Food and Class in Newsweek

24 Nov

These are a few of my favorite things: good food, Francophilia and social justice. This evening I happened to pick up the latest issue of Newsweek magazine with this great cover story: “The Dinner Divide. How Our Foodie Obsession is Driving Americans Apart” The topic: the growing divide between the rich and the poor in the United States and how access to quality, nutritious food is becoming the newest status symbol. Food with simple carbohydrates like white sugars are often cheaper than more nutritious food like fresh produce.

The article doens’t comdemn the foodie as much as the title would suggest. (Good news for those among us who, like me, dream of someday putting a chicken coop, organic vegetable garden and mini orchard in their backyard) In fact, it champions the locavore movement. It simply points out the phenomenon-referencing of course the Messiah of local food Michael Pollan.

The article references French sociologist Claude Fischler, who comments on the differences between French and American food habits. She says,

“When asked “What is eating well?” Americans generally answer in the language of daily allowances: they talk about calories and carbs, fats, and sugars. They don’t see eating as a social activity, and they don’t see food—as it has been seen for millennia—as a shared resource, like a loaf of bread passed around the table. When asked “What is eating well?” the French inevitably answer in terms of “conviviality”: togetherness, intimacy, and good tastes unfolding in a predictable way”

I love this. Even more interesting,

“Even more idiosyncratic than our obsession with nutrition, says Fischler, is that Americans see food choice as a matter of personal freedom, an inalienable right. Americans want to eat what they want: morels or Big Macs. They want to eat where they want, in the car or alfresco. And they want to eat when they want. With the exception of Thanksgiving, when most of us dine off the same turkey menu, we are food libertarians. In surveys, Fischler has found no single time of day (or night) when Americans predictably sit together and eat. By contrast, 54 percent of the French dine at 12:30 each day. Only 9.5 percent of the French are obese,”

There is some nutritional-anthropology for you (what a lovely combination of ingredients that is!)

Okay, so examining French eating habits may not seem like the most practical way to address the issues of poverty and nutrition in the United States (I haven’t even started on food deserts!) It does provide some perspective on the issue though. For a broader look at the issue, take a look at the rest of the article. This issue fascinates me. I’ve been meaning to read Michael Pollan’s, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I may just have to do that sooner rather than later.

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One Response to “Food and Class in Newsweek”

  1. acleansurface January 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    My father is reading that book now. I am hoping to borrow it when he is finished.

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