I feel like Jonathan Safran Foer is stalking me. OK, maybe not the actual guy—he’s got a beautiful, ridiculously talented wife, some kiddos, and a new best-selling book called Eating Animals, which Natalie Portman says made her go vegan, so no, he’s not actually stalking me. But I feel like he is, in the same way that I feel like Michael Pollan (who penned The Omnivore’s Dilemma) is, in the same way I feel like Robert Kenner (who made the film “Food Inc.”) is, in the same way that I feel like Barbara Kingsolver (who wrote Animal, Vegetable, Miracle) is. They’ve all created what I hear are persuasive, fascinating, and sometimes terrifying books and films about food that will inevitably change the way I think about every little thing I put in my mouth forevermore. But honestly, I just don’t want to hear it.
I don’t know about you, but I feel like the last year or two has constituted one long, breaking story about the latest and grossest in food news. Apparently, bananas and tuna are going extinct or something? And what the hell is rennet? And why does everyone seem dead set on ruining my capacity to enjoy a good ol’ American cheeseburger?
Here’s the thing: I’m usually the one making other people feel guilty about their daily practices. I make my friends donate to my favorite nonprofits and force them to read totally depressing Mother Jones articles and stop perfectly enjoyable conversations at bars with statistics. Did you know that the richest two percent of the world own half of the world’s wealth?! Yeah, I’m that girl.
And here’s another thing: I don’t even like meat that much. I don’t eat that much of it. In fact, my friend’s mom thought I was a vegetarian simply because I didn’t eat ham, lamb, and prime rib at her super meaty Thanksgiving dinner. I actually like tofu and other foods that have the consistency of sponges.
So why do I continue to plug my ears, close my eyes, and sing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in an effort to not hear all the important information that’s out there about how our food makes it to our plates? Because I know that the moment I start reading these books, the moment I start watching these films, is the moment when my blissfully uncomplicated relationship with food ends.
I like that I can grab a grilled cheese at a diner and not think about the stomach mucous therein. (OK, I had to at least look rennet up because I heard someone talking about it at a dinner party and it sounded so preposterous. I promptly blocked it out.) I like that I can sit down at my super Midwestern Christmas dinner and grub on some honey baked ham without wondering where the pig was raised. And I like that I can forgo the really expensive, organic strawberries because I don’t know how the pesticides on the regular ones are seriously harming my chances to reproduce someday.
Once I know, I’ll have to act, and I’m just not sure I’m ready to be accountable.
I used to walk around with this willful ignorance as my guilty secret, but lately I’ve been admitting it to a select few. And you know what? I found out there are others like me, including my hippie mom who loves to garden and lives in Santa Fe. I mean, if the woman who grinds up flax seed and pours it on her breakfast cereal every morning is avoiding all this information too, who knows how many more of us are out there!
In any case, I know it’s just a matter of time. My friend Miriam just loaned me a small library of food politics books. She cans her own vegetables and only eats food from farmers’ markets. Before long, I’ll be one of them too. As I should be, I suppose. But promise me something—if I start using words like “flexitarian” and walking 10 miles out of the way just to pay an assload for an organic plum, slap me with a ham hock and shove a salami in my grill, OK?