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Keep your self-righteous fingers off my processed food

By demanding we all pay more to fund their agendas in these harsh economic times, foodie snobs and lefty social critics may as well tell us to eat artisanal cake.

August 30, 2009|Charlotte Allen and Charlotte Allen is the author of "The Human Christ: The Search for the Historical Jesus" and a contributing editor to the Minding the Campus website of the Manhattan Institute.

Echoing Waters was her fellow Berkeley food guru, Michael Pollan, professor of science journalism (a hot field for social critics, obviously) at UC Berkeley. Pollan (no relation to Robert Pollin) is the author of the best-selling "Omnivore's Dilemma" and coiner of the mantra "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants" that is on the lips of every foodie from Bainbridge Island to Martha's Vineyard. Pollan too rejoiced at the idea of skyrocketing prices for groceries, hoping they might "level the playing field for sustainable food that doesn't rely on fossil fuels."

Pollan also hoped that rising prices might constitute another weapon in his ongoing war against his agribusiness villain of choice: corn. Corn is a plant, of course, and thus should theoretically rank high on Pollan's list of permissible edibles. But it is also the basis of such dubious items as snack chips, Coca-Cola (high-fructose corn syrup, godfather of obesity) and suspiciously plentiful beef (corn-fed).

Pollan is a "locavore," one of those people who believe that in order to be truly ethical, you should eat only foods grown or killed within your line of sight (for me, that would be my neighbor's cat). He once described a meal he made consisting of a wild boar shot by him in the hills near his Bay Area home and laboriously turned into pate, plus bread leavened by yeast spores foraged from his backyard.

Lately, Pollan has set his sights on Haagen-Dazs ice cream, not because it contains corn syrup (it doesn't) but because it's a commercially made product, and if there's one thing Pollan hates, it's commerce. His latest pronunciamento: "Don't buy any food you've ever seen advertised."

Demanding that other people impoverish themselves, especially these days, in the name of your pet cause -- fostering craftsmanship, feeling "connected" to the land, "living more lightly on the planet" or whatever -- goes way beyond Marie Antoinette saying "let them eat cake." It's more like Marie Antoinette dressing up in her shepherdess costume and holding court in a fake rustic cottage at the Petit Trianon.

Those who think that there is something wrong with owning more than two pairs of sneakers or that exquisite fastidiousness about what you put into your mouth equals virtue need to be tele-transported back to, say, the Depression itself, when privation was in earnest and few people had telephones, much less cellphones. Read some 1930s memoirs: Back then, people who couldn't afford "quality" furniture slept on mattresses on the floor and hammered together makeshift tables out of orange crates. They went barefoot during the summer and sewed their children's clothes out of (non-organic) flour sacks. That was what "cheap" meant then -- not today's plethora of affordable goods that the social critics would like to take away from us.

Meanwhile, Professor Pollan, eat all the "plants" you like -- but don't try to pry me from my Haagen-Dazs dark chocolate ice cream. I bought it at Safeway, and it's sitting on my IKEA kitchen table.

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