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Aug 19, 2010 01:51 PM

Has urban foodmaking gotten too trendy?

I finally signed up for a CHOW account after reading the "City Jam Scam" article.

Lessley Anderson said it all when she wrote, "The urban homesteading movement often has notes of inauthenticity."

I am an urban gardener and foodmaker myself, but I have been reading more and more articles these days about how the movement doesn't fully address the fact that growing and making your own food is more of a luxury these days, and really caters to the upper middle class of society.

Have you noticed these articles too?

Utne also posted an article called "In Praise of Fast Food" ( that talks about how homegrown food was not quite the perfect answer to nutrition or family togetherness that we often claim.

These articles are not going to deter me from continuing to grow and preserve my own food, I am just curious to know if these discussions are going to make the urban food movement stronger, or if it was just a popular fad.

As a side note, I am thinking about writing a longer article about this question. As a newbie writer, I would love suggestions on where to pitch the idea.

Thank you, and look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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  1. The word "authentic" has got to be one of the most vague, particularly wrt food and food issues. Exactly how does Anderson define "authentic" or "inauthentic"? What is wrong with the joy of producing your own food, whether by growing or preserving the bounty of the farmer's market? It's easy--all to easy--to spout off terms like "inauthenticity" because no one really knows what it means, which makes Anderson's position a bit fake. Look, AlizaEss, I've taken up canning this summer. Why? because of the shear delight of learning the process and having the ability to preserve a little bit of summer.

    Growing and preserving your own food is not a luxury. I live in an region more economically depressed than many other places. We have a vibrant urban garden--tended to and cared for by folks down on their luck, the very opposite of upper middle class.

    BTW, you might want to read Stephen Budiansky's thought-provoking (and tangentially related) Op-Ed in todays NYTimes:

    He raises some interesting points (and I say this as a card-carrying Slow Foodie and board member of my local chapter).

    2 Replies
    1. re: nofunlatte

      Agreed. I learned to can after I picked a few gallons of figs at my grandmother's house. Then I applied my new found skill to preserving small batches of fruits and vegetables when my eyes were bigger than my kitchen at the farmers market. Last year I made 2 quarts of apple jelly b/c I bought a half gallon jug of juice on sale for a recipe that only called for 1/2 cup. Growing my own is not an option, I don't have the space or the sunlight. I also have a lot more cabinet space than freezer space, so canning lets me take better advantage of great deals on local produce in season. For me canning has nothing to do with "authenticity" and everything to do with not wasting food or money.

      1. re: nofunlatte

        The apartment I am moving to in a few weeks is for grad students at the university and there is a huge community garden where you just have to sign up for plots. Grad students as a rule are not rich! i plan to sign up

      2. First, what is "too trendy"? "Too trendy" implies that it causes some kind of harm, which I don't see any evidence of.

        I think the whole problem (if there is one) with the urban homesteading "movement" is that the people who write about it are often "inauthentic" -- like the woman who made one jar of strawberry jam from super-expensive Greenmarket strawberries and then dismissed the whole venture as "too expensive."

        Bashing various food movements is just that latest trend in the media, which groups lots of diverse individuals into a "movement" and attributes a single set of values and motivations to them, substitutes superficial "reporting," opinions and first-person anecdotes regurgitated from other publications or blogs for actual facts, makes sweeping generalizations and then either enthusiastically endorses or completely condemns whole trends or movements.

        There are lots of different people who are participating in aspects "urban homesteading" for various reasons. I made about five dozens jars of marmalade this year, and my reasons for doing so were probably different than next person's. It certainly didn't have anything to do with "nutrition or family togetherness"!

        1. These articles always seem to adopt solidly middle/upper-middle class points of view and then wonder aloud if others are gauche for behaving so upper-middle-class-edly. The whole thing seems to miss the point and leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

          Also classifying everyone who likes to grow or preserve food at home as some kind of unified movement against _______ is like classifying everyone who goes bowling as a unified movement against billiards. Some people just like to bowl.

          2 Replies
          1. re: cowboyardee

            Well said! Too much of the media these days is a small number of NY (and to a lesser degree, SF) media people who read each other's blogs writing about about their friends and each other. That's why I stopped reading -- I got tired of that point of view being the only one represented.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              Hear hear, cowboyardee. I learned to can from my mother, who learned it from her mother, who learned it by necessity because she grew up during the depression. When we were young and poor, we kept food on the table in the winter because we canned like madmen in the summer. We weren't anti-anything, unless it was anti-starving!

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