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JimLeff: Ranting About Locavore/Organic/Eco Sanctimony

Melanie Wong Sep 3, 2013 09:16 PM

". . . So, sorry, sanctimonious wellness strivers. Your bubble is illusory. You will more than likely get cancer, anyway. You're not shielded. You're not elite. You overpay for smug delusion.

But you know what? I myself buy organic when I can (especially with concentrated foods like juices and butters). And I try to buy local when I can. And I even shop at Whole Foods sometimes (for sale-priced produce and a few brands I can't find elsewhere, e.g. Taste Nirvana coconut water). But I don't do so with a prissy sense of elevation. I don't drink the (organic, fair-trade) Kool-Aid. Chris Hayes asked about a middle path, and, for me, that involves stripping away the sanctimony, obsession, and delusion.

I don't delude myself about a bubble of purity and wellness - about transcending the squalor of plebeian existence. I just eat as healthily as I can afford to. That's it! I go organic and local when I can, astutely accepting the reality that I'm paying up a steep curve of declining results for the luxury of perhaps doing a scant notch better for myself. All with the wry understanding that I'll likely be run over by a bus on the way home.

Above all, be real. You can't be squeaky clean. You're neither virtuous nor pure. Purchasing fair trade coffee doesn't right your myriad eco wrongs, and organic cotton fiber clothing will not elevate you. And neither will a conventional hamburger and fries nor a slice of corporate white bread defile you. You come pre-defiled, and to imagine otherwise is to be an entitled, rich, narcissistic ninny.

No matter what, chemicals will keep pouring into you (breathe much?). A bowlful of Rice Krispies with milk from Stupid Farms in Ohio won't make the slightest diff. But, if you can, sure, by all means, do your best. Favor the organic; favor the local, favor fresh in-season (lowercase) whole foods. Just don't make it a religion, be grateful you can afford the capricious luxury, and every once in a while send a check to help support those who'd be deliriously grateful for a box of Oreos. Because actual hunger is where the real problem lies, and where our money can do the most good. "


Edited to add: The above is an excerpt.

  1. chris2269 Sep 3, 2013 09:27 PM

    We all want control. If I do only X..If I eat only X...If I live my life a certain way I will achieve X. If only it was that simple. Do not get me wrong if something focuses you makes you happy by all means do it. If you think you are going to live longer because at 30 you bought only organic go for it. At the same time the guy who ate only veggies and ran 5 miles 5 days a week died at 36 and my Grandmother who for the last 7 years of her life ate Pasta with butter and cheese lived to 98. We all want Control

    1. s
      sedimental Sep 3, 2013 09:52 PM

      But if the opposite is Honey Boo Boo.....I will be narcissistic ...thanks. ;)

      Common sense is a rarity, sadly.

      1 Reply
      1. re: sedimental
        chris2269 Sep 3, 2013 10:06 PM

        "But if the opposite is Honey Boo Boo" The opposite of what? My point is ...I have a heart condition I have to eat low low low low salt.. When I started researching ...do you know everything has tons of salt in it Still I will probably die by 70 no problem just a fact and some one who eats 5X the salt I do due to genetics will out live me. My whole thing is genetics win every time..your control minimum at best.
        "Common sense is a rarity, sadly." So now your smarter than people?

      2. p
        pley Sep 3, 2013 10:19 PM

        Constipated much? Breathe. I think most of us understand that we can only do what we can , given our individual financial, time, energy, and other constraints.

        Edit: or maybe it was written after being around too many hipsters.

        6 Replies
        1. re: pley
          ennuisans Sep 3, 2013 10:37 PM

          To me, anti-elitism like this article is more annoying than the supposed elitism it rails against. At least food "snobs" are trying to skew the food economy toward a more positive direction (which the author claims to want as well) rather than bravely defending junk food.

          1. re: ennuisans
            acgold7 Sep 3, 2013 10:57 PM

            Then you have missed the entire point of even the excerpt.

            1. re: acgold7
              ennuisans Sep 3, 2013 11:02 PM

              Perhaps I have. My takeaway was that the author thinks people who want to eat better think they are superior to other people, not realizing he thinks he is better than the people he is writing about. I may be wrong about that.

              1. re: ennuisans
                pley Sep 4, 2013 10:04 PM

                Ennuisans, well said both times.

