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The ethical dilemma of good food rankles like a fish bone lodged in the throat. In the Bay Area especially, we know that fresh, unprocessed food ― raised locally by small producers ― is good for the region, good for the planet, good for us. Trouble is, it's also the most expensive food there is, out of reach for most of us. How do we align our convictions about food with our sense of social justice?
That's the ground Lisa Miller walks for "Divided We Eat," her essay in the Nov. 22 issue of Newsweek. Miller:
Modern America is a place of extremes, and what you eat for dinner has become the definitive marker of social status; as the distance between rich and poor continues to grow, the freshest, most nutritious foods have become luxury goods that only some can afford.And Americans have a weird notion of eating, not as shared experience like the French, traditionally, but as nutrition ― either good or bad ― and an increasingly solitary pursuit.
Even more idiosyncratic than our obsession with nutrition ... is that Americans see food choice as a matter of personal freedom, an inalienable right. Americans want to eat what they want: morels or Big Macs. They want to eat where they want, in the car or alfresco. And they want to eat when they want. With the exception of Thanksgiving, when most of us dine off the same turkey menu, we are food libertarians.What's the answer, then, a fundamental shift in our culture, toward a sense of shared destiny? Yeah right: We can't even agree on the effects or impact of global warming, much less all coming to a consensus that, from preschool, American kids should learn to embrace a communal ethos. Sadly, it looks like ― as income disparities continue to grow ― we're doomed to endure the future as a nation divided against its diet.