So when things like the Live Below the Line Campaign come my way, especially when my favorite actor happens to be a participant in it, you might forgive me for belaboring it so much. It's incredible and unfortunate that something that is necessary for survival and something we all need (ie: food) is so ignored while simultaneously being so fetishized. Food, in short, is complicated. I'm going to give a brief run-through of some food-related topics I've been wanting to discuss that goes as follows: a few more thoughts on Below the Line, musings on food cost and food waste, and trends and fads amongst consumers (I mean that both as people who eat and people who consume in the more economic sense). And if we have the time, maybe some thoughts on foodies, gourmands, and food porn. So...
(Sorry, not sorry. Been waiting to use that gif forever.)
First off, the Live Below the Line Campaign. I've already discussed it before, so no need to rehash that again (but feel free to read my earlier posts here and here if you have no idea what I'm blathering on about). There's a few brief things I'd like to return to for a moment, however. One of these is this article from Harper's Bazaar, in which Tom Hiddleston recounts his experience in participating in Live Below the Line. I think perhaps one reason this post got shoved off into the slush pile of drafts instead of being finished sooner was because I knew I would have to deal with the fact that Tom Hiddleston is a really good writer. I mean, who does he think he is, Scott Fitz-
But in all seriousness and sincerity, this piece is wonderfully written. I mean, I've got a little bit of the Hemingway mindset of, "It's better writing than mine and therefore I hate it," but really I love this article. It wonderfully balances a humbling experience with the knowledge that being able to do this comes from a certain privileged and how easy it is to not think about what you're going to eat in a day or where the food will be coming from. So I really love this, even if it makes me feel like Owen Wilson in this gif about my writing:
This is part of the reason why I decided against participating in Live Below the Line when it occurred at the end of April. I was still trying to adapt to my work schedule and deal with finals, so I didn't want to risk not eating enough and having it affect me. I did, however keep a short journal of what I was eating and noting how much I was spending on meals based on the receipt for a grocery trip. A few things I'd already had in the cupboard and thus had to estimate and I did end up getting coffee or got a snack on the run from my internship to class, which would generally be rare for me, but it was interesting to see how much a simple muffin cost in perspective of what I would be spending if I were participating in Live Below the Line. The school week looked something like this:
Monday Total: $4.14 (muffin cost $1.71... this appalled me)
Tuesday Total: $6.73 (damn you $4 mocha)
Wednesday Total: $3.36
My struggle was trying to still eat healthy (enough of a challenge in college as it is when you come back from class starving and you simply want to attack that box of Cheez-Its in the pantry). Despite what this graphic that spread around Tumblr claims, eating healthy is NOT CHEAP. The rebuttal included is really wonderful and well-put. This graphic assumes that you have time to cook, access to a grocery store, and of course, most importantly, money. The emphasis on the classist view that the New York Times graphic poses and the fact that it ignores systematic reasons for people eating fast food is one that I think is really important and too much ignored. Having grown up in Indiana, a state full of factories, farms, and blue-collar workers, dietary habits there are far different than in Minnesota. Hell, the grocery stores are even different. I'd never seen a Whole Foods or organic produce sections until I moved north. Then again, the organic movement was growing by the time I moved to Minnesota, but still - it's a very different relationship with food between the two states.
It's also important to note that all of this discussion with poverty and hunger is, as alluded to above, occurring at the same time that things like food porn, foodies, and new sort of "dietary identities" are being formed (vegetarians, pescatarians, vegans, gluten-free, etc). It seems like these identities have never been so widespread as they are now, perhaps because we don't have to worry so much about eating to survive. In the US, many people have easy access to food and don't think of it as survival but as pleasurable or means of living a certain way. Being a vegetarian (and being a rather lax one, I guess you could say), I sense - at least in the United States - is a privileged and a luxury. You don't have to worry about where you're going to get protein in your diet - you have access to other options like tofu and veggie burgers or whatnot, and you don't need meet in your diet to keep you full or warm. I could never be a full vegetarian because I've yet to figure out how one can survive harsh Minnesota winters without at least occasionally eating beef stew or chicken. I think what frustrates me most about vegans and vegetarians who insist that everyone be like them is that they assume that everyone will be able to maintain that sort of diet. Vegetarianism, if not executed well, can be very, very unhealthy. It almost seems that it seems like when we didn't think about food as much, it was easier, but that's of course a romantic, rosy retrospection notion - I think we've always thought about food, especially when it was much harder for us to obtain.
Eating seems to be something that we humans are fascinated by and have a very complex relationship with. On one hand, we're obsessed with food when it comes to food porn, and we can't get enough of it. But on the other hand, we're worried about dieting and restricting what we eat and making our kids take fruits and vegetables in school lunches. But there are also numerous kids on free lunches, watching food be wasted and many Americans and people around the world who can't get enough food. And then I think of how I ate when I stayed at a luxury hotel in Denver last Christmas (paid by a very long term accumulation of hotel perks points by my father traveling for business) and I get even more flummoxed. (Great word, flummoxed).
There's more I could discuss on this but I think perhaps it's best to leave it here. The discussions over food are on-going, as could my posting on it. But for now, I'll stop here and fret over my own dietary habits. Late night eating is bad for you... tell that to someone who hasn't eaten dinner for the past five nights.