              2. re: acgold7
                JuniorBalloon Sep 5, 2013 03:52 PM

                How can we look down on people who look down on people without being people who look down on people?

                The above is a joke.


                1. re: JuniorBalloon
                  chowser Sep 5, 2013 04:14 PM

                  It's more like looking down on someone who's looking down at a straw man.

          2. linguafood Sep 4, 2013 08:47 AM

            Didn't you post pretty much the exact same blah-di-blah on the FM&N board, written by someone else?

            Which came first -- Leff or the New Republic?


            2 Replies
            1. re: linguafood
              Melanie Wong Sep 4, 2013 10:07 AM


              First off, my posting things here is not an endorsement of the ideas, simply sharing. Like the meals and restaurants I report on, I tend to gravitate toward pieces that aren't covered widely.

              I posted the New Republic piece because I came across it yesterday. Then I remembered Leff's blog piece in the same vein and went back to find it to post here as well.

              1. re: Melanie Wong
                linguafood Sep 4, 2013 10:25 AM

                Oh, I'm not blaming the messenger here :-D

            2. EricMM Sep 4, 2013 04:11 PM

              I agree. Dogmatic approaches are never good. It's great to get local food, when possible. I try to get organic whenever possible (for environmental reasons...don't think it is safer or more nutritious), grow vegetables. But I don't obsess over it. And as far as eating healthy, well, it didn't prevent me from getting a cancer for which i have no known risk factors.

              3 Replies
              1. re: EricMM
                youareabunny Sep 5, 2013 04:54 PM

                Organic has faults environmentally as well. Sometimes at same level, if not worse than conventional

                1. re: youareabunny
                  Leonardo Sep 5, 2013 10:44 PM

                  Give us some actual independent scientific proof of that?

                  1. re: youareabunny
                    Caroline1 Sep 6, 2013 02:47 AM

                    Bunny, before 20th century man and his lab full of chemical tricks and toxins came along, organic WAS conventional...!!!!! And please, a citing for fault with organic anything that is more damaging to the planet and all who dwell on it than what you erroneously call "conventional?" "Organic" has been nature's way of growing things on this planet since thi planet was formed!

                2. c
                  Chatsworth Sep 5, 2013 01:05 AM

                  Dear Jim Leff,

                  I'd love to write a sanctimonious reply to your sanctimonious article about what you consider to be a sanctimonious attitude towards food, but that would involve using sanctimonious too many times.



                  (Notice that I didn't have to

                  1. chowser Sep 5, 2013 08:23 AM

                    Stereotypes. Maybe those who Jim thinks are sanctimonious just have the same feelings he has but he's somehow falsely assigned those feelings to them? The people I know who like local, etc. (including me) are more like Jim and none are like his stereotype. People who are smug are those who think they're better than others and that's exactly what that blog post is. "I do the same thing you do but my motives are so much more pure while you are delusional and suck."

                    1. Veggo Sep 5, 2013 08:50 AM

                      Didn't move my needle.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Veggo
                        ipsedixit Sep 5, 2013 10:48 PM

                        You have a needle?

                        1. re: ipsedixit
                          Veggo Sep 6, 2013 04:49 AM

                          It's a prop for my pet camel. He likes to thread himself through the eye as a parlor trick.

                      2. Caroline1 Sep 5, 2013 03:34 PM

                        With that kind of knee jerk (sanctimonious) rant, it's reassuringly wonderful that he sold his ownership of Chow/Chowhound. Tolerance and room for everyone of all gastric-persuasions was supposed to be the premise here, if I'm not mistaken. Is this rant REALLY from the same guy?

                        7 Replies
                        1. re: Caroline1
                          ratgirlagogo Sep 7, 2013 09:05 AM

                          "Tolerance and room for everyone of all gastric-persuasions was supposed to be the premise here, if I'm not mistaken."

                          This was not a particularly tolerant place when Jim was running it. Opinionated, informative, funny, rude, snarky, friendly, fascinating - but not tolerant. He especially disliked the "chatty" kinds of threads we have on Home Cooking.

                          1. re: ratgirlagogo
                            linguafood Sep 7, 2013 09:15 AM

                            Good riddance.

