In honor of the Eat Local challenge this week, I’d like to make an observation: isn’t it nice that eating local is so fashionable? I don't mean that in a facetious or offhand way. Here we are – bright, interesting 30- and 40- and 50-somethings, all eager to do something meaningful. Even though it might take some extra effort to seek out local ingredients, it’s very rewarding; not only do we get to do contribute to our own communities, but it also tastes so good and is so much fun. We’re not gnawing on bran flakes or choking back aloe vera shots; we’re marveling over tender spears of asparagus and unctuous cheeses. With our friends, no less. Life is good.
But I’m worried. Marian Burros’ New York Times article about the Eat Local Movement on Wednesday introduced a word that made me recoil in horror – at the end of the piece, she mentions people who eat really local; they grow their own food. All well and good, but here’s what they’re calling themselves: yokelvores.
Yokelvores? Please: say it ain’t so.
Check out the picture accompanying the article (I dare not re-post it here, so you’ll have to look for yourself) of the novelist Barbara Kingsolver and her family. Barbara Kingsolver is one of my favorite writers, and I would prostrate at her feet if I met her in person, but the photo of she and her husband with their teenage daughters made me cringe.
I’ve been that teenage daughter.
During the 80’s and 90’s, my family grew most of our own food, thanks to the forward-thinking convictions of my mother, who didn’t allow hydrogenated vegetable oil or high-fructose corn syrup to cross her threshold, ever. We spent our summers weeding rows of carrots and peas; we could never be away from home too long without rushing back to water the lettuce or check on the tomatoes. Many summer nights, we ate stir-fry and salad for dinner, composed entirely of vegetables we grew several feet from the kitchen door. For years on end, we spent the months of July and August canning hundreds – and that is no exaggeration – of jars of fruits and vegetables.
I’m grateful for the amazing food we ate, but at the time I thought we were incredibly weird. Okay, we were weird. We were not even remotely hip or fashionable. Which may sound trivial, but it’s actually my whole point – that being hip (yech, another word I don’t like) is reallyreallyreally important when you’re 16, and while a hokey/dorky/dweeby front might be a savvy marketing angle for movies like Napoleon Dynamite, it might not extend the life expectancy of a burgeoning movement.
When you were 15, would you have wanted the New York Times to publish a photo of you standing with your parents and holding a basket of eggs for an article that describes you as a “yokel”? Maybe you would have. But I doubt it.
In order for eating locally sourced foods to be more than a passing phase, we have to make sure that the younger generation doesn’t roll their eyes at our antics and resume munching on Twinkies. There are many, many huge corporations who are hoping for just that… so let’s not help them out by coining phrases like “yokel.”
Oh, me. I just wrote “the younger generation.” Now I’m scaring myself.
**Photo above: my mother’s corn patch last November.