Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Jun 14, 2011 11:11 AM

Dining choices and politics!

I was not surprised when the CH Moderators recently took down a thread (about Chick-a-Fil) which had evolved into a discussion about a restaurant chain's politics. The discussion had become more about politics and less about the original post. Nevertheless, whether we like it or not, a wide range of political issues often, rightly or wrongly, influence our dining choices. I'm hoping that the moderators will not take this post down, because it raises what I think is an important issue. Among the political issues which may influence some diners are:

1) Does the restaurant source mainly from local producers, American producers, or significantly from foreign producers? This can involve products as diverse as produce, seafood, wine, etc.

2) Does the restaurant serve foie gras?

3) Does the restaurant use only sustainable fish and seafood (such as those recommended by the Monterey Bay aquarium)? See:

4) Does the restaurant serve caviar from endangered sturgeon sources, or from countries such as Iran, Russia, etc.?

5) Does the restaurant engage in discriminatory practices (women, races, gays, etc.) or make openly discriminatory statements?

My question is, which (if any) of these or other political stances do you consider important when deciding where to dine? Or...from your perspective, is the dining experience the sole factor that influences where you eat?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. 1,3. I prefer that.
    2. Glad in they do.
    4. Don't eat caviar.
    5. Hard to know...if they make disc. comments I would leave.

    I generally don't order unsustainable fish and seafood and encourage restaurants to serve local produce.

    1. Don't you mean ethics?
      Politics involves insincere self serving bureaucrats choosing which country invade next.
      Life is too short to worry about any of the ethical issues you raise. More to the point foie gras is absolutely delicious and you realy should be be buying your wine from anywhere except America.

      14 Replies
        1. re: escondido123

          The OP stated "Does the restaurant source mainly from local producers, American producers, or significantly from foreign producers? This can involve products as diverse as produce, seafood, wine"

          I'm sorry but American wine doesn't appeal to me, i have tried so many over the last 30 years and it just doesn't do anything for me.

          1. re: davidne1

            You might want to keep trying! There are many American wines whose "roots" are both literally and figuratively, European...and many have indeed done extremely well in blind tastings.

            I certainly have no issue with a restaurant sourcing some of it's wines from outside of the U.S., but I like to see a balance between domestic and imported wines.

            1. re: josephnl

              and dont most european wines now have american roots anyway, since the wine blight?

            2. re: davidne1

              That's odd, since American wines regularly win in blind tastings in France. I knew a French fellow who was a wine importer in San Francisco in the 1970s who told me that American wines were already equal or superior to all but the greatest French labels. But maybe you don't like French wines either.

          2. re: davidne1

            The issue that brought this up was a posting regarding Chick Fil A's (I said Chick a Fil...shows you how often I've gone there!) widely publicized alleged advocacy for anti-gay causes. This is, I think, both a political and ethical issue. Perhaps some of the other issues I raised are more ethical than political, but the two often cross.

            1. re: josephnl

              I guess it depend which side of the political issue of homosexuality you fall to declare it a ethical issue. If those are not your morals then it has nothing to do with your ethics.

              I don't get why people are so shocked about chick fil a ,,,,they have always been pretty clear they are a religious based chain. Thats why they are closed on Sundays.

              1. re: josephnl

                I boycotted Wendy's for years (not that I ever ate there much anyway) after they pulled their ads from the TV show "Ellen" when she first came out. Foie gras, on the other hand, will pull me INTO a restaurant! The PC arguments against that are complete hogwash.

                1. re: BobB

                  bob - to you they are hogwash, just as caring about ellen's sexuality or not is hogwash to someone else

                  1. re: thew

                    Anthropomorphization of a bird not hogwash? Hey, if that's your thing...

                    No, I hear what you're saying. My opinions are those of myself alone and should not be taken to represent the views of station management.

                    1. re: BobB

                      the issue isn't anthropomorphization , but what is or is not cruelty vis a vis said bird. but the stuffed burger @ DB bistro moderne justifies all sorts of cruelty in my mind.....

              2. re: davidne1

                Davidne1,I agree with everything you say here, except the wine.

                IMO, dinner should be about dinner, and not some ego-inflating, self-serving, political "statement".

                To the self-righteous boors, who feel the need to bore me to tears with their tedious political beliefs via their politically correct food selection, I have four simple words, "Shut up and eat."

                1. re: davidne1

                  that is not really what politics means

                  1. re: thew

                    What a strange set of definitions around politics people have here. I wonder where this comes from However, definition wise, "politics" refers to collective decision making practices by and for the citizens of a place-- for the polis (the people and the city).

