Yuppies and Vegetables

It’s apparently somewhat a la mode in blogging circles to snicker and make fun of people who like food and buy organic fruits and vegetables from farmer’s markets. As a person who does this, I take these criticisms in stride, realizing that spending half your day traveling to 3, sometimes 4, different places to buy your food probably isn’t high on most people’s lists, but this Adam Ozimek post about frozen vegetables is absolutely absurd:

Are future blue collar workers really going to take the time to grow themselves vegetable gardens in window boxes outside their apartments? A lot of working people, like Megan McArdle and Matt Yglesias, frequently don’t have time for fresh vegetables. Like Matt, many people have to teach themselves late in life how to make quick delicious snacks out of frozen vegetables. This would be a much more valuable lesson for poor kids then how to select the freshest kale at your local organic farmers market, or even more ridiculously, how to grow your own …

If you can get kids to eat and prefer frozen vegetables then you’ve got a sustainable improvement in diet and nutrition. If you get them to like fresh organic vegetables they’ve grown in the garden or bought at the farmers market, then you’ve temporarily instilled in them the tastes of upper middle class people with enough time and money on their hands for such luxuries.

The first thing I’ll point out is how incredibly ironic it is that this person (and others) think that vegetables (!) are a luxury item that only upper middle class yuppies can afford. This would be news to our ancestors, who survived almost entirely on grains and vegetables, with meat being served on special occasions. This would also be news to most Chinese people, seeing as the majority of their diet is fresh vegetables. We all know that China is the upper-middle class yuppie capitol of Earth.

Furthermore, the condescension towards “blue collar” workers is outrageous. As if these “workers” simply can’t be bothered to go shopping at grocery stores. Or that they simply don’t have the time to actually feed themselves. Or that it’s just ridiculous that they could even think of having a *gasp* garden! I mean, two urban, young bloggers who work 70 hours a week don’t have time for fresh vegetables, so that means all “workers” can’t possibly have the time.

As for kids and vegetables, I have a long-held theory that most kids don’t like vegetables because they are prepared very poorly. Ever had frozen spinach? Kinda sucks. Same goes for frozen green beans. But fresh sauteed spinach with garlic? That’s good. Roasted green beans tossed with butter and thyme? Delicious.

Both of these things take 15 minutes or less, and taste significantly better than their frozen counterparts. So here’s my counter thesis to Adam Ozimek’s idiotic thought: If you get kids to eat frozen vegetables, they may end up thinking that all vegetables taste like garbage and eliminate them from their diet permanently. If you get them to like fresh vegetables prepared simply, they’ll end up loving vegetables as much as a McDonald’s double cheeseburger.

On a much broader note, I do think that the Slow Food movement has some serious image problems. This class-based fight seems to come up often, whether in the form of frozen vegetables, organic vegetable nutritional content, or shopping at Whole Foods. To me the whole point of the movement is not these specific pieces, but a more holistic approach to food and feeding yourself. It’s about taking back ownership of your diet and proving that you can make wholesome food that tastes great, and is good for your health and the environment at the same time. Somewhere along the way this got lost (or misinterpreted).

  1. Shalini says: October 4, 201011:59 am

    Well that’s nice if you have the luxury of having fresh grown products year round like you do in Arizona, but seasonal vegetables do tend to be more expensive once winter approaches up North.

    As for your distaste in frozen vegetables, they actually hold more nutrition than “fresh vegetables” shipped to grocery stores. In the process of preparing them they have to be blanched to kill bacteria but immediately frozen to lock in nutrients. Fresh vegetables on the other hand are typically picked before they have ripened and thus halting full development.

    Meals can also be creative for kids, such as mixing in pureed vegetables into pasta or soup. I think it’s just kids being picky about food just as someone not accustomed to exotic dishes would skip the meal if they knew they were eating cow brains regardless of how it was cooked.

  2. brad says: October 5, 20104:57 am

    Frozen vegetables and fresh vegetables are both excellent. In the north-east, gardens aren’t meant to be a year-round affair. Things can be preserved in a number of ways: pickling, canning, freezing, etc. Pickling and canning seem to have descended into the realms of artisans and hillbillies, but these processes were common knowledge just two or three generations ago; eating fresh seasonal vegetables out of season (e.g., oranges at Christmas time) was a luxurious treat. It would be nice to learn how to eat foods in season, because they’re cheaper and are more nutritious. Like Shalini said, when vegetables are shipped they lose nutritional value.

    I think it’s more fruitful to argue against the negative stigma that’s being associated with the Slow Food Movement than the different benefits of frozen and fresh vegetables. Maybe fresh produce is hard to get sometimes, and maybe frozen vegetables aren’t always as tasty. The point is, while getting children to eat any vegetable is a good thing, teaching them to pick fresh kale from their local farmer’s market or to grow their own organic garden should not be ridiculed. People actually think that teaching kids to support themselves and their community… and about how the world works… is a bad thing? It’s absurd; it seems to be the result of mindless consumerism and a complete disconnect from the food production process. And I agree with BLin 100% about the blue collar worker vs yuppies thing. Vegetables are cheap, especially at farmer’s markets. I often wonder why obesity is so strongly correlated with poverty . I think the problem is the western mindset and its approach towards food. Traditional knowledge about food is decreasing; obesity is skyrocketing. It’s not a bad time to be thinking about the connection between the two. At the risk of sounding like a hippy, which I’m not, it’s supremely important for the well-being of future generations to understand that the earth is something much more than the thing that you walk on.

  3. eric says: October 6, 20109:41 pm

    I think I just disagree with Mr. Ozimek on a fundamental level. I wouldn’t consider it a waste of resources to teach children about healthy, organic foods and/or farming methods. It’s a practical way of imparting kids with a sense responsibility towards their bodies and the planet. He’s calling for a quick, easy, and inexpensive solution. Unfortunately, that is often the short-sighted and unsustainable one. The way that we grow our food IS going to have to change in the next couple decades; we may as well start teaching our kids the right way to do things.

  4. brad says: October 11, 20103:26 am
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