Shark-Fu has a great post over at Feministing about a 60 Minutes interview with Alice Waters, “the mother of slow food.” Overall, the interview is quite good, save a little of the expected obesity epidemic blathering, and the following. When Waters is asked about the often exorbitant price of organic food, she responds:
We make decisions everyday about what we’re going to eat… And some people want to buy Nike shoes – two pairs, and other people want to eat Bronx grapes, and nourish themselves. I pay a little extra, but this is what I want to do.
When I started teaching life skill classes at a transitional housing shelter for homeless pregnant teens in St. Louis Missouri, I quickly realized that many of my students could teach a master class on making a dollar stretch. A good place to witness their resourcefulness was in the kitchen – trust me, making $160 in food assistance last a month takes serious skill.
With the help of a nutritionist residents came up with quick, healthy and affordable meals that could be frozen and heated up later. They eventually put all their recipes together in a cookbook that I still use today.
What they didn’t do was weigh their nutrition against the joy of shoe shopping.
Shark-Fu focuses on the blatant class aspect here (“Promoting healthy food is a must-try recipe, but folks should skip that extra tablespoon of privilege if they want it to nourish the masses”), but I also want to make explicit what she only implies: that the “two pairs of Nikes” thing is racist, as well as classist bullshit. “Poor white people spend all their money on fancy gym shoes instead of bills and nutritious food” is not a big meme among right wing assholes. Poor black people, on the other hand? Hey, that sounds familiar.
My point isn’t to trash Waters, who — as Shark-Fu also points out — does a lot of good work trying to increase the availability of fresh, nutritious food for everyone. But that statement had more than one extra tablespoon of privilege in the mix, and that’s without even getting into the idea that people are choosing not to “nourish themselves” properly, a thought process that almost inevitably leads to “people choose to be fat.” Man, I hate articles like this, where someone is saying so many good things, then blows it with something completely ignorant. Sigh.