It’s a bit embarrassing to read something written by a good friend of mine on a group blog to which I contribute only when Mark Bittman links to it. Both the original post and Bittman’s comment are worth reading. I’ll quote Bittman:
My take: There is a tendency among all of us who work with food regularly to become more than a little precious about it. (Whenever you start discussing which kind of salt you’re using, or which variety of beet you prefer, watch out.) And when we do, we forget that most people in the United States neither know nor care about such things, and that a large percentage of those are not, in general, eating well.
I would go further than this. I think there are real dangers in the growing trend toward chefs and food writers being the public face of arguments about the need to reform policies in the agriculture/food area. A fancy chef or a food writer, at the end of the day, ought to be an elitist about the subject. That’s the whole point of the enterprise, after all. But it’s not really the point of public policy. It’s true that there’s a certain extent to which food aesthetics and reason tradeoffs about public health, cost, and environmental sustainability intersect but people shouldn’t kid themselves into thinking that it’s an unlimited extent. And I think it’d be a bit silly for all the great chefs in the world to busy themselves turning their worldviews inside out in order to become better policy analysts. Fundamentally, though, it’s just difficult for someone who’s a professional food-lover to really get inside the head of the typical person who doesn’t care at all about this kind of thing. And it should be hard! Lots of people read Bittman. And we do it because we do care. We want—I want—good advice about shopping, cooking, and eating written by someone who cares for people who care. But the requirements of good writing for a hobbyist audience aren’t the same as the requirements of broad policy.
Good policy—especially good environmental policy—would have a substantial impact on the relative price of different food products. Notably, meat in general and beef in particular would become more expensive. At that point, the nation’s cooks will turn their lonely eyes to the nation’s food writers for some different recipes. And those who rely for their sustenance on takeout will find that the well-paid executives of the nation’s food service industry find a way to adapt their services to the new business climate.