Here, in one post, is what's wrong with the food movement. I so want to be a full movement participant, but things like this keep pushing me away.
On Bitten, Edward Schneider extols the deliciousness of - wait for it - raw pork. But not just any raw pork - "honestly raised, wonderful, full-flavored pork." It is his belief - albeit not, he admits, one founded on science - that pork can be eaten raw so long as the pig in question was either a) happy, or b) European. While in Italy, he had some raw-pork sausage and lived to tell about it. Says Schneider:
Now, when I described this to a friend, she kindly said that I seemed like a sane man and wondered whether I would worry about eating raw pork. Sure, I’d worry about eating some raw pork, but not the raw — though slightly, minimally cured — pork they fed me in Italy or the raw pork in my own house. I am, very obviously to anyone who knows me, not a scientist of any description; I just cook. And I cook based largely on precedent, tradition and my own experience.Where to begin?
Precedent and tradition are in favor of eating this raw sausage (neither restaurant that served it to us was blazing any kind of gastronomic trail; quite the contrary), but prudence dictates some personal context as well, and the pork I use comes from a New York state farm that Jackie and I have visited and whose pigs (and owners) we have met. And my gut feeling is that pork from that source is as safe to eat in any state of doneness as the pork we were served in Italy and which gave rise to no illness.
First, we need to get past the notion that food-borne illness is unique to modern times and to processed foods, industrial agriculture, etc. People have been saying, 'Must've been something I ate' since the dawn of time. While industrialization leads to some dangers, it prevents others - apparently in the case of the all-mighty pig, an animal raised in a way that gets the food-movement seal of approval is also one less safe to eat raw. Should dangers in the way food today is produced be exposed and corrected? Yes. But that shouldn't mean assuming all foods eaten by our or someone else's distant ancestors were inherently safe. That people in some locale have eaten something for years reveals only that it didn't kill off enough of these people prior to reproductive age to off that community altogether. "Precedent and tradition" are in favor of all kinds of behaviors that do not contribute to contemporary ideals of reaching 100 with minimal physical discomfort along the way. If someone wants to reject what they consider bourgeois/American/unaesthetic modern-day ideas of Health and live off raw-milk cheese and raw oysters, more power to them, but that's not what Schneider - or the food movement more broadly - is about.
Next, we need to get past the idea that food is better because it was consumed in Europe. One gets the sense that if Schneider had been offered a local Kentucky specialty called Raw-Pork Breakfast Links, rather than "salsiccia cruda" served "at the trattoria Antiche Sere (9 via Cenischia, Turin; +39 011 385 4347), where the nice-weather dining room out back was over-canopied with grape vines, and where for part of the evening the electricity repeatedly and somehow charmingly gave out," he might not have dug in with such gusto.
If the food movement finds itself accused of snootiness, it could be because of the way too many of its members evoke Europe as this magical place where nobody snacks between meals, worries about their weight, or eats food that came from a plastic package. Or if such phenomena exist, then it's the fault of the US.
But while no doubt some American companies - and European imitations thereof - have contributed to food-related mess in the US and abroad, encouraging American self-flagellation ignores the (diverse) realities of how Europeans actually eat and, more to the point, suggests to those not yet convinced that there's a problem with how we (Americans, but not only) eat that the movement is not about health, the environment, or even pleasure, so much as about a certain set of upper-class pretensions. Food-based Europhilia is not in itself nonsense - with the exception of certain whole-wheat rolls in the Netherlands, the bread really is better on this continent - 20 (euro) cent supermarket white-flour rolls even here are better than that from New York's finest bakeries. I can't figure out why. But the food movement in America should not depend on Europhilia, any more than it should on nostalgia or on a love of nature.