Commenting on Alice Waters

There's a really good commenters' thread going over at Serious Eats on the 60 Minutes Alice Waters interview. Reactions range from this:

I appreciate her message, her commitment, etc. But one of the things that bugs me about her, whenever she addresses the cost- and time-prohibitive nature of living this way, she brushes it off: it's incredibly fast, and people make decisions all the time about how to spend their money. "People buy very expensive shoes," she told Lesley Stahl. True, some people do. Some people do that. Other people have cheap shoes, very little luxury, and variable access. There are, for example, poor people in Wisconsin, where they can't get fresh local tomatoes and spinach and asparagus for reasonable prices, or at all, because of their economic situation, their transportation situation, the climate here in the midwest. My point is, I just feel like while she certainly tries to understand class issues, she just doesn't get it.

To this:

When presented with arguments for eating food that is organic, local, unprocessed, etc., a lot people seem to get so defensive, as though they interpret her saying 'It would be better to eat locally grown, organic food' as 'You had better do things just like I do, or your wrong, and lazy.'

Of course it's not possible for most people to do things just like she does, but there are ways to make an effort, and with a little planning, eat much better without sacrificing very much money or time.

If you have the time and space to have a small vegetable patch in the garden, that's great. But she's not vilifying people who don't.

Of our own commenters, one points out that by cooking an egg over a roaring fire instead of in a pot, Waters may have expanded her carbon footprint considerably.

Obviously, if you love good cooking and care about health and the environment, there's nothing objectionable in what Waters is saying. On the other hand, the way that she says it sometimes makes me cringe--and it does make her seem out of touch. You can't just brush off the issue of the higher cost of organic, local food with the comment that "some people buy Nike shoes." Maybe we should talk about how to get fresh, affordably priced produce into bodegas instead.

In the end, it was a missed opportunity for Leslie Stahl to really push Waters to answer and address the class issues that are raised here. A more vigorous, less fluffy interview would have better served the cause of good, healthy food, in the end.

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