                    In this case, the discussion may be ethical or political or both. These ideas are not mutually exclusive (hence the creation of human rights laws, for instance ).

                2. The original comment has been removed
                  1. I think the moment we turn our eating experiences into didactic exercises, we are entering the realm of the neurotic. Allowing words and mental formations to take away from and hijack the spontanaity of the experience of pleasure and enjoyment. It's quite 'American' to engage in this practice.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: arktos

                      If Chowhounds aren't going to consider these issues, who will? Don't we want the best food that is also sustainable food? We can differ on which of these issues is important to us, but to call people who discuss it "neurotic' is just plain rude.

                      1. re: arktos

                        Not sure what you mean here, Arktos, nor your declaration that governing eating with politics and ethics is somehow uniquely American. You may wish to consider, for instance, that the EU has banned the use of BGH whereas in the US, this is completely allowed. Fair Trade is most definitely an issue in Europe and certain towns have been labelled (branded) as such. Sustainable development is also a rising concern, especially around fishing and the industry.
                        Perhaps it is because so much in the US is determined through individual purchase rather than policy that the discussion seems so much more heightened to you. But make no mistake, there are many politics around European foods and Europeans participate in this discourse.

                        That said, cannot speak for some of the issues raised in the OP.

                        Also, for davidne1, who is likely not reading this: Politics simply refers to collective decision making practices by and for the citizens of a place-- for the polis (the people and the city).

                          1. re: josephnl

                            Bovine growth hormone. Stimulates milk production in cows. Some people think that it's unnatural and therefore inherently evil.

                            Europeans in general are also more up in arms about GMOs (genetically modified organisms) than Americans, for similar reasons. Though there are plenty of conspiracy theorists on both sides of the pond who think scientists are out to get them.

                            1. re: BobB

                              And some people have seen how BGH may stimulate milk production by 10% or so whilst increasing the risks of mastitis (which brings pus into milk and causes great pain to the animal) and lameness. So not so much evil because unnatural, but really undesirable for the additional pain and suffering caused through the process.

                              I appreciate that you believe some people may be over-anxious about developments, but dismissing the concerns wholesale is no better.

                          2. re: Lizard

                            Lizard, why would I not be reading this?

                            1. re: davidne1

                              Because I wasn't responding directly to you, and some people only check in when it's about or to them.

                        1. I think your question is quite thoughtful, and CHers undoubtedly run the gamut. I am still trying to find a balance, if that isn't general enough... There is wanting to support local small businesses, but what if their products are sub-par or overpriced? Wanting to protect (no matter on how small of a scale) endangered species but also wanting to enjoy oneself here and there with a beautiful, fatty piece of toro. Balancing convenience and financial constraints with the desire to support fair trade practices and preserve heirloom crops... Not wanting to know that the owners of one's beloved farm or restaurant or shop support causes in direct competition with one's personal philosophy or ethics... There is no clear cut answer, but there are a few specific incidents that spring to mind where I was largely repulsed or attracted to a business based on the alignment (or lack thereof) of its practices/politics/ethics and those of mine. The pork purveyor at a farmer's market who was loudly declaring that "all dirty [demographic] should die," with me standing right there and having bought from her for years. The business woman who only kept enough of her profits to keep a roof over her head and food on her table, with the rest of it going towards fighting domestic abuse... and whose cafe turned out the worst coffee (-ish), bacon (-esque), potatoes (-ish), and eggs (-ish) at $19 (in 2004-2006!). The ex-pat so enamored with California that he only dealt with the wines of my beloved home. The chef I knew as a friend who talked about his customers being so stupid, not realizing the difference between the advertised veal and consumed pork. Then there are the issues of larger businesses and industries with their lobbyists and undue influence on our food supply and business practices and political contributions...

                          It almost seems like too much to think about sometimes when all you're trying to do is get a pork chop for dinner or treat a friend to her favorite meal/restaurant or figure out if you should pony up extra money for the item you feel or think is best aligned to your overall view of how the world should be... In the end, though, it's quite beautiful that we can vote with our dollars, no?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: link_930

                            Thanks, link_390 for your eloquent statement. You have pretty much expressed my feelings perfectly. We shouldn't be telling others what or where they should eat, nevertheless I do feel that our individual ethical values give us both the right, and yes also the responsibility, to vote with our dollars. I object to, and disagree strongly with those who call this self-righteous, boorish or neurotic.

                            1. re: link_930

                              I couldn't have said it better. This is one of the more sane, rational answers to a topic that can easily deteriorate into an "in your face" shouting match.