I jokingly Tweeted that no one in the food world appears among Time’s candidates for “person of the year,” but when followers started asking who I thought should be I realized it wasn’t funny. I’d been obtusely mocking the silliness that has broken out over the holiday windows at Barneys, with some in the food coven upset that other old legends are not honored with a severed head on display. But why shouldn’t Michael Pollan be considered for the cover? (Aside, of course, from the fact that his last book came out early in the year and fame now lasts 15 seconds on the teevee.) Or why not Mrs. O, who really has stirred up the organic hornets’ nest by going all Jamie Oliver on America’s ass rather than sitting in the White House and smoking and reading as her predecessor did? But maybe the best choice, given Time’s contrarian bent and its inclusion of the Wasilla Snowbilly on the ballot now, would be the greedy fuck responsible for the recall of more than 380 million filthy eggs. Did anyone else in 2010 do as much to raise consciousness of a broken food chain?
And speaking of Pollan, I was underwhelmed by Newsweek’s clumsy take on food as a class issue. But I have been paraphrasing him nonstop since reading it: In this country, wealthy farmers grow cheap food for the poor, while poor farmers grow pricey food for the rich. Of course the story is more complicated than that, so I was glad to see dueling pieces in two newspapers on one Sunday on food as the new culture war. The first, in the hometown daily, took the long view, from the ivory tower, and concluded we just have to submit to the market’s power. Smoking, after all, was wiped out organically, her expert insists — apparently having forgotten the whole Joe Camel push-back to stop marketing targeted at kids. The second essay was much more persuasive because the authors are actually putting their money where their mouths are, having moved to one of the most nutritionally hopeless cities in America and started cooking and eating well, with dinner for less than the price of a McRib even with ingredients from those hopelessly elitist, ridiculously expensive farmers’ markets. Getting a book out of it is smart, too, because I’ll go to the crematorium wondering how Big Food persuaded so many that cheap garbage is a birthright. Maybe they should call it “Stupefy Me.”