Dreaming of Alice Waters, Anthony Bourdain and Slow Food

Posted by on Jan 26

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I've been patiently reading and listening to the debate surrounding Alice Waters' letter to Obama, encouraging him to further the cause of "slow food," but now it's time to ask a question of my own.

How exactly has Ms. Waters become as polarizing as a head of overpriced Whole Foods arugula? You may believe that her Chez Panisse is inaccessible, overpriced and reserved for wealthy "poseurs". You may believe that it's inappropriate to be talking about food when there's a global economic meltdown in full swing. And you may believe that Ms. Waters is hypocritical for supporting "slow food" while at the same time hosting "intimate" dinners for 200 with imported food and imported chefs.

All fair points, no doubt. But the issue at stake is not to be trivialized. Ms. Waters and the "slow food" movement aim to take on nothing less than our entire food supply chain. What may appear to be a simple letter advocating for a token gesture -- that of an organic garden on the grounds of the White House -- is clearly a Trojan Horse. Were President Obama to take this first step, perhaps raising awareness of a critical issue, he could set the stage for a conversation on healthy foods in school, childhood obesity and, perhaps the mother of all issues, health care.

Presidents are used to juggling multiple issues at one time, are used to attacking complex issues in a step-by-step manner, and are certainly aware of how seemingly trivial, personal actions can influence national awareness and debate.

So when Anthony Bourdain, perhaps the most public of Ms. Waters' detractors, states that "I'm not crazy about our obsession with corn or ethanol and all, but I'm a little uncomfortable with legislating good eating habits", it's time to take a stand. Mr. Bourdain, do you not see that for generations we have already been legislating eating habits? And that those habits are BAD habits? And do you not see that a colleague of yours is attempting to stand up with fellow industry members to END these practices?

If you don't like the messenger, fine, but to retain your reputation as a loudmouth by taking potshots at someone who is trying to do something constructive --- well, I can't support you in that. But I will at least reference this editorial, which I did appreciate.

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