Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Locavores from a historic perspective

Once again James McWilliams posts a critical essay on locavores on the Freakonomics blog, and once again the comment section lighted up with enraged food elitists.

McWilliams characterizes the buy local-buy organic mindset as a desire to eat like people did before the twentieth century with all of its industrialization and efficiency.

"But did people living in the 1860s really see themselves as eating a simple diet? Not so much. This was an era of frequent food adulteration, with consumer goods being leavened by sawdust, engine grease, plaster of Paris, pipe clay and God knows what else."
It looks like the food of the past wasn't as pure as we think it was.

Not only did nineteenth century people want to eat like their grand-grandparents, but McWilliams rolls back history to show that every generation had a mythical view of the eating habits of the previous century. It's common for people to aspire to live in some fictional golden era of the past, and McWilliams did a great job of placing locavores in the historic context.

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