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the cost of food.

i have a thing for airline magazines.

i love them.

unabashedly, i love them.

and i always leave the plane with one.

the writing is good and funny and among the smartest out there.

and the subjects range from travel (obv) to brain development to the life of a bee.

when i traveled this past monday i plopped in my seat and immediately reached for Hemispheres (united's magazine).

and it didn't disappoint. in fact, the question and answer with alice waters is among one of my greatest magazine reads to date.

who is alice waters? well, let me just quote the article's author, david carr:

Even if you've never had the pleasure of eating at Chez Panisse, Alice Waters' remarkable restaurant in Berkeley, Calif., you have likely dined at a table that she has indirectly set. when your grocery store stocks a legit organic produce section, you have Waters to thank. When the waiter at your local bistro goes on and on about how local and fresh the ingredients for the day's special are, he is channeling Waters' philosophy. And when a dish arrives at your table glorious in its simplicity and unadorned by all manner of highfalutin, ego-driven flourishes, Waters can take a bow. 

essentially waters is the godmother (someone else's term, can't take credit for that) of the organic food movement. one of the most influential activists promoting local foods for the health of the environment, the economy, and the each person eating them (us).

and of all the interview what follows is the thing that struck me most--the thing that had me folding over the page, knowing i'd blog about it later in the week.

Hemispheres: What is the one thing we don't understand about food.

Waters: That it's precious. We need to pay for it. We need to pay for the food and pay the people who produce it. That's profound and terribly important. We still think we can get it for free. And you know, it's that idea that we have been indoctrinated to believe, that food should be fast, cheap and easy. And it's really that kind of thinking that is destroying the world. 

so, i have one less glass of champagne this week or look for a cheaper apartment or pass on a pair of shoes so i can afford to pay for local produce and raw almond butter?

yup, i'm okay with that.

because by paying more for the good stuff now i'm helping to create a market for it.

honestly, it's my belief that because i can afford to pay for the local produce, the healthy stuff, the unprocessed food it's my moral obligation to do so. because my doing so will help one day make the good stuff more affordable for everyone (or God help me, i hope so).

illustration by jeffrey decoster


Danielle said...

I totally agree, I find the extra money to buy local produce, to go to a farmer's market - if we don't use it, it may be taken away. And that would be awful. These people have worked damn hard to grow and deliver all of this food, and they should be reaping profits, not huge superstores with jars and jars of additives and chemicals.

However I do accept that if I couldn't afford it, the decision to buy local would be more difficult, which is a huge shame.

megan said...

david carr is amazing. if you haven't seen "page one: inside the new york times," you must. :)

Tucker said...

alice is my hero. i dream to one day dine at chez panisse.

food is the one thing i will not go frugal on, especially when it's local or organic... or best, both. and i couldn't agree more with her - that this cheap,fast, easy way of getting our food spills into all sorts of other areas in our life too, if we let it.

thanks for bringing me some alice to my day Meg!

Katie said...

Love Alice Waters and so agree!

Sonja said...

First of all, what airlines do you take!? Why are the magazines on the ones I take always so bad!? They only have the little in-air shopping list thing. grrr.

As for that quote...so so so incredibly true, and I feel like when I do think about how much I'm paying , and choose better quality, I eat better, a more normal portion, and feel better, whereas when I shove crappy cheap fast food in my mouth I only feel good for those very few seconds.

I need to remember this more often.

forward [e]motion said...

great post!

i completely agree and i feel that paying a bit more for food that has been produced with care for human health AND soil health makes a lot of sense.

for such a long time, farmers have been the ones bearing the weight of economic hardship, when they are doing such beautiful and vital and life-giving work!

it not only makes sense to pay a bit more so that farmers can earn a right livelihood and keep doing what they do best, but it it could be thought of as an investment in good health! i watched such a brilliant doco recently called Food Matters and it went into detail about how food is such an important healer and preventative measure against ill-health (obvious, i know, but something that is often overlooked)

...and we probably don't need to buy as much if we are choosing the organic options as these are packed with way more nutrients than their conventional counterparts. huzzah to that!

bel. x

Laura C said...

Amen. It's so true. I'm really bad at scrimping on my grocery bills because I can't justify putting back the "real food" in order to pay for something else just because it's cheaper.

And if you really think about it, when we spend the money to feed our bodies well, we'll hopefully save on some of the hospital bills later...right?

Brittan said...

i could not agree more! i get so much criticism for the way i eat and people are always using the cost of it in their argument. yes, i'll pay $2 for a giant, ripe avocado that will stretch over three meals. how is that worse than a $5 burger for lunch? it makes no sense. lately it's become important to me to go to the local farmers market. i love exchanging cash for a basket of berries that's handed to me by the person who grew them.

jorjiapeach said...

yes. so worth it. hard, indeed. especially in a culture centered around convenience. but we must.

