Why we should all say ‘no’ to food snobbery.
It’s not often that I stray from fashion and into ranty territory in my blogs but there’s something that’s really grated my cheese recently and I feel the need to get it off my chest, and that something is food snobbery. By this I mean people deciding which foods are ‘good’ and then judging you when you eat things that aren’t.
This month’s Vogue includes an article by Californian-born Calgary Avansino decrying the lack of healthy, organic food available in the UK when she first arrived here ten years ago. In it, she expresses delight at the fact that we now have Whole Foods and that everyone is as obsessed with juicing as she is.
And she’s not the only one. Deliciously Ella, Hemsley & Hemsley, even Jamie Oliver – they’re all telling us that we should be ditching the sugary, fatty things and fill our lives with virtuous things. Everyone’s at it – if I see one more Instagram salad labelled #EatClean I’ll probably throw up my chips. It has got to be one of the most annoying hashtags ever. When I see it, I read ‘look at me, I #EatClean, I’m better than you’!
It’s not just the healthy food brigade, it’s the organic crusaders as well. A few years ago, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall launched a campaign to raise awareness about where our chickens come from and encourage people to stop eating battery farmed chickens. In the programme, he cornered working class mums about why they were buying cheap chickens in Iceland. When they explained it was because they didn’t earn much and it was cheaper, he suggested they ‘eat less meat’.
I can’t tell you how angry this made me. I totally believe in organic chicken and understand the need to treat animals fairly, but what I don’t believe in is shaming people – especially people who are less well off than you – for their choices. Hugh has a choice about what his kids eat – money buys you more options. When you’ve got less cash, that choice is made for you most of the time and you probably don’t appreciate some bossy rich guy wafting in and telling you what your kids should eat. (Even if there is a grain of truth to what he’s saying).
This is where the whole #EatClean and organic thing falls down for me. The principles are sound and of course it’s better for the environment and eating less processed food is of course better for your body – that’s not what I’m arguing about here – but what it smacks of is middle class vanity and one-upmanship. The fact is, organic and whole foods are more expensive. Putting coconut water and almond butter in your shopping basket is going to be pricier. Even fresh veggies are expensive a lot of the time. That’s a fact. If you’ve got enough dosh to eat that way 24/7 then lucky you. But if you haven’t, you shouldn’t be made to feel bad about that.
If you grew up in a home where there wasn’t much cash to go around, you’ll already understand this. My mum brought me up by herself on the minimum wage – there was no almond butter in our house. We ate veg from the market, but we also had 50p fish fingers and 12p tins of beans from Netto. Now that I’m older and I’ve got more money and opportunities open to me, I eat better – but I still love fish fingers and beans, and even the odd Dairylea cheese triangle when the mood takes me. And I don’t care what the #EatClean bores think of that.
The best part of Avansino’s Vogue article was at the end, where she confesses that she’s spent most of her life hating her body and it’s only in recent years that she’s learnt to love herself. From the pictures that accompany the article, I can tell you that she has an absolutely bangin’ body – all lithe limbs and model proportions. And yet she was miserable for ages. I’ve got a massive bum and wobbly thighs (probably a direct result of growing up on fish fingers and Dairylea, come to think of it) but I’d say I’m pretty happy with it all, for the most part. I think it’s because my mum did a brilliant job of showing me that there are more important things in life than how you look naked. When you’re struggling to scrape together enough cash to keep the lights on and food in the fridge, your priorities are a bit different, I guess.
So here’s what I have to say to all the #EatClean robots out there – well done you and all that, yeah, but stop being so bloody boring. I don’t care what you eat. Just eat the damn salad and shut the f*ck up. Thank you.