Feeding My Boychick

This is not a food blog, because food blogs always have pictures and they are usually nice. It is, however, a blog about food, sometimes with crappy photos.

Sister site to Raising My Boychick.
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Posts tagged "mmm ranty"

I am really, really tired of food judgment. No, of the confusion between judging the way society inadequately provides for nutrition needs of its members and judging foods — and the people who eat them — as “less than”, or as not-food at all.

Here’s the thing: does it provide human-accessible calories or other nutrients? Would most peoples eat it or readily identify it as food? Then IT’S FOOD. End of story, and shut the fuck up about “not really food” because it doesn’t meet YOUR standards of “whole” or “fresh” or “unprocessed” or whatever the hell. All food is processed, unless you are sucking berries off the cane with your bare lips. ALL food, not just white sugar or enriched flour or whatever it is you want to demonize this week.

Now, we can have a conversation about the benefits and detriments and side effects of various kinds and amounts of processing. And we can CERTAINLY have a conversation about capitalism and for-profit food production and the denial of self-sufficiency and the ways we encourage malnutrition among the populations who least have the resources to cope with it. Please, let’s.

But don’t kid yourself that protests of “not REALLY food” are anything other than classist, self-aggrandizing bullshit. Such judgments are only and entirely about constructing demarcations of “purity” and morality with yourself on the side of “goodness”. It might make you feel superior, but it does nothing, NOTHING, to help improve anyone’s nutrition.

This is how I do boxed mac’n’cheese. That’s sauteed onion (the second half leftover from breakfast), green beans, the last of the BBQ chicken and zucchini, and avocado (again, the first half went in the morning scramble). I usually mix it in to the mac, but the Boychick has been being weird about zucchini and I wanted to make sure he’d eat at least part of it. (He ended up finishing everything but the zuke. Ah, child.)

Judgmental douchebags have been known to give people, including me, shit about eating boxed mac’n’cheese, to which I wish to say, essentially, and not to get overly pedantic about it: fuck right the fuck off.

To elaborate:

Point the first: the way I eat is NOT CHEAP. Don’t even try to tell me it is, because we spent as much on food as on our mortgage last month, not even counting the times we got take out or coffees. Yes, I’m using leftovers, and veggies for the most part aren’t THAT expensive, but I can cook five eggs with “american cheese” for half the price (or less) of a scramble with five veg and a crumble of cojita. I only used things I had on hand to make this meal, but I had all those veggies on hand because *I spend a fuckload of money on food* (both buying and growing). And I can, I’m able to, and I am so grateful for that privilege and so angry that it isn’t a universally accessible right. Making two boxes of mac would’ve been cheaper and had just as many calories; replacing the mac would have taken twice as much twice-as-expensive veg and leftovers. Talk to me about “healthy choices” and “cheap to eat fresh” when we subsidize lettuce and spinach and squash instead of wheat and corn and soy, ok? (Or better still, don’t.)

Point the second: I like “real” mac’cheese (as though a box = part of the Matrix?) just fine. I can make a rue and a cheese sauce with the best of them. But *it’s not the same*. It’s, like, not even in the same world (there are no Wookies in the Matrix!), for all that the two dishes have the same name. Don’t try to tell me homemade mac’n’cheese is ANYTHING like boxed. It’s probably great. You might like it better. Hell, most of the time *I* might like it better. But boxed mac’n’cheese is a total comfort food for me, and while I might buy the “all natural”, actually-contains-dairy-products-and-no-F&DC-numbered-dyes kind now, it still hits the emotional spot in a way nothing made, however lovingly, from scratch ever will. And yes: sentiment, family and cultural connection, memory, and comfort are all ENTIRELY LEGITIMATE reasons to choose a food, and anyone who disagrees is welcome to take three crates of rat bars to a deserted island and have themselves a monotonous, boring, hellish ball.

Point the third: While I CAN make a cheese sauce from scratch, why the fuck would I want to, in the middle of the day with a melting down hungry kid and a clingy under-foot baby? Boiling noodles is often about my limit come lunch time (if I don’t just throw cheese sticks at the big kid and hide in the bedroom), and frankly I feel quite proud when I manage that, with or without any fancy additions like this time; the level of attention a rue demands is RIGHT out. And I know more than a few people, my past self often included, who can’t manage that even, but we’re supposed to shame them (past-me) for not doing MORE? No. That shit does not fly with me.

Point the fourth, the final and most important point: Not the one eating? Not. Your. Business. I live in a culture that encourages assholes to judge what people have on their plate (and judge the eaters thereby), but cares not one shit that so many simply don’t have enough. We stare when a fat person eats in public, and look the other way when someone asks for food. I cannot even begin to count the ways that is fucked up. So don’t even. Just, no.

And that’s my boxed rant. I’m sure you could make one better from scratch, with more cogent points and fresher ideas, but this is mine, and that’s good enough for me.

I live in Portland, land of organic vegan locavore ironic bacon hipsterism. Located in the (stolen and colonized) Willamette valley, one of the most fertile pieces of land on the continent (despite many greedy people having done their level best to destroy it), eating local here is downright easy. About the only things we can’t grow are tropical fruits, coffee, and hard wheat, and nevermind because we still import, roast, and mill those locally. It’s absurdly easy, if also absurdly expensive, to buy only foods grown, produced, slaughtered, or processed within 100 miles of here, either in a market or grocer or even dining out at a locally-owned restaurant. And this is great.

Except.

I also live in Portland, one of the whitest cities in the country with one of the worst track records of gentrification. And much of this push for “local” and “sustainable” is coming from relatively new, relatively wealthy, overwhelmingly white consumers and business owners, not from the communities of color who have eked out spaces for themselves here for decades. I see them, small business owners themselves, pushed out of business by white people who’d rather shop at a national name than someplace run by a person of a different color whose fluent English the monolinguists can’t understand, and now replaced by white people who spurn the corporate giants for “local” businesses that have been here for SO LONG, since the mid-aughts! — owned and frequented largely by other white people able to pay higher prices and higher rents and higher mortgages.

So here’s my choice: I can buy dinner from a locally-owned restaurant that’s been here for decades and uses conventional produce and imported noodles and factory farmed meats frequented by the people of color who have lived here for decades, or I can buy it from the three year old place that uses local and organic and fresh everything and is all the rage among the white people who have lived here for three years.

Or I can buy groceries from the locally-owned store that’s twice as expensive (but everything is homegrown!), or the budget Safeway that’s served the neighborhood for decades. I can support the brand-new co-op that sells organic produce, or the Asian market that sells unmarked, unknown-to-me veggies.

It’s not that I disagree with the small-business, locally-owned ethos nor the entirely logical reasons to support the same. But the fact remains that when my neighborhood (which I, middle class white woman with my young family, just moved into) started gentrifying, in classic Portland style, all the new mostly-white people said “we want local shops — let’s start some!” and didn’t ask their neighbors where to buy veggies, where they ate out, who owned and shopped at and was employed at the run-down supermarket. We didn’t move in to this imperfect neighborhood and ask “what’s being done to improve the place we now live, what’s important to our neighbors, and how can we help without taking over?” We moved in and assumed nothing of value was here and we needed to replace it all with trendy, “local” businesses and eateries (never diners!) and then we patted ourselves on the back for being so damn sustainable, so morally superior, doing something good while we bought our organic fair trade latte from the queer artist barista with all the body modifications.

But it’s culture. It’s all culture. We want to shop and eat and be seen at places that feel like ours, that reflect us, that tell others about who we consider ourselves to be and who we want to be. And that’s not wrong, not really. But it’s also what the people who lived here first, who we pushed out to the margins before we decide to take that over too, also want. And the conversation we need to have isn’t local-small-good versus corporate-giant-evil. It’s whose local? Whose good? Who was here first, whose voices have long been marginalized, whose foods are exoticized and whose normalized, who’s making the decisions about what’s valued and what the neighborhood needs?

Those are questions I need to consider as well, no less than “was this peach sprayed, is this asparagus local, is there MSG in this?” It’s not as easy a conversation, nuanced instead of ideologic, complicated instead of obvious. But it’s important. Because “community” isn’t a nebulous concept, it’s the family next door we never talk to, the people who walk up my street to get to the free clinic, the guy who runs the convenience store two blocks away. And the health and sustainability of food isn’t just how it affects and nourishes my family, but how it affects the people who grow it, the people who harvest it, the people who sell it, the people who cook and serve and clean up after it. Only considering part of that system isn’t sustainable; it’s selfish in the extreme.

(Note: I use “we” throughout not as writer-and reader, not to assume the “they” I speak of is not also you, but as writer-and-agent, as indication of my own guilt and reminder to myself of membership in the offending groups. I’m still searching for less alienating phrasing; please forgive any implications of exclusion.)

Sweet potato salmon cake sandwich on french bread, with romaine from the garden and garlic dill mayo.

I have a tendency to feel violent toward people who say cooking at home is so QUICK and EASY and EVERYONE should do it. There are ways to make it quicker and easier, of course, and some “luxury” touches may surprise you with their simplicity, but I buy french bread (The Man used to make sourdough, which is amazing but time intensive, but he hasn’t exactly been rolling in the free time recently either). And I buy mayo. Both are “quick” and “easy” — like making a sandwich is, right? — but *these things add up*. And sometimes I want to make marinara from scratch (and put a dozen jars in the freezer), but sometimes I just need to get food in my goddamn crabby mouth before I bite someone’s head off, and if you tell me I need to spend five minutes s-l-o-w-l-y drizzling oil into a “quick” and “easy” mayonaise emulsion (that only has an 80% success rate) before I can do that, well, wear a teeth-proof helmet.

But I do love mixing roasted chopped garlic and dill into plain mayo for a tasty sandwich topping. It’s quick. And easy.