The harangued consumer can’t navigate SOLE food, ethical eating and the ‘simplicity’ of cooking

The cauldron of ethical, responsible eating has been bubbling away for a while. Advocates of various issues throw in their own chunk of passion while others try to package this pot au feu in a pastry case, as if consumers could carry it around as a dish of good conscience. The thin broth and pieces of irreconcilable ethical directions make for an impossible dish. A lid of statements about correct lifestyles and how people should comport themselves when it comes to their food life leaves consumers in justifiable trepidation about what lies in this pie. All the while, the pie leaks its broth through the many fissures in the increasingly soggy pastry.

Many concerns about ethical eating and food/cooking knowledge have been receiving attention in the Australian blogosphere and some recent posts revealed both common goals and some tensions between the experiences of a diversity of bloggers and the broader eating population. [Purple Goddess: 1, Stickyfingers: 2, The Gobbler: 5, 6, 7 all contribute opinion, wisdom or personal experience (and the comments on their pieces are interesting too).] [UPDATE 27/07/08, 20:42: links 3&4 were removed as the person in question objected to being referred to in this article. They insisted that my reference to other bloggers here is insulting. That was not and is not my intention. I thought that linking to relevant posts by Australian bloggers would help readers to understand what SOLE is and what many of the issues arising are.]

Issues love advocates and advocates love bold statements. Consumers endure a number of conflicting causes that clamour for their support and most of these use a good dose of punitive rhetoric to make the consumer act.

A slightly exaggerated summary of the SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, ethical) or Ethicurean issues, plus a few more:

  1. Eat organic because anything else is poisoning you and the earth (only the fewest consumers will be enticed to spend considerably more on produce just because it might taste better)
  2. Eat local because anything else is unpatriotic, bad for the environment, economically or socially irresponsible
  3. Eat seasonal produce because anything else is unnatural, environmentally irresponsible, ignorant
  4. Eat Slow because anything else is part of the evil multinational fast-food complex
  5. Eat unprocessed because anything else could make you obese and/or kill you
  6. Eat non-GM because GM might cause you to grow scales, extra limbs or have deformed offspring, or because it’s just a perversion of nature which must be a bad thing
    And we can add to this:

  8. Cook with unprocessed ingredients because anything else means you’re a gormless fool who is either lazy, ignorant, incompetent, irresponsible or stupid.
  9. Don’t buy produce at supermarkets because it means you’re a gormless fool who is either lazy, ignorant, incompetent, irresponsible or stupid.
  10. Don’t eat simple food when dining out because it means you’re a gormless fool who is either lazy, ignorant, incompetent, irresponsible or stupid.

Most normal consumers haven’t a snowflake’s chance in hell of navigating these issues and chastisements successfully. When confronted with too many challenges people stop caring. Issue fatigue. You lose them. Many more intelligent consumers will also be lost if they can see that a cause is not as cut-and-dried as the campaigners choose to claim (GM, local, organic) — a situation often exploited cynically by reactionary opponents of ethical eating.

There has been valuable writing recently of how little it can cost to make great food and how unreasonably restaurants get away with charging a premium for simple dishes (see links in the second para). But what seems simple or absurd to one passionate commentator may be quite the opposite to another, and to the average consumer. It’s easy to forget Jo(e) Eater when writing about one’s passions for a largely likeminded food-enthusiastic people. Let’s remember what many cooks/eaters/diners are like:

Many people cannot cook very well because they:

  • didn’t learn to at home
  • find the combining of ingredients conceptually challenging
  • may be poor at understanding textual instructions
  • were discouraged by better cooks who had no sympathy for them

People may choose not to cook because they:

  • may not enjoy food enough to get beyond a food-as-fuel perspective
  • have little time spare for cooking
  • need to clear their head before preparing food because it isn’t something they find simple
  • may actually prefer to eat out with friends for the feeling of community
  • live alone and don’t find joy in cooking for one
  • prefer to eat food which requires a minimum of effort
  • live in modern shoebox apartments without enough storage space for a range of ingredients or implements
  • hate washing up so much that even takeaway is preferable

Consumers shop largely/exclusively at supermarkets because they:

  • have little choice locally
  • do not have the time (whether objectively or subjectively) to shop at multiple places
  • only have alternative local access to overpriced or poor quality greengrocers or butchers or other suppliers (Hawthorn or Daylesford in Victoria, or many parts of London, and numerous places in North America, spring to mind as occasional examples of this, either now or in the last ten years)
  • find shopping unenjoyable or have enough other chores in their life
  • find the neat, structured supermarket environment easier to deal with (physically, logistically, psychologically)
  • don’t have a freezer large enough to hold bulk purchases from distant suppliers
  • find farmers’ markets overpriced, hypocritical, class-ridden, or impractical

Many people do not convert to local or seasonal because they:

  • have been exposed to largely unseasonal variety for so long and have not grown up with a seasonal mindset
  • have little concept of local food and rapidly realise that ‘local’ can only ever be a partial change, so why bother?
  • perhaps actually know that local isn’t necessarily better for the environment (the ‘food miles’ concept is flawed in many of its basic assumptions about environmental impact, except in the most simplistic scenarios)

Consumers are so bombarded by scaremongering, warnings, confusing marketing and aggressive campaigning that they are lost. They are misled by TV cooks and food media that make out that expensive or fancy ingredients are necessary for the lifestyle self-image. They’re chastised for choosing shortcuts (‘cheats’) or fast food. They face more decisions on every level than is humanly manageable: issues, product choices, status validation.

And, increasingly, there’s the household budget to worry about, as petrol prices and food costs creep upwards. Fear, difficulty and helplessness will challenge the habits of a decade of food-as-status consumerism.

Now look at whether any of this applies to you. I know many people for whom the above would not apply at all, but their numbers are insignificant in comparison to the broader population’s understanding, fears, experiences, preferences or opportunities.

The passionate food world can encourage consumers to cook more, make wiser food and nutrition choices, and think more about what types and sources of food they could prefer. Encourage, not insult. Help, not cajole. (Thankfully this is another strength of many food blogs.) If we forget this, we just add to the noise, pushing Jo(e) Eater down the road of confusion, frustration and further manipulation by vested interests.

36 thoughts on “The harangued consumer can’t navigate SOLE food, ethical eating and the ‘simplicity’ of cooking”

  1. Good points, Duncan. I do applaud chefs like Alice Waters for their environmental responsibility but it’s never as easy in real life. There are a few organic producers popping up in Farmer’s Markets locally but even without the strict US policies for labeling produce organic (re: quality of the land, how long organic methods have been used) it still seems like an affair reserved for the upper tiers of society (case in point: the farmer’s market is in the yuppie district…). As a baker, I can’t imagine ever living on just local fruits. We’d only ever have tropical fruits and one or two citrus fruits, no berries. I’d have a very ignorant tongue. (Meanwhile, US Artichokes popped up on grocery shelves last week… My estimate is AU$10 (converted) apiece. I almost threw up then and there.)

  2. It’s actually not such a big deal Duncan. Those who are upset and feel as though they’re being told what to do appear to be vexed about most things in life. One day their habit will have changed but they won’t even realise that it has happened when things evolve gradually.

    There will come a time where the global population respects that they need to tread more lightly on the planet and ensure that there is something left for future generations to enjoy. Making the ethical, sustainable and responsible choices for our health and environment will eventually become second nature to us all.

    In the meantime the early adopters will do whatever they can to support and help educate others, in whichever style comes naturally to them.

  3. Thanks, Manggy, for your pertinent comments from another part of the world:) Your examples are a wonderful illustration of the clash between modern life and the issues and contradictions of being (or not being) a locavore in many places.

    Sticky, I think you undervalue people’s feeling of disempowerment in the swamp of ethical and lifestyle decisions they are being asked to make, and the irritation many experience when their choices are aggressively challenged, sometimes unnecessarily or unconstructively. This is a ‘big deal’ for a lot of people, and could well become even more so if financial factors also bite. Consumers are making many ethical choices, but rarely from an informed position and often with someone else asserting that another choice would have been better.

  4. I think you make some excellent points Duncan. I for one know that I don’t find cooking that easy. So to try and cook ethically would be an even bigger challenge for me. It’s hard enough to buy things from the supermarket, so to source them from many locations would be so hard that I would rather not cook at all.

    As for eating out, I really enjoy the social aspect of it. Yes, sometimes some items I could cook, but again that takes time. My friends and I would rather use that time to enjoy ourselves and catch up rather than cooking away in a kitchen.

