Blog #18 – Trashing “Foodies”

Some of my readers are complaining about too much talk and too few recipes, and today’s another blog heavy on text.  So I better give you a recipe up front, a traditional Koch family recipe, Grandfolly’s  German Pancakes, a family tradition that goes back as far as I can remember and I’d like to believe back to our German ancestors in Pirmasens, Germany (at least!) where they would have been called Pfannkuchen.

German pancakes are a perfect vehicle for my CSA eggs, which are so fresh and incredibly good they remind me of the eggs we ate on Rosendale Road from the farm next door , the yolks a deep yellow,  almost orange, and whites that whip up into a frothy consistency that holds together and gives a lot of lift to any soufflé  egg dish.

German Pancake Ingredients
4 beaten egg yolks
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ cup lukewarm milk
¼ cup lukewarm water
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Grated rind of 1 lemon.
4 to 5 egg whites beaten until very stiff but not dry
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Combine all the ingredients except the egg whites and butter and mix thoroughly.
Heat a 10 inch cast iron skillet and melt the butter.
While the skillet is heating, fold in the egg whites.  When the skillet is hot, pour in the egg mixture, lower the temperature and cook partly covered until the egg begins to set, about 5 minutes.  Put the skillet in the preheated oven and cook until it is puffed up and firm, about 2 more minutes or 7 minutes in all.

It will fall, so serve immediately sprinkled with powdered sugar and lemon juice.

Okay, here’s this weeks scree!

Atlantic Magazine carried an article in its March issue by B.R. Myers called The Moral Crusade Against Foodies Here’s the link

The article is a vicious attack on people who write about food written with nasty innuendo and yet some of my best friends found it refreshing.  So I read it again.  Meyers lumps everyone who writes about food (and those who eat meat) in the same category.  Michael Pollan’s emphasis on sustainable agriculture is just the same as Anthony Bourdain exploration of food frontiers.

Don’t expect credible journalism.  Meyers writes about the self indulgence of a 36-hour dinner party Michael Pollan and his friends had in a Napa Valley backyard.  Like most extended food celebrations, people dropped in and moved on.  Meyers makes it sound like a 36 hour Roman orgy with vomitoriums.  The real sin, they roasted a whole goat.

Meyers ridicules the small farm, free-range meat movement by making the focus of his attack the meat consumer who is concerned with animal cruelty.  Meyers writes of his straw man, “He even claims to believe that well-treated animals taste better, though his heart isn’t really in it.”  In fact, free range meat tastes better because the animals are eating their traditional food, not the corn feed that commercial farmers use.

Meyers dismisses the role that farm animals can play in restoring and maintaining the fertility of pasture land, again by focusing on a peripheral issue, the prudent farmer’s use of every part of his animals.  Meyers writes,  “As if such token frugality could make up for the caloric wastefulness and environmental damage that result from meat farming!”

Meyers writes, “Even if gourmets’ rejection of factory farms and fast food is largely motivated by their traditional elitism, it has left them, for the first time in the history of their community, feeling more moral, spiritual even, than the man on the street.”  This is a case of attacking your enemy for the way you feel about yourself;  it’s Meyers who feels morally superior.

Meyers is a Vegan, who has written similar essays in the past.  He may be the  rare Vegan who hates to eat.   “The mood at a dinner table depends on the quality of food served; if culinary perfection is achieved, the meal becomes downright holy—as we learned from Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma (2006), in which a pork dinner is described as feeling “like a ceremony … a secular seder.”  If only every meal could be so spiritual.  Yet even the simplest family diner can have an touch of ritual, a whiff of the spiritual.  As a cook I can tell you, the quality of the food influences the experience of the meal, and if the meal is good it’s because care has been taken in its preparation and in the selection of  its ingredients.

