An earnest plea not to be a jerk about strangers’ eating habits

Yay cake!
Yay cake!

I read about food a lot, partly because it’s my job, and partly because, well, I love food. And I guess also because I like feeling like an expert on something, but that’s a whole other story. In any case, in the course of all this food reading, something’s been sticking in my craw: People are really mean about what other people eat.

Full disclosure: I’m a food snob, 100%.

That out of the way, I’ve been chewing (God forgive me for all the bad puns I’ve made and will make. Amen.) over why this bothers me, and I think I honed in on it. It comes from a place where we–media types, foodies, lifestyle gurus, dietary evangelists–have such a ridiculous surplus of food that we’ve mostly completely forgotten that that’s not the case for everyone. So we condemn people who buy GMO produce (thereby supporting Monsanto), ignoring that GMO crops have helped food-deprived regions of the world. We don’t understand why poor people are obese when dried beans are so cheap, so healthy, and so available in the Whole Foods bulk bins. Sometimes, we tell people that the reason they’re so, I don’t know, constipated and acne-ridden is because of gluten, or that, sheesh, don’t they know that if they cut out dairy or carbs, they’d lose 15 pounds and their feet would smell better?

I’m not saying we should stop investigating how our food is produced or how it affects our bodies, but I’m saying that maybe we should take some of the onus off of consumers, many of whom are literally just trying to eat. That whole sustenance thing.

Taking things a step further, I do wonder if the sudden uptick in food sensitivities is related to this onslaught of information and gentle scolding of how we can take better care of our bodies if only we ate organic lentils every day. For a lot of people, eating is a fraught event. For a lot of women, we not only have to eat well, we have to eat indulgently and sensually, all without gaining a pound. Identifying a problem food must feel like a way to keep things under control.

And the only reason I care, the only reason I’m writing this post, is because food brings me such happiness. It’s more than sustenance, it’s a celebration! (I did a little dance while eating flatbread tonight.) I just hate that so many people are excluded from this happy-fun-time feeling, either because they don’t have the same kind of access to the same variety that I do, nor, possibly, to the equipment to cook like I do, or because they’ve been so beaten down by the notion that what they’re eating is wrong, or that good food is something only for those who can afford to shop at Whole Foods.

I don’t have an answer. Maybe just be a little nicer? Hand out portions of freekeh-lentil-coconut milk casserole on street corners? Stand in front of Olive Garden giving people knobby, organic, farmers market carrots as they walk in? Probably just go eat your favorite food to remind yourself what it’s all about. Do a little dance even. I promise, though, making people feel like shit is not the way to shut down Monsanto.