Louise said...

This is a really good post Meg. I'll def check out Alice Water's bio and the full article. Thanks so much. Louise x

ag. said...

I love airline magazines, too! Why do all the best articles seem to end up in there?!

I definitely don't mind paying more for some foods...it's all about the balance!

the soft soled said...

So true and obligation is the perfect way to put it. Sometimes it's rough (like when I want new shoes) but then I realize that since I can I should and have to for those who can't so it becomes natural for healthy food to be found everywhere.

Thanks for posting the article! It's so interesting! Also I have to ask, did you really do lolla all by yourself?? that is so impressive!!!

Jenny said...

I am on day 9 of my new organic, whole foods lifestyle and my only compaint so far has been the price of food. Thank you for putting that into perspective for me.

The Lewicutt's est 2006 said...

I recently took a picture of a sign in Publix and posted it on my facebook because it made me so happy.

"We apologize for the inconvenience. Due to increased demand, organic eggs are in short supply throughout the nation"

We're getting there! Woot!

iheartkiwi said...

Amen lady! You have to be willing to pay for quality food and produce.

I just read The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz and he has some great stories about his time at Chez Panisse with Alice Waters :)

Anonymous said...

I completely agree. Quality food is so important. To our health, to the environment...

Nikki said...

Completely agree with this!

And funny you should blog about food today, because I just happened to come across this article today:


Pretty sad stuff!

Lola said...

I live down the street from Chez Panisse! (But as a poor college student, I'll likely never dine there.)

As an environment engineering student, we learn so much about the connection between society and environment and how we positively/negatively affect each other. It's really interesting because I've had soil professors who DON'T support the way organic produce is farmed, but place so much importance on not separating ourselves from nature and where our food/resources come from and would rather we eat LOCALLY (and therefore, in-season) rather than organically. One of my hydrology professors even made us end-of-the-semester carrot muffins from his backyard carrots!

There's so really interesting documentaries streaming on Netflix about this subject. I watched one the other day that featured Alice Waters, but I can't remember the name right now. :/

Anait said...

This is such a great post, Meg, and I completely agree. I actually enjoy spending more money on better produce because the experience becomes more rewarding...and then cooking and eating that food seems more luxurious, more enjoyable. And raw almond butter?? I"ll buy that ANY DAY (where do you get yours??)

Kate said...

Where I'm from local produce means ears of corn, watermelon, etc out of the back of a pickup truck in the parking lot of an abandoned gas station. I actually like it this way, though. You can see and talk to the people who are benefiting from your purchase. Plus it feels more authentic and I swear the food is always better.

Jennifer said...

My cousin goes to one of these schools! It rocks. He's 12 years old and he thinks about what he eats, but in the right way, and it's a total reflex. Anecdotal evidence, maybe, but I'm such a believer!!

Ana Magdalena said...

I so agree with this and believe that you saving more by having less money for other things but food.

food should be sacred, eating everything organic will impact one's health in a positive way, therefore saving you "on the long term" from unnecessary medical expenses and so on.

Viva the healthy food!

Red Boots said...

I do agree with you Meg, I do. I don't eat meat or fish because a lot of what you see in the shop is so grossly underpriced. Meat and fish shouldn't be cheap, and it's only cheap because of how animals are intensively reared and then pumped full of water and chemicals. Fish is cheap because of how they trawl the seabed, taking everything with it.

With regards to vegetables we are lucky to have a garden and try to grow our own vegetables. However we still have to use the supermarket, especially more so in winter, and with the cost of living going up and up and our wages not going up, feeding the two of us (soon to be three of us) on our budget gets harder and harder. And that means sometimes having to compromise on food quality because there are fewer and fewer areas of our lives to cut back on. In an ideal world I would only ever buy organic local produce and fully support the idea but in the real world, sat alongside competing and conflicting demands, it's not often the most practical.

Kaylan said...

totally agree with this philosophy! think i'll pass on some shoes and champagne, too (don't think my apartment can get any smaller)!!

you're inspiring, lady - just like ms. waters!

rebecca said...

it's an investment in your future health!

Mandee lost her individuality. said...

as an organic farmer, I am now officially in love with this woman.

we're trying hard to keep it organic but because of low demand and a lack of profits (seriously - so hard to stay organic) we're debating whether we should use fertilizer. So please, keep buying organic!

sandy said...

ooh, that is a fascinating thought about being morally obligated to help change the food-world, if you can. i can afford to eat healthy, local food, and i do. but i often feel guilty about it, like i'm wasting money i should be saving. and then i have to stop and remind myself that it's okay to be kind to my body. it will help me to remember that i'm also being kind to other people that want access to this kind of food (and maybe lessening the cost of it for my future self, too). thanks.