Food is the new fur for the celebrity with a conscience

Jay Rayner writes in the U.K. Observer today that, really bad food, is hot.

Greta Scacchi, who is pictured clutching a cod to her naked body (right, exactly as shown), will doubtless come to be seen as the seminal image for a particular moment, when the gruelling, knotty business of campaigning around food issues finally became sexy.

Where celebrities are concerned, it seems, food is the new fur. … Tomorrow, Paul McCartney and his daughters Stella and Mary are launching a campaign to convince the public to go meat-free for one day a week. Another movie, Food Inc, which looks at the excesses and foul side-effects of industrial food production has just been released in the US and will shortly arrive here. Plus there is a major investigation by environmental campaigner Tracy Worcester into the dark underbelly of the global pig-rearing business which is about to be screened on digital channel More4.

What marks out these campaigns is their sophistication. It began a couple of weeks ago with the news that Nobu, the global high-end chain of Japanese restaurants favoured by the glitterati, was still serving bluefin tuna despite it being an endangered species.

A nation fed on local food?

The political power of the U.S. president just sets the stage for the presidential family to influence American culture.

I think one of the most interesting galleries at the Eisenhower Museum–dedicated to our 34th president who hailed from Abilene, Kansas (about an hour from where I write)–is the gallery filled with outfits worn by his wife Mamie. Plaques near the outfits describe the impact the former First Lady had on women’s fashion during her husband’s presidency–like many First Ladies before and after her.

Purpose-minded people everywhere hope that their cause will be picked up by a member of the presidential family and instantly regarded as fashionable.

This, of course, includes proponents of local food.

As reported by the New York Times,

“The nonprofit group Kitchen Gardeners International wants to inspire people to grow their own food in home gardens. More recently, its “Eat the View!” campaign has targeted the ultimate home garden — the White House lawn.”

According to the group’s website,

Kitchen Gardeners “are self-reliant seekers of "the Good Life" who have understood the central role that home-grown and home-cooked food plays in one’s well-being.”

Across the pond, the Japan Times reports that, “public trust in food, packaging and labeling [is] crumbling across the nation,” and it’s leading consumers to “tak[e] a healthy interest in vegetables and other locally made produce.”

The article asserts,

“The vegetables and fruits are not necessarily cheap compared with supermarket prices, but people are apparently buying them because they feel safer eating products made by farmers who aren’t afraid to be identified.”

It can’t hurt to know who supplies your food. However, without microbiological evidence of the safety of products and processes, there’s really no guarantee that food produced nearby—or even in your own yard—will be safer to eat than food that’s been in transit for a while.

Sick people just get the comfort of knowing who it was that let the poop get on their food.


Obama: Forget the fashion and focus on food safety basics

Baby Sorenne woke up around 4 a.m. and, after nursing, hung out with daddy and watched Mallrats until she went back to sleep.

Daddy – that’s me – started prepping for the Christmas meal: boneless leg of lamb marinated in fresh rosemary – the one herb that seems to flourish indoors – and lime-garlic sauce. And some other stuff, which I could describe in pornographic detail, but will instead call side dishes.

As I prepare the lamb, I’ll keep in mind the World Health Organization’s factors that contribute to foodborne illness:

• improper cooking procedures;

• temperature abuse during storage;

• lack of hygiene and sanitation by food handlers;

• cross-contamination between raw and ready-to-eat foods; and,

• foods from unsafe sources.

Yet increasingly, food safety is used as a catch phrase to encompass whatever political goals some group wants to achieve

The N.Y. Times yesterday encapsulated what has been circulating on the Interwebs for weeks, stating that,

“From the moment it was clear that Barack Obama was going to be president, people who have dedicated their lives to changing how America eats thought they had found their St. Nicholas. It wasn’t long before the letters to Santa began piling up.

“Ruth Reichl, the editor of Gourmet magazine, wants a new high-profile White House chef who cooks delicious local food. Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society of the United States, wants policies requiring better treatment for farm animals. …

“Not only does (Obama) seem to possess a more-sophisticated palate than some of his recent predecessors, but he will also take office in an age when organic food is mainstream, cooking competitions are among the top-rated TV shows and books calling for an overhaul in the American food system are best sellers.”

Running through all of this is some kind of food snobbery that assumes whatever is fashionable is somehow safer.

Even the groups advocating more food safety are reeking of political ambition rather than focusing on the things that make people sick.

Like Brody in Mallrats, no one wants a stink palm.