I caught this post by Michael Ruhlman today:
He seems to try to make a distinction between those with allergies versus intolerances, and those who keep their diets to themselves versus those who "proselytize," but I feel that he winds up sounding like a rather breathless critic of paleo eating, or really anyone who claims to suffer from leaky gut or other deleterious effects from various foods. (As an additional irritant, his comment about having evolved to consume hot dogs made little sense.) I often seem to take issue with Pollan in a similar vein - talented writers and foodies who have perhaps waded into too deep water for those lacking a good understanding of biochem, physiology, disease processes, etc.
At any rate, what say you? Is Ruhlman (I do love his Ratio book dearly) committing food "fascism" (and may I also say that I dislike the way that word gets tossed around) here himself? Was his advice to Heather sound? Is there a latent misunderstanding going on?
I think many paleo folks tend to be completely unreasonable with regard to their dietary preferences (note: not needs). Ruhlman points out that none of the guests actually have celiac or allergies, these are simply folks who choose not to eat some foods because they think these foods aren't healthy.
The problem probably isn't food fascism, it's just being a douchebag. If the guests want to be assholes at a wedding reception because of the food, well, that's a whole other problem altogether.
I found the comments more interesting than the article. The absolute intolerance for outside the 'norm' eating astounds me. The worst comment was from the Dr who specifically asked his staff to put on perfume for the woman who requested no perfume as she had sensitivties. As someone with an allergy to perfume, I understand how she feels and although I never ask anyone apart from my close friends not to wear strong perfume around me, it sucks to have migraines all day because of someone's Chanel no 5.
Regarding the article, I understand some of his annoyance but there is a middle ground; Those who don't burden anyone with our demands at dinners and parties. I as a paleo eater generally check menus before going to restaurants and avoid them if there are no paleo means. I try not to be that annoying person in the restaurant and stick with salads or plain veggies instead of annoying staff with my requests.
Like most people today, Ruhlman is incorrectly using the word "fascist."
People simply assume that fascist and NAZI are the exact same thing--they aren't. Fascism is an economic system. The NAZIs were a political party that promoted fascism as its economic program.
As an economic system, fascism falls somewhere between modern euro-socialism and communism. It is a combination of private ownership of resources/businesses with government control. Fascism, as an economic system, was was practiced by numerous countries in the first half of the last century. The National Recovery Administration (commonly called the NRA with its blue eagle logo) under FDR is an example of an American economic policy that has been widely recognized as fascist in nature.
Prior to WWII, fascist was hardly a negative term. The 1930's London production of the Cole Porter musical "Anything Goes" changed the lyrics of "Your'e the Top" to include the line "You're the top; you're Mussolini" (note that this was not in the original Cole Porter lyrics--it was changed by the London production--but it demonstrates Mussolini and fascism were seen in a positive light at the time).
It's a pet peeve of mine that fascism has been reduced to mean "really bad person" when historically it had a much broader meaning and a specific economic meaning. Sorry if I got off base from paleo talk here.
I agree with some things he says,my exerience on here and other paleo forums is that there is an almost cult like feeling. Paleo is a good base for a healthy eating lifestyle but it has too many flaws yet when anyone dares to point these out, they are jumped on and hounded out of the discussion.
I have yet to meet someone who gives their food a second thought who isn't struggling with some health problem, be it struggling with their body fat, gluten sensitivity, blood sugar regulation, psychological problems, or any number of other things that are actually quite serious if left untreated over a lifespan. I wonder about the in-laws in the article: how does the letter writer (Heather, I think) know they don't have celiac disease? Since it's a whole family into paleo, that makes me suspect some genetic issue, like celiac disease, or the MTHFR variant, and maybe they just haven't gotten tested yet, or did, but it came back negative and their doctors won't pursue things further. (I like to warn all my friends who suspect celiac disease of the high false negative rate.)
So yeah, I just don't see that many people worrying about what they eat who don't have cause to: just sometimes, the causes aren't apparent.
I like Ruhlman, in fact I just got the book him and another chef wrote on Charcuterie yesterday and was pouring through it, drooling.
His opinion is much like a few other celeb chefs I follow, such as Alton Brown who made some disparaging comments on the increasing number of foodies with a newfound "Gluten Intolerance". It's hard to explain to someone that literally makes a living based on eating and experiencing everything in the world, that you eat a specific way that excludes that.
Kinda like a cobbler that gets upset at the barefoot movement... (well, not quite), a tailor that hates nudists (maybe), or a Butcher that hates vegans (spot on).
I just let it roll off my shoulders. I don't really care. There is a place for Paleo foodies in this world and even though he expresses disdain for the culture, he is still a part of it... whether he likes it or not.
I think for some people--me?--the discipline of making a lifestyle change such as a restrictive food mix requires layers and layers of intentions and affirmations. If we're casual enough about it to just go along and not make a fuss at a social event, we probably won't be able to stick with it the rest of the time either. We're a little insecure about our ability to keep the good plan going so it becomes "all-important" to avoid processed foods. I agree we develop exaggerated reactions but it comes with the strong effort to succeed with the lifestyle change.
That said, I am too introverted to make a fuss--I simply grab whatever salad/fruit is available and don't eat otherwise. Do I feel frustration or resentment? Yes, I do. Since I honestly believe avoiding processed foods is good for my health AND I may be quite hungry, depending on the circumstances, it bothers me that so many situations force me to choose between satisfying hunger and social participation. There's also the temptation of being exposed to many foods I ate and loved--my emotional reaction can come from having to see them but not give in to temptation.
It has given me a better understanding of what it's like to be a recovering alcoholic trying to live a "normal" life.
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