food writers (Can I still call them foodies? Ooooh please let me call them foodies!) have taken them to the woodshed. I mean, really called for their heads. From McWilliams' article:

Anthony Bourdain, who dedicates a full chapter of his latest book, Medium Raw, to attacking Waters's airy idealism, scoffs at the idea that people should be willing to spend more on food: "She annoys the living shit out of me. We're all in the middle of a recession, like we're all going to start buying expensive organic food and running to the green market." Jason Sheehan, author of Cooking Dirty, is even less restrained in his assessment of Pollan. Admitting that Pollan is "damnably right about a lot of things," he can't quite stomach that pricy peach. "When you've been too broke to buy soup," he writes, "some iconoclastic dickhead trying to tell you that paying $4 for a peach is a good idea because it is a really good peach can be the kind of thing that makes you want to buy a rifle and a map to the homes of famous food writers." (Dude, it's just a peach ...)

So, yeah, folks are angry.

That rifle thing is just disturbing.

Granted, a Bourdain rant is a lot more common than that $4 peach, just as juicy, and a bit more tiring. But McWilliams actually speaks up for Pollan and Waters. Mind you, he disagrees with much of what they say. But here he suggests they have a point: namely that cheap crap food is lamentable and yet seen all too often. But McWilliams points out something even more surprising: it isn't just crap food that has gotten cheaper over the past 30 years - it's also the healthy stuff. But people are still choosing the Tastykakes over the apples. Hmmm...

Check out the comments. Those are particularly interesting.