Mark Bittman’s ideas about food mirror my own. I posted about this before. He tells us all about his opinion in his TED talk. I happen to agree with the omnivorous perspective. I like all kinds of food, and I won’t give up something I enjoy in moderation for a blanket rule about what I will or won’t eat. And I’m not going to insult people who offer me something because it doesn’t fit my food rules.
There are good health reasons to eat vegetables. Eating massive quantities of meat is pretty clearly not good for people. Moreover, it’s not good for the environment. Every pound of meat represents an investment of many pounds of grain. People who are worried about food prices need not worry too much – if we cut down meat production we can raise overall food production by a great deal. That’s not a mandate for vegetarianism, it’s just good sense. ‘Less meat’ is not ‘no meat.’
Then there is bottled water. I am really irritated by bottled water. There’s a Penn and Teller’s Bullsh!t episode that sells hose water to yuppies in expensive looking bottles. They assure each other that they can ‘taste the difference.’ And there is a case to be made that the placebo effect is perfectly valid for perception of flavor – if it tastes better, it tastes better, even when it is exactly the same. But you can fool yourself into thinking it tastes better with a bit of lemon instead of burning gasoline to haul a bottle of water across the state or across the world.
Think about it: if you buy water from the French Alps, you just paid to have water shipped from the french alps. That’s insane. If you buy other, cheaper brands, you are paying to have someone re-filter your local tap water (at least they are not shipping it across the world) and put it in a bottle for you. Here’s the best part: it’s not safer. Not too far back the CocaCola company had to pull Dasani water off the shelves in Britain because it had more bromate than was allowed in tap water.
For the money we spend shipping and re-purifying drinkable water in the United States, we could afford to provide safe water to everyone in the world. According to the EPI “The United Nations Millennium Development Goal for environmental sustainability calls for halving the proportion of people lacking sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015. Meeting this goal would require doubling the $15 billion a year that the world currently spends on water supply and sanitation. While this amount may seem large, it pales in comparison to the estimated $100 billion spent each year on bottled water.” There are people whose ground water has arsenic in it. They are drinking arsenic from a local well while we are shipping fashion water from France to the U.S. where we already have water without arsenic in it to begin with. I’m in favor of free markets, but that’s tantamount to the decadence of eating the ortolan.
P.S. via wikipedia: For centuries, a rite of passage for French gourmets has been the eating of the Ortolan. These tiny birds—captured alive, force-fed, then drowned in Armagnac—were roasted whole and eaten that way, bones and all, while the diner draped his head with a linen napkin to preserve the precious aromas and, some believe, to hide from God.
– The Wine Spectator