Each morning I check my various emails, Facebook and Instagram. Sometimes, I scroll through Twitter as I walk to see if there’s anything going on that’s not already on the other social media (usually it’s just the same as Instagram). I stopped doing Pinterest because I don’t find it very useful in my life. During the day, email blasts come out from Grubstreet and Eater, usually repeating the same thing from day to day. And I’ll take photos and post about my own experiences, usually food-related. So I spend a good portion of my day online reading or looking at photos about food. Much of this is really about nothing. A new restaurant opening or one closing. Images of burgers and bagels. Yet in all the information I consume, I somehow missed an article by Mark Bittman as to why he is leaving The New York Times after 5 years of writing about food. This is actually quite a striking event for the food world, and that is seems to have been largely overlooked says a lot.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Mr. Bittman’s columns, in addition to recipes, he often writes about more-in depth issues, such as fixing school lunches, eating a more plant-based diet and focusing on mass-produced food concerns. It is the kind of foodwriting that requires one to actually spend more than a few seconds scrolling down a page and may not have an eye-catching picture associated with it. He seems to think that there’s not much point to writing about food anymore. Apparently, he believes all the major topics have been covered and what’s left is implementing ideas, much of which requires political assistance rather than raising public awareness.
While I agree with Mr. Bittman that it’s hard to find something new to say (something I struggle with in my quest to provide novel info on this blog), if we give up writing about important topics right in the midst of change, then all we will have left is blurb-style nonsense and run the risk that what progress has occurred will halt.
In the last few months, companies have voluntarily started to change their practices without the legislation Mr. Bittman contends is necessary. For example, Perdue and Tyson are cutting the use of antibiotics in their chickens. Yet as we are just starting an intense year of political campaigning, politicians are banning laws requiring GMO labeling (regardless of where you stand on labeling, there certainly shouldn’t be so much lobbying money spent on this issue). And no one is writing very much about this.
Obesity rates continue to rise. Diet-related illnesses plague the population. But we keep posting photos of fried chicken and pizza. We treat David Chang as a god. We watch fat kids compete against each other to make pies. Sure, we can laud Dan Barber and his efforts, but that’s just a far end of the spectrum not practical or accessible to most people.
Although most of what I eat and cook is healthy, it’s the fattening dishes that get more “likes” than brightly-colored vegetables from the farmers’ market. If as a society, we can recognize that how we eat impacts our overall health, then we need to change our attitudes about what we tolerate from all forms of the media reporting on food. Both corporate food conglomerates and politicians always listen to what the public wants. We can use our voices to promote Shack Shake (and yes, I love it every once in awhile). But we also can start demanding that we have more content based articles (and food TV) that sends a message as to what we should be eating most of the time.