Everything! Okay, not everything. That’s just shorthand, because I don’t know how to put my latest musings into words. I went to two events this week. One was a movie-dinner night at Uncommon Ground hosted by the Bioneers. The other was the annual Green City BBQ chef event. Both were revealing about the current food movement. The Bioneer event attracted an older, white crowd. The film was Food Patriots – a documentary about “patriots” finding their own solutions to counter the gross monstrosity that is industrial food. The filmmakers were very idealistic in using the film – and subsequent dialogue about it – to inspire more patriots. However, I was discouraged or perhaps cynical while looking at this mono-cultural crowd, and not seeing revolutionary patriots out there. Indeed, it was much like preaching to the choir. The crowd was not there to be enlightened; they already knew something about good food – why else would they come to this event? They were there to belong and perhaps to feel solidarity with other like-minded individuals. Worse, I could sniff an air of self-righteousness or self-importance in the room: “Aren’t we great that we are already on our way to being food patriots. I mean, look at this farm-to-table meal I am eating?”
I felt likewise disappointed at the Green City BBQ. People were willing to pay $125 to gorge themselves on the yummy creations of 80-plus chefs. Don’t get me wrong – it’s an awesome event. It raises money for a great farmer’s market and it’s brings together a very dynamic community. At best, people leave with a positive enough experience that they stay connected to the market and patronize it. At worst, it’s another gluttonous foodie event that teases people into feeling good momentarily for supporting a good cause, but then fails to deliver on the life-changing message. Again, I am perhaps jaded beyond repair. Is it enough for people to go to the farmer’s market? Will that fix all that is wrong with our food system? No, it won’t. And yet it’s a good start. As they say, vote with your dollar and I would rather have a mass of “unenlightened” people voting “yes” to small farms, and not big box grocery stores. The stronger we can make the demand for small farms, hopefully the more the market will respond. But I feel that’s not far-reaching enough to have the impact we need. Instead of just leaving the BBQ with a stuffed belly, what if people walked away with a better understanding of, say, the sham that is the farm bill. Do they know much of their tax dollars are going into farm insurance and subsidies, lining the pockets of big corporations…and very little actually going toward supporting better, healthier farming practices? The sheer ludicrousness and injustice should make us all uncomfortable with how much government and corporations are in bed together maintaining a broken system that keeps them rich. The farm bill doesn’t have the best interest of the American people in mind.
So what am I fed up with? The food movement is fractured to the point of being diluted. Consequently, it is both insular and short-sighted. It can attract like-minded people and essentially create larger choirs to which to preach. But it is still a movement for the comfortable. It’s for opinionated foodies and pretentious hippies. There are no radical revolutionaries wanting to topple regimes and to disrupt the current system by any means necessary. Am I advocating violence and anarchy? Let’s just say I want a quicker route from Point A to B, and right now the food movement is meandering!