Here is Meyers’ conclusion, “The refined palate rejects the taste of factory-farmed meat, of the corn-syrupy junk food that sickens the poor, of frozen fruits and vegetables transported wastefully across oceans …” okay so far.  He continues “…from which it follows that to serve one’s palate is to do right by small farmers, factory-abused cows, Earth itself.”  Still okay, but then all those decent motives are only an “affectation of piety” because food writers can’t keep from “vaunting their penchant for obscenely priced meals, for gorging themselves, even for dining on endangered animals.”

The blogs I read and the community supported farmers that I favor do not have high priced meals nor gorge themselves on endangered animals. They are part of growing community of people taking food decisions into their own hands and questioning the efficacy of commercial farming.  Those who gorge themselves are a very small part of the “foodies community,” and they should be rightly condemned, ridiculed, or at least teased for their sins.

Meyers’ article matters, because it plays into a concerted effort by the food industry to discredit alternatives.  Eric Schlosser wrote an opinion piece in this Sunday’s Washington Post that puts it well: “This name-calling is a form of misdirection, an attempt to evade a serious debate about U.S. agricultural policies. And it gets the elitism charge precisely backward. America’s current system of food production — overly centralized and industrialized, overly controlled by a handful of companies, overly reliant on monocultures, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, chemical additives, genetically modified organisms, factory farms, government subsidies and fossil fuels — is profoundly undemocratic. It is one more sign of how the few now rule the many. And it’s inflicting tremendous harm on American farmers, workers and consumers.”  Here’s a link to the full article. 

Schlosser acknowledged that foodies have their bad guys.  “Consider the expensive meals and obscure ingredients favored by a number of celebrity chefs, the snobbery that often oozes from restaurant connoisseurs, and the obsessive interest in exotic cooking techniques among a certain type of gourmand.  Those things may be irritating. But they generally don’t sicken or kill people. And our current industrial food system does.”


The roots of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) as well as organic farming can be traced back to Rudolph Steiner, a remarkable German writer and

Rudolph Steiner

philosopher who was very influential at the beginning of the Twentieth Century.

Steiner founded a spiritual movement called Anthroposophy, based loosely on Emmanuel Kant’s transcendentalism and Theosophy.  Transcendentalism recognizes that objects and subjects are intimately connected and mutually influential and theosophy assumes that all religions are trying to connect with a spiritual dimension, and each has something to offer.   It’s a world view of interconnectedness that is also the basis of the pasture raised organic meat movement.    Steiner called it Biodynamic — farming based on the interrelationship of the soil, plants and animals as a self-nourishing system. The farm is a living organism.

Steiner also advocated a relationship between producers and consumers, where consumer and producer are linked by their mutual interests.  

Steiner’s theories were revived in Germany and Switzerland in the 1960s, when people became increasingly concerned about the dangers of chemical farming and the deteriorating quality of their food.    Groups of consumers and farmers formed partnerships to give organic farmers the steady income they needed to commit to “biodynamic farming.”

In the mid 1980‘s, two Germans with in experience in European CSAs settle in the United States.  One of them, Jan VanderTuin, is given credit for the term, “community-supported agriculture”.  At about the same time,  Trauger Groh arrived from Germany and with colleagues founded the Temple-Wilton Community Farm in Wilton, New Hampshire.  CSAs take many different forms, and they have spread rapidly.   At least 13,000 CSAs are operating in the U.S. today. Many are small, but the largest serves over 13,000 families (Farm Fresh To You in Capay Valley, California).  I highly reommend my CSA Even’Star if you are in the Washington DC area.

About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is a journalist and filmmaker who is now teaching at Montgomery Community College
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3 Responses to Blog #18 – Trashing “Foodies”

  1. John Whiting says:

    Chris, it’s a shame that your accurately aimed counterblast had to be written at all. But food writers, like sex writers, have to keep coming up with something new. Paradoxically, they’re forced to adopt the missionary position.

  2. Tommy D says:

    USDA has published a Food Desert map. Seems like 13+ million Americans live outside the reach of real food … not organic or sustainable, just fresh, as in Supermarket food.

  3. I’m glad I have a garden and access to local farmers markets. This recipe looks great. That homemade sausage sounds fantastic.

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