  5. Hear hear Duncan! My thoughts mirror yours. The atmosphere in some corners of late has been akin to feverish Jesuit missionaries putting the fear and wrath of the ‘right path’ into the sinning native indians! Turn to the light or fire and brimstone. Even if at first quite interested in hearing/learning more about the movement and weighing it up to fit one’s lifestyle, can’t help but reach over and press the off button. What happened to everything (and anything within reason) in moderation?

  6. Duncan,
    Wonderful post! I am 100% agree with you! And thank you for writing this kind of article.
    This lifestyle is becoming a fashionable in my neighborhood. Not that I don’t like eating organic & local produce, I do. It just seems ridiculous if I have to pay more then US$12/pounds of organic local dried apricot.

  7. Very thorough post Duncan.
    I would also add that people shop at supermarkets because of the ‘perceived convenience’.
    I really think that thre is a bit of a backlash against foodie types (sorry ED!)like me I guess, who bang on about the ‘right things to eat’.
    PG’s latest post was very passionate & quite bold but to some it might sound like lecturing.
    Jamies last show drew criticism for being too heavy handed with the message on obeisity. I would argue that this was the very reason why it effectively got its message across but still people dont like being dictated to. Not saying that he was doing this but its s fine line to walk.
    I think that some people, even when faced with logical & conventional facts regarding their eating choices will often just go back to old habits & it takes a while to change these, perhaps generations.
    What gives me hope though is the quit smoking, drink drive & slip slop slap campaigns have been quite effective in changing our culture within one generation. No we aren’t completely free of smokers, drink drivers or bronzed aussies but its remarkable how much the convention has changed.
    Perhaps SOLE food will be our next cultural hurdle?

  8. Duncan, I think the vexation you’re describing is a consequence of the broadening of the media. Somewhere along the line though, the populous has forgetten that they can just switch off to consider.

    People are definitely subjected to many more points of view than in days gone by and many more are able to voice their opinions. As I said on Gobbler’s post when you have the right to speak out, you have the right to criticise and be criticised. Even this post could be considered inflammatory and vexatious.

    I appreciate that it is difficult to shift from a parochial viewpoint to one that considers decision making on a multitude of levels. I know however that it is the younger Generation Y’s and Gen Z that will lead the charge in redressing the damage done in the last thirty years by the growth of global and multinational commerce.

    The analogy that you might consider is that when you were young, people who recycled, installed solar energy panels and water tanks, and who grew their own vegies were disparagingly called ‘Hippies’ or ‘Lefty Ferals’ – in the way that ‘Yuppie’ is now being bandied about. Essentially they are romantics with big dreams.

    Their notions were at the time put down by the populous as being expensive, unrealistic, evangelical and ridiculous. But today in Australia, recycling is second nature and the other efforts that these early adopters initiated are now being incentivised by the government.

  9. Great contributions:) @Gobbler: a fundamental difference between smoking/drinking/skin cancer and food is that the (relatively) successful three are about *death* or imprisonment. Most of the food arguments are about lifestyle change for the common good (perhaps!). They are nuanced, easily hijacked or misunderstood, and have no immediate imperative for the average person. Obesity is the only one which implies death, but it is such a misrepresented issue (read my piece here) and with few simple solutions, so people despair or become cynical.

    When there’s no simple, clear, unequivocal message, most people fatigue quite rapidly.

  10. [Comment revised Sun, 20 Jul 08, 18:17]

    @Sticky: I think your analogy is flawed.
    (1) The people who made progressive environmental steps in the past weren’t broadly disparaged in my experience, except where they were in-your-face about the whole ideology. You might have experienced something else. The current SOLE, etc, evangelists have the upper hand for the most part, with their good-conscience message resonating well at a simplistic level. They are not pariahs. It’s the consumers who are facing disapproval and disdain.
    (2) Proper recycling is *not* second nature to most people — people do not sort plastics willingly, often resist cleaning their recyclables before depositing, regularly contaminate separations knowingly, etc…

    Point 2 is particularly relevant here because it shows that action is often successfully encouraged, but ideological absolutism or the complexity of issues rapidly leads people to settle for an inadequate personal compromise.

  11. You’re right of course Duncan even if I don’t agree with you, because I’m not average; never have been. I just encourage people to rise above themselves, broaden their horizons and not to wallow in excuses.

