With the election just a week away, a palpable political buzz is electrifying conversation. While food issues have largely been overlooked in the Presidential campaign, our country is just beginning to get engaged with food on a much more substantial and political level. For proof, look to the recent coverage in national papers and magazines.
The October 12 issue of the New York Times Magazine takes a big, important look at a panoply of food issues in the US, from catfish farming, to Kosher sustainability, to advertising’s role in children’s diets. It is, quite possibly, the first major publication to dedicate an entire issue to food that isn’t focused on the next hot chef or the best wine buys from New Zealand. The cornerstone of the issue is Michael Pollan’s open letter to the next President of the United States, a daunting missive that lays out how good food policy could (and should) inform every political issue in our nation’s future. Luckily for those of us that missed the issue, the entire content of the magazine (along with videos and audio slideshows) is available on the NYTimes.com.
And just two weeks later, the Times followed up their strong food coverage with an in-depth look at the changing face of the modern animal-rights movement. Their article focuses on Wayne Pacelle, the new President of the Humane Society of America, and his campaign for California’s Proposition 2. If you were in San Francisco for Slow Food Nation, you surely saw the volunteers canvassing in support of the most sweeping farm-animal welfare bill in history. It is a fascinating read that outlines the many branches of animal rights advocacy in the US and the growing public concern over the foods we eat.
Even Gourmet Magazine has steadily been growing their coverage of food politics, all of which they archive in a special section of their website. Beyond the fine living and exotic travel, the publication is now writing about food recalls, environmental degradation, activists and farmers. I take this all as a very good barometer of a changing cultural awareness.
So many of us first became interested in food because of its undeniable sensual allure, but to preserve the pleasures of the table, it is important that more people become conversant in the issues underlying them. Whoever we elect as our next President, let us implore him to recognize the crucial importance of this movement for better food. Hopefully he and his team have been paying attention to the news.