                            1. re: linguafood
                              LindaWhit Sep 7, 2013 02:37 PM

                              Except without Jim Leff and Bob Martinez and a few other stalwart volunteers, Chowhound wouldn't exist. Some may say that someone else would have created a facsimile - and some eventually did (egullet, and I think a few others). I'm not sure it would have been the same, however.

                              So while I have no comment on his rant in the OP link, I do thank him and the others for keeping CH going, even in the old, ugly format that it was before CNET bought them out.

                              1. re: LindaWhit
                                ratgirlagogo Sep 7, 2013 03:01 PM

                                Yes, LindaWhit, absolutely.

                                1. re: LindaWhit
                                  Caroline1 Sep 7, 2013 04:56 PM

                                  Don't misunderstand me. I DO DO DO appreciate his place in founding Chowhound! Absolutely!


                                  I also feel it is imperative that people -- great cooks, bad cooks, and anyone who eats -- understands that MANY of today's practices in the way we produce food in this world are detrimental! So if the "sanctimonious wellness strivers" can have ANY impact on slowing down the damage that we (most especially the "we" in the United States) are doing to the only planet we have in the entire universe we can live on in the here and now, then I say, "Hey, Wellness Strivers, RANT ON!"

                                  When you take time to look at the environmental impact of some of the things we do, and then bother to track them on out from the ""what they do to the taste of our food" to the "how does that fit into the big picture of the ecological damage we are doing to the planet through some of our practices?' well, prepare yourself for a shock! I could launch into an 18 page lecture on some of the issues the "Wellness Strivers" are concerned about, but I won't. I'll be kind. But I will say that people who put down the wellness strivers have the same kind of mentality as those who think it is just fine for everybody to pee in a public swimming pool!

                                  There! I said it, and I'm glad! <harumph> '-)

                              2. re: ratgirlagogo
                                Chemicalkinetics Sep 7, 2013 10:54 AM

                                You think Home Cooking is chatty? Have you been to "Not about Food"?

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                  linguafood Sep 7, 2013 12:34 PM

                                  NAF is not chatty. It's ranty.

                            2. j
                              judybird Sep 5, 2013 05:08 PM

                              So we sometimes shop at Whole Foods, and FSM help me, we drive a Prius. I also carry my own canvas bag, but that's because plastic ones are outlawed in my town. Does that all automatically make me insufferably smug, or is there more to it?

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: judybird
                                chowser Sep 5, 2013 06:03 PM

                                Exactly. Jim says he does the same as the ones he's criticizing. But, somehow his motives and feelings are different from others who do the same.

                                1. re: judybird
                                  Palladium Sep 6, 2013 01:34 AM

                                  Worse- according to some, that makes you an insufferable hipster!

                                  1. re: Palladium
                                    judybird Sep 7, 2013 03:38 PM

                                    No, I'm too old to be a hipster!

                                2. Chemicalkinetics Sep 5, 2013 05:13 PM

                                  Nice read. Thanks.

                                  1. h
                                    HillJ Sep 6, 2013 05:19 AM

                                    well..Jim did call it a RANT.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: HillJ
                                      chowser Sep 6, 2013 09:55 AM

                                      Yeah, but it seems like a rant against a fictitious group of people. There might be some people who are that smug and think they'll never get cancer or die but it's certainly not the majority of people who go to Whole Foods or shop locally, as he says he does. I'd say most are more like him but he wants to think they're not. He's gotten his knickers in a knot for no reason.

                                      1. re: chowser
                                        HillJ Sep 6, 2013 01:19 PM

                                        Maybe so chowser, but that self-titled rant is part of a personal blog. Would the entry be on your radar at all if it wasn't posted here? Does the fact that the co founder of CH wrote it matter in the context of what is actually written?

                                        After I read the entire entry on Jim's site, I didn't take one word personally. It's just been put out there for anyone to read.

                                        It's his knickers.

                                        1. re: HillJ
                                          chowser Sep 6, 2013 01:55 PM

                                          I don't take it personally, either. It just seems like a like of anger/scorn over a boogie man. It's not because it's the co-founder of CH but that I've usually respected his POV on things. There seems to be enough anger in the world w/out creating a reason for more. Kum ba yah.

                                          1. re: chowser
                                            HillJ Sep 6, 2013 02:05 PM

                                            Hey, we all need a nap from time to time! :)

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