    Your argument reinforces the parochial Australian attitude that things are out of their hands so they do nothing but grumble.

    It takes determination and altruism to go from being a whinger or someone who mocks the efforts of others from the sidelines, to being a person who takes action without blaming others, who chooses to tread lightly on the planet and not to behave like a sulky child who believes they are beleaguered by a parental voice to do the right thing.

    In my personal and working life I am aiming to make change easier in a way that is simple to comprehend. I am helping certain people to eat better on a budget, shop for food, learn to cook and am educating them to help assist keeping jobs in the country by encouraging the support of local producers. I am also working with local manufacturers to bring better food to market.

    I do this because I am aware that change needs to happen in the face of a global food crisis, climate change issues, fuel crisis, the rising instance of obesity related illness in the developed world and the negative impact that government lobby groups funded by multinational companies have on jobs and farmers in Australia.

    Rather than pointing out that people feel harassed, I would enjoy hearing what you are doing to support and assist the people of which you claim such omniscience.

  12. and to follow on from stickis and duncans points, for those more marginalised families (ie unemployed etc), they dont have the budget or the education to eat well, let alone SOLE. When fish fingers are a fraction of the cost of fresh fish, meat pies cheaper than mince meat and packets of chips cheaper than fresh fruit for snacking, i can see why this happens. Maybe the initial focus doesnt need to be on SOLE but on getting the right sort of foods, and then we can focus on more specific global food issues.

    I work on a soupvan once a fortnight and it is amazing the people that say they are ‘allergic’ to salad, wholemeal bread, or tomatoes. We give out donated food so there is not a massive choice and most of it unhealthy, but it is also uplifting that I have noticed over the years more and more people asking for salad sandwiches and vegetable rolls rather than meat pies and sausage rolls. I think the message is slowly getting through but unfortunately is tied up with all the hype about ‘diets’ which is not necessarily the healthiest solution.

    and u r right duncan -some people do only see food as fuel. A friend of mine if left to fend for herself will have a boiled egg or toast for dinner, as she really doesnt care what she eats. People like me on the other hand are happy enough to spend an entire Sunday in the kitchen making pizza dough, felafel, dinner, as well as meals for the week

  13. @Ran: It’s nice to read an account of how things change with time and gradual exposure/encouragement. Also good to be reminded of the economic constraints which shape people’s shopping choices — not always sensible or logical choices, but real life nonetheless.

    @Sticky: Are you now tending towards ad hominem aggression, Sticky, rather than focusing on the substance? As this isn’t a beauty pageant, what I do in my life is irrelevant to the article under discussion (and one might say it’s none of your business either).

    I appealed for a little more nurturing and a bit less of telling people what to do. The article wasn’t about you, though clearly you’re running with that idea quite happily. In the long run, encouragement and education is often more successful across the breadth of the community.

    Throughout your responses, you’ve chosen not to address the actual concerns of average and not-so-average people and the difficulty of the conflicting issues they face. Instead you’ve called them (or me?) ‘vexed about most things’, ‘wallow[ing] in excuses’, a ‘whinger’, ‘someone who mocks’, ‘a sulky child’. You’ve told us just how important it is to you to stand for your issues unrelentingly, disregarding other people’s difficulties in managing all the claims for their conscience/time/money. So much for constructive engagement.

    Most populations are, to use a word you seem to like, ‘parochial’. My article neither promotes nor encourages that, despite your assertion. The article certainly seeks to make observations about why people might feel harrassed and not behave the way campaigners think they must, and suggests that there can be alternative approaches to achieving similar, admirable goals.

  14. Sticky, why is not eating SOLE and buying from the supermarket wallowing in excuses? I really don’t understand that. Aren’t I allowed to (due to finances, choice, time, convenience) shop in a multi-national supermarket and not feel bad about myself? Let’s not forget that the multi-nationals hire thousands of people too, whose job depend on people shopping at supermarkets, so it works both ways.

    I’m not grumbling or whingeing that supermarkets are bad. I quite like the convenience of having most items all in the same store. I also haven’t mocked anyone about choosing to eat SOLE. I’m glad that some pople are choosing to eat SOLE. So why is it that I have to have SOLE eating sold to me like I’m bad person and destroying the Earth if I don’t follow it. You are taking the moral high ground on this issue and berating those of us who choose not to follow that lifestyle for whatever reason. It is you that is mocking our effort (or lack thereof) in being a better person and doing the right thing for the planet.

    Do you really think that Duncan’s article has mocked SOLE eating? I don’t think that’s the case. I think he is clearly pointing out that not everyone needs to be lectured about doing the supposed “right thing” and being made to feel guilty if they don’t follow that. Informing others to choice is a great thing, but informing can quickly become demanding once you start involving emotions and make others feel guilty for not doing what you think is correct.

    I’m not against SOLE eating at all. If possible, I occasionally try to buy good produce from small producers too. But the choice to buy most things from a supermarket is mine, and I don’t need to feel guilty about doing that. I hope that’s made it clearer about my thoughts of this discussion.


  15. Duncan,

    Really interesting post. I don’t have much to add to this, although on first reading I tend to feel the same as you and Thanh – but will have to think about the issues a bit more.

    Anyway, just had to comment so I could subscribe to all the other comments that will no doubt pop up over the next few days, hehehe.

    xox Sarah

  16. I apologise, I shouldn’t have risen to the bait. It comes down to this: I have a different set of ethics to you.

    I believe that people who jeer those with a cause to effect positive change undermine the efforts of the altruistic. It takes strength of character to move forward but conversely verges on bitchy schoolyard banter to nit-pick holes in what they do, especially from those who sit on the sidelines. I recall a similar argument when you chastised the voluntary work of The Slow Food Movement, but did not offer to assist in improving the situation.

    My ethic is that if you see a better way, then go forward and put your money where your mouth is.

    It is my opinion that in all things in the world you will find both moderate and hardline messages, so going back to my original point – it’s not such a big deal Duncan. I’m sure that anyone who comes to this blog will have the intellect to choose to listen to a voice that appeals to them when addressing causes.

    I appreciate that you are different.

  17. I’m in awe of your mastery of the insult, Sticky. Stunning, really. Less impressed by your ability to discuss ideas. You’ve used the comments as a disrespectful, self-promotional vehicle, while frequently ignoring or misrepresenting what I have written and the further comments. Your passion is admirable. Your rank contempt? Not so much.

    Stickyfingers breached the terms of this site a few comments back. I still hoped she’d come down from her unexpectedly pious pulpit and participate in a thoughtful discussion. It didn’t happen. She preferred to throw stones. I think it’s time she let others contribute their thoughts without fearing scorn, insults or restatements of her specialness.

    Is it too late for the discussion here to actually be fruitful? I’m very sorry for those commenters who have been drowned out or frightened away. Opinions are welcomed from all perspectives as long as they’re civil.

    I’ll clarify things for readers:

    • I have no time for ideological fervour which stifles discussion or smears people as Unbelievers if they don’t carry the same Party membership card. The article was about the issues which consumers might find difficult to manage or reconcile, and how strident campaigning can make these choices harder. Case in point.
    • This article does not say that SOLE, ethical eating in general, or the push for people to cook from scratch are bad. I do not oppose these causes.
    • I also believe in healthy discussion. Thought. Compassion. Intellectual rigour. Discussion and criticism of a cause does not mean opposition, and is often constructive for the future of a cause.
    • Most readers/commenters are probably very sympathetic to these causes and are even active promoters of them. None of us need to present our credentials in order to be valuable contributors to ethical issues.
  18. I have suited up in the flak jacket, so ready to go. I agree with what your initial post talked about, the average punter is not likely to be changed in the short term due to many factors. Yes, those who believe (hallelujah) do need to encourage not cajole. I have been a member of Slowfood for over 10 years and, although I did not manage to attend the sessions earlier that many wrote about, think that they were not a true reflection of where Slow is going. It seems that there may be some hijacking by people with other agendas. I can’t recall anything about obesity in the mission/manifesto.

    I don’t believe that the mass hysteria that is likely to occur after tonight’s Jamie Oliver program is helpful. There may be a small percentage of the population that makes a change in their thinking/buying, but many more will buy KFC and not even realise that what they are eating, started life in a little shell and then was raised in various conditions before being killed for their benefit.

    For those people who read this & similar food related blogs, it is likely that they are already thinking about SOLE, but education of others is likely to be slow. I got a deserved whack over the knuckles from The Grocer for saying Australia does not have a food culture. But really, the majority of Aussies have little knowledge or interest in how or where their food was produced. If they like the taste of it and can afford it they’ll eat it and not think about it.

    I support (ethically and financially) Stephanie A’s schools’ program. It needs to start at that level. My family grew their own vegies and I thank them for doing so, now. At the time it was so embarassing, but now it is so “in”. I remember when Deb potatoes were first introduced (not even sure if they are still around) and how wonderful we thought it was to have them rather than dad’s!! Jamie O did not succeed in the short-term with trying to change the eating habits of school kids so now he is trying shock tactics.

    Let’s hope we can use our combined energies to educate our future generations sensibly and without sensationalism.

  19. Essentially I see groups such as Slow or SOLE as aggregations of like minded folk. Whether they have overt or covert agendas doesn’t worry me as I take from them the bits I like, without necessarily agreeing with all they stand for. For instance, there was a time I never thought about food miles and even though it doesn’t really influence my shopping, I am aware of it now and get its importance, so that when I drive past our local market gardens, marvel at the farsightedness of governments who created green wedges for our city. But at this point, we live in a system that brings food from wherever, which until some recent weekly supermarket commercials, never disclosed its origins. Frankly, I’m amazed at how much of our winter vegetable supply comes from Queensland and to tell you the truth, I am happy to eat broccoli from there. If we relied on local, all Victorians would be eating just potatoes and cabbage the whole winter, maybe truffled for the lucky ones.

    Thermomixer, Deb is alive and well, KFC would have to be its biggest champion!

  20. Oh yes Duncan. Well done. My world is full of people who can’t cook. For whom eating a relatively healthy diet, regardless of the source, defeats them. People who have no idea how to saute, what to do with a bunch of silverbeet, how to make their own pasta sauce. People for whom cooking and shopping is just another chore, who get anxious at the idea of cooking a new recipe.

    And I think these people are the majority. The trouble is we have come so far and are so disconnected from the sources of our food. This has happened over decades and yet we’re trying to claw back the distance now, immediately, today.

    Encouraging, cajoling, concentrating on how to do this,improving skills, providing information. These are the ways to move forward.

  21. Really good comments thanks! Glad the discussion was able to continue. You’ve touched on issues of choice, fear, confusion, personal decision, and affordability and illustrated that there are an important element of consumers’ behaviour.

    I’ve never tried Deb knowingly, though I suspect it was probably the stuff served in the Victorian Railways buffet car on the Southern Aurora, back in the days!

  22. Absolutely agreed Duncan. If you want to convert people to your beliefs, honey catches more flies than vinegar.

  23. WOW! A week on dial up speed and I sacrificed reading blogs – look what I have missed out on!!!

    As someone who has been specifically nominated / drawn into this debate I will say upfront that I find the post inflammatory and misleading. It’s broad brush-strokes DO NOT REPRESENT the way I think or feel about this issue. I felt perturbed to say the least, and I wonder consequently how many of your (positive) comments were made from people that actually read and considered all of the posts you refer to.

    The relatively small audience on the blog-o-sphere reading the issues at hand with interest are a minority indeed, and I therefore think that your argument that onsumers are “so bombarded by scare-mongering, warnings, confusing marketing and aggressive campaigning that they are lost”. For the little tv I watch, the radio, web and newspaper I see NO ADVERTISING for any of the SOLE concepts referred to, but see many mixed messages about healthy and convenient eating.

    get real! is a self-confessed rambling, a way of projecting a voice that I feel modern society has stifled. I have no delusions that anybody is actually hanging on what I say there – they are simply thoughts and opinions of mine regarding food.

    I do however speak with some authority when it comes to supermarket players in Australia having consulted in supply chain for both of the major two. All I can say is that if we want a beautiful planet for our later years in life, let alone a future generation then WE MUST ChANGE ThE WAY WE ThINK ABOUT ThINGS.

    Australians are spoiled and I personally think that the silver lining to increasing fuel costs is that it will force people to be more frugal / generate less waste.

    I agree supermarkets are convenient (if you want to eat 2 minute pasta with already tired pre cut stir fry mix), but they are wasteful – of food, and energy, they have a remarkable ability to sway the government to change planning restrictions to their benefit, and they are hugely profitable. If you support supermarkets you are voting (with your purse) in support of there practices.

    I am trying to pave a way to work with these issues AND make a living – to encourage and assist people to eