The case for taste

Chris Taylor has created a documentary about the other side of the food debate: taste.

A couple of weeks ago, a guest on NPR said that she was sick of talking about food.

And she was right. One of the worst things to come out of the fight to bring health back into our food is that we’ve all become food Nazis.

Thank goodness for Chris Taylor. He has created a documentary about the other side of the food debate: taste. Food Fight is not only very informative, it also reminds us that food used to be about enjoying what we eat, not making every food choice a soapbox from which to spout political ideas.

Don’t get me wrong, food is political, but the way to get people away from the dark side of the food system is to bring back food that tastes so good people want to eat it instead of the processed, packaged, highly salted foods that fill our grocery stores. Instead of all the negativity surrounding the food issue, we need positive change.

Food Fight interviews people like Michael Pollan (author of In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma), my own preferred food deity, Wolfgang Puck (chef and owner of Spago), Ron Kind (a congressman from Wisconsin) and several organic food growers around the country. Each gives a personal reason why they do what they do, but also why creating good food is essential to the health of the American people.

The film is centered around Alice Waters, creator of Chez Panisse and the fresh food revolution that started in California in the ’60s. Waters insisted on buying highly flavored foods, not knowing that getting the taste she wanted meant buying organic. People were lured into the whole food movement through their taste buds rather than by moral outrage. Outrage is hard to sustain. Passion for food on the other hand….

There is so much in this documentary that made me think about my own attitude toward the food movement currently happening in America, that I don’t think I’ll talk about it in the same way again. At first, I was a little disappointed that it took so long for them to talk about the non-nutritional value of our food. But then it dawned on me that I was thinking like a nutrition Nazi rather than someone who loves to eat good food.

Now, as far as I’m concerned, they could have left that part out entirely. Maybe it’s all the chemicals in our food that made us forget what it used to taste like and instead focus on the nutrients, as if that’s all that makes up food. Maybe food growing stopped being about good food and started being about large profit margins. Maybe it’s just a vast conspiracy to make us all fat.

This is a great film that shakes us awake after way too many years of nutritionist fatigue. Everyone who eats should watch it. I am thrilled that someone finally said the most important offense committed by the farming industry is the loss of taste. Those mealy tomatoes and nasty ears of corn produced in gigantic quantities are not acceptable, and it’s about time someone said so.

Make sure to catch this film. Then head straight for the farmer’s market or organic food co-op and find out what peaches and bell peppers should really taste like. Then tell everyone you know that an apple is far more than the sum of its nutrients.