Gastronomic Baloney: Food Choices Can Make You 'Conservative'

There has been a trend in recent years for liberals to try to rebrand themselves as conservatives. The purpose is to con people into thinking that they somehow uphold traditional values. One of the more laughable of these rebranding attempts has been put forward by one John Schwenkler, a doctoral candidate in philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley. The very title of Schwenkler's Boston Globe article, "Eat Republican," along with the subtitle, "How an organic movement born in Berkeley exemplifies conservative values," sets the tone for the attempted con. Schwenkler leads off by attempting to convince us that someone who cooked a fundraising dinner for a Democrat is really a conservative:

ALICE WATERS SEEMS at first like an unlikely conservative. A veteran of Berkeley's Free Speech Movement who once cooked a $25,000-a-seat fund-raising dinner for Bill Clinton, she eagerly compares her campaign for "edible schoolyards" - where children grow, prepare, and eat fresh produce - with John F. Kennedy's attempt to improve physical fitness through mandatory exercise. Her dream of organic, locally and sustainably produced food in every school cafeteria, class credit for lunch hour, and required gardening time and cooking classes is as utopian as they come. The name she has given her gastronomic movement, the "Delicious Revolution," strikes the ear as one part fuzzy-headed Marxism, the other David Brooksian bobo-speak.

Actually, John, your article intro strikes the ear as one part fuzzy-headed Berkeley grad student fantasy, the other as liberal scam-speak. Schwenkler then goes on to explain why teaching kids about cuisine is so important (emphasis mine):

But a closer look reveals a different story. Waters, a Berkeley chef who is regarded as the originator of the fusionist "California cuisine," proposed in a 1997 talk that to teach schoolchildren how to grow, prepare, and eat good food is to teach them "ethics" - to help them reject the crass materialism of popular culture and instead find "redemption through a deep appreciation for the real, the authentic, and the lasting." Waters laments the decline of the communal meal as a centerpiece of family life, and writes in the introduction to her 2007 cookbook, "The Art of Simple Food," that good cooking "can reconnect our families and communities with the most basic human values and assure our well-being for a lifetime." Hers is a vision that is focused on the family, and on the ways in which healthy families lie at the very foundation of civil society.

So Schwenkler's inner liberal, never far from the surface, admits that his goal of teaching kids about the Berkeley version of nutrition is "to help them reject the crass materialism of popular culture." That same inner liberal also causes Schwenkler to take a dig at Jonah Goldberg:

Set against books like National Review editor Jonah Goldberg's best-selling "Liberal Fascism," which glibly suggests affinities between the organic food movement and Nazi totalitarianism, it is easy to treat views like Waters's simply as a liberal phenomenon. But this is not as it should be: For in her deference to tradition, her focus on community, and her understanding of the role of the family in society it is Waters, not Goldberg, who is giving a voice to genuinely conservative values.
Yeah, right. Waters who cooked a fundraising dinner for Bill Clinton is somehow a real conservative, not Goldberg of the National Review. Then after having admitted that an aim of culinary education is to teach kids to help them reject the crass materialism of popular culture, Schwenkler appears irked that conservatives would oppose such indoctrination in the schools:
If writers like Goldberg are any indication, though, there is likely to be resistance from many corners of the conservative movement. (One of the original subtitles for "Liberal Fascism" was "The Totalitarian Temptation from Hegel to Whole Foods.") Certain populist conservatives may be turned off by a perceived elitism in criticisms of the way we shop and eat, while others might object to Waters's calls for the government to use public schooling to promote good eating. But these objections have little force: The ability to buy good food and cook it well is within pretty much everyone's reach, and there is no reason why culinary education cannot also be the province of private and parochial schools, home-schooling parents, and churches and voluntary associations.

So what is Schwenkler's idea of a traditional "Eat Republican" American dinner? Would it be fried chicken or sirloin steak smothered in onions? Not a chance. Remember, the author is writing from Berkeley, where the cuisine leans more towards bean sprouts and yogurt:

Things will need to take root in our kitchens first of all, and it is here that Waters's cookbook provides as good an introduction as one could hope for. Each Friday, my wife and I walk with our 1-year-old son to a house down the street where we pick up a box of just-picked produce and pastured eggs from a nearby farm. As with many community-supported agriculture programs (where customers buy seasonal "shares" in a farm in exchange for regular deliveries of fresh produce), our farm box comes with a newsletter that suggests recipes for some of its less familiar contents. But of late we've been making a point to turn to "The Art of Simple Food" whenever possible, and so carrot soup, summer squash gratin with homegrown herbs, marinated beet salad, and wilted chard with onions are likely candidates for the days ahead.

Yeah, real "Republican" food there, John. Try as you might into making people think you favor traditional American meals, you just can't make the leap to actually eating it yourself. Instead, your inner Berkeley liberal forces you to remain wedded to your diet of marinated beet salad and wilted chard. Please don't grimace too much while the rest of us continue to enjoy our pizzas and spare ribs slathered in distinctly non-Berkeley barbeque sauce.

Boston Globe

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