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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Agri-Hogs

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Mar 2, 2007 7:45PM

2007_03_slim.jpgIt looks like the Tribune has more than just money and stockholder problems these days. Glommed from the Reader's Food Chain blog yesterday is this article about the politics of modern eating. In her attempt at writing a humorous piece (vegetarians are acid casualties with their own bad eating habits, haven't heard that before), Emily Nunn comes across instead as obstinate toward and proudly ignorant of what we would know about where our food comes from if we only PAID ATTENTION TO THE WORLD AROUND US!!! Essentially, Ms. Nunn gives voice to the person whose idea of a moral food dilemma is deciding on a Diet Coke to wash down that blue cheese-smothered black angus burger.

The kicker comes about eleven paragraphs in, when Ms. Nunn traces the current climate of "food fear and loathing" to Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. The former is a book she admits that she's never read, nor has any intention of doing so. The latter she gleefully writes "seems impractical to somebody like me, which is to say someone too cynical and lazy to do anything but read a few really interesting chapters then skim the rest because it didn't really seem to have all that many answers for the mainstream population, now less popularly known as 'poor people.'" As long as you're comfortable with that, Ms. Nunn, then by all means, play to your strengths. The Reader's Martha Bayne thinks that the Tribune might have a new book critic in their ranks.

That aside, this could have been an opportunity for Ms. Nunn to encourage the reader to give more thought about agricultural sustainability, where we get our food, and how that food may affect our health. Instead, we get a story in which the author can't be bothered to look up some basic facts for herself, which sometimes can be as simple as reading the ingredients on a label, all thinly cloaked as "satire." The moral of Ms. Dunn's piece is, "I'm in my forties and already set in my ways. Why should I change now?" As someone reaping the benefits of removing high fructose corn syrup from our diet, Chicagoist might say that you should change because you still can, because it's never too late to change and educate yourself on the subject. And we're far from being food Nazis. There are reasons why people passionately debate these issues, and curtly dismissing one perspective in generalized terms from a position of blissful ignorance is where Ms. Nunn's article ultimately fails.

We know that old adage about a little knowledge sometimes being a dangerous thing. Ms. Nunn's article is a case where a little knowledge would have actually been useful.