Food: New Tipping Point for a New Conversation?

A few days ago, Zachary Cohen, who blogs at Farm To Table, wrote that he believes American society has finally hit the "tipping point" when it comes to rethinking the national food system.  His entry is worth reading.

Food, of course, is much on my mind because I'm writing a history of meat in America.

And I'm inclined to agree with Zachary on this point. (Although I hasten to remind one and all that I'm writing a history of part of the food system, not an exploration/analysis of contemporary food systems.)

Think about it: a few years ago, most of the chatter about American food stemmed from things like The Food Network, celebrity chefs, and the opening of the latest grotesquely, obscenely expensive elitaurant. (*1)

But in the past year or so, it seems as though our national social chatter (for lack of a better word) has shifted away from food gloss-glitz-and-glam to, well, manure, local-versus-not, and so forth.

Yes, many expert types have been hammering at the issues of, for example, genetic modification and food irradiation for years. But the larger conversation about food --- the one taking place us ordinary, non-expert types --- has caught up with the experts.

I think we can safely credit Michael Pollan for pushing the conversation in new directions, but his books wouldn't be as popular as they are if other people weren't already interested in discussing food.

So, Twitter, for example, is chockful of a dizzying array of conversation about food from every angle, and I don't mean recipe swaps.

There are two new films ("Food, Inc." and another one whose name totally escapes me right now...).

And it feels as though a small mountain of books about various kinds of encounters with food has come tumbling out of publishing houses. (Too bad mine's not one of them, but, what can I say: research takes time. Plus, mine is historical in nature, rather than focused on current inssues).

Here's a small sample of the books that have just come out:

And those are the ones that are new. I'm leaving off a slew that have been published in the past two years. More to the point, the creators/authors of these books and films started working on their projects at least, bare minimum, two years ago and more likely three years. Which means this tipping point has deep roots (absolutely no pun intended...) (Seriously.)

Anyway, I have no real point here except that it's worth tooling around the internet/Twitter/Wherever to listen in on the conversation. I have no idea where it will lead, although I do think that the sort of "eat local or die" attitude isn't quite going to cut it.

Do people in California, for example, honestly believe that they should be allowed to eat fruit all year because the climate makes it possible, but that people in Minnesota should not be allowed to the climate won't allow it?

I think not. The issues and problems concerning our food system are far, far more complicated than a simple "eat local" solution. But enough of this rambling. Back to work, everyone!


*1: That's my invented-on-the-spot word for grotesquely, obscenely, expensive, celebrity-oriented restaurants.