Foodie Underground: Are You Abnormal?


For Thanksgiving I found myself staying in a yurt near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. There was a small propane stove and no running water, but Thanksgiving is Thanksgiving and so we made a concerted effort to eat well.

The stuffing used locally baked pumpkin bread, the sweet potatoes were organic and made without a Cuisinart in sight, and I hand-chopped a cranberry relish. After not finding anything but absurdly cheap, huge frozen birds that surely came from the mass farms of nightmares, we accepted the fact that we would be without the Thanksgiving staple. Fine in our books, as no one was interested in eating “a depressed, fake bird,” as one friend put it. Fortunately, an organic, free-range, local bird was scored at the last minute.

Sitting in our woodstove-outfitted yurt filling ourselves with the bounty of a day of cooking felt perfectly normal. We were, after all, celebrating the most traditional of American holidays.

But apparently the scene was far from normal. In a weekend op-ed piece in The Washington Post, Brent Cunningham and Jane Black pose that the latest of culture wars is being fought in the culinary world, and that “many in this country who have access to good food and can afford it simply don’t think it’s important.” In other words, canned cranberry sauce over orange-infused reductions and Butterball turkeys over hand-plucked birds from the fair the next county over aren’t what the general population is making sure to put on the platter.

If you’ve determined that you’re concerned with good, healthy food it turns out that only might you be criticized for sticking your nose in the air, but you might just be plain old abnormal.

Even the queen of conventional tradition, Mrs. Sarah Palin herself, has taken it upon herself to give the finger to campaigns that would provide for healthier school food policies. If you don’t want your kids eating sweets at school you’re clearly bonkers.

In response to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program, which aims to reduce childhood obesity, Palin put it simply:

“Just leave us alone, get off our back and allow us as individuals to exercise our own God-given rights to make our own decisions and then our country gets back on the right track.”

I, too, like to make my own choices. Fresh over processed, local over trucked across a country, small farms over agribusiness. In other words, against the current cultural norm. However, when a large percentage of the population uses Palin’s self-described “rights” to buy government-subsidized food products predominantly made with high fructose corn syrup and proven to cause weight gain, maybe the idea of being “abnormal” isn’t so bad at all.

As Cunningham points out in his op-ed, “access to and the cost of ‘elite’ food isn’t beyond the budgets of many, perhaps most, Americans.”

So what will it take to make a cultural shift towards better food? Start by accepting the fact that abnormal isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And make sure your kids know it, too.

Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground. Each week, Anna will be taking a look at something new and different that’s taking place in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to culinary avant garde.

Anna Brones

Anna Brones is a food + travel writer with a love for coffee and bikes. She is the author of The Culinary Cyclist and Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break. Catch her weekly column, Foodie Underground.