Food Politic: Why I’m Not a “Foodie”

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Photo courtesy of
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Over on “Food Politic,” a “Journal of Food News and Culture,” Freesia McKee questions “foodie” culture — from it’s elitist pricing to its gentrification of “ethnic” cuisine to its hipster trappings.

It’s a great read. Hop on over and see for yourself.

Oddly enough, as someone who leads downtown culinary tours — and as a person who inevitably gets labelled a “foodie” — I agree with much of her take.

But then, as a “foodie,” my message is slightly different. During our tours — and in the many workshops that I present — I speak a lot about day-to-day eating. I encourage people to visit their farmer’s market regularly, to talk to their butcher about where their meat comes from, and to eat simple foods made from simple ingredients. I tell people to have the bulk of the food that they eat come from farmers that they can make eye contact with.

And when they do eat out, to make smart choices.

Oh, and a tater tot is a tater tot is a tater tot.

McKee brings up organic foods from the “mega-market.” It’s funny, as a person who is very careful about what I buy and consume, I find that very little of what I eat is organic.

Instead, most comes from farmers that I’ve talked to — that I’ve asked questions of at our Wednesday and Saturday markets. I can be assured that their food is probably more natural than any of the “organic” labels that you find in stores.

And, if every blue moon, I go for duck nachos or a $7 cocktail, it’s because I’m feeling extravagant. Or silly. Trust me, it doesn’t happen often. And when it does, I don’t mind paying. Usually because I know that the chef behind the scenes in an artist in her or his own right — and that their craft deserves some amount of respect. I make enough money that I should be able to spend a little of it on fancy food.

I also go to my chosen butcher (chosen for his product and his philosophy on sourcing and harvesting meats) for treats and specialty items from time to time.  While I have a freezer full of (fairly inexpensive) naturally-raised beef from a local farmer, and whole chickens from another, I love some of the more expensive heritage varieties and cuts that I can find at my “meat guy.”  It’s not my everyday shopping choice, but a luxury that I enjoy infrequently.

Here’s the thing, If I didn’t have the money, I’d still be eating ethically-raised, natural meats.  Just not the fancy stuff in the window.

As for global representation, look for a couple of evening “World of Peterborough” tours this summer where I hope to bring people to places like La Hacienda, Karma’s, and Shafiq’s — which is about as traditionally “ethnic” as we can get here in the P-dot. These folks make great food. And should be celebrated.

In short, when buying food, I always recommend purchases that: 1. pour money back into our community (both the agricultural one and the local business one); 2. are as natural as possible; 3. leave as little environmental footprint/produces as few road miles as possible; and 4. are socially/ethically responsible.

During workshops, I also recommend trying to keep food spending as low as possible. It should be noted that during the growing season, our food dollars stretch a lot further. This is because we do garden. And we buy all of our produce fresh, in season, at market.

The recipes posted on this site are usually pretty unpretentious: burgers, pizza, omelettes and the like. Here at Farm to Table, we’ve given way more workshops to school kids and university classes than we have for “young professionals.” Before going solo as a writer and food promoter, I spent a decade working in community-based education programs — and quite a few of them involved food choices.  We provide information aimed at just about anyone who is looking to incorporate more local foods into their diet.

Our message is to enjoy the foods that you like, but do it responsibly. Chances are good that the food you buy locally will be the freshest and tastiest that you’ll ever find.  They can also be amongst the most affordable.

Forget about what the poseurs and hipsters are doing. It is easy to get caught up in fashion and forget what is important about our food decisions.

Then again, if you do enjoy eating out — and the adventures that can come from the fusion of local food and global cuisine — knock yourself out. But remember, you’ll probably get the best burrito from the Mexican joint, and the best Jerk from the Caribbean place. I can tell you this: it’s where you’ll probably find me. Sure, they may not serve all-local ingredients, but, really, chances are, your higher priced fancies won’t either.  And, by asking, you might just be surprised at how much local food is coming out of these kitchens.

Really, it’s all a matter of balance.

My advice: let’s just celebrate some of the good things we have going on here in Peterborough. Let’s have fun with our food.  Responsible fun, but fun nonetheless.

Make wise choices.  Ask good questions.  And enjoy.

Bon appetit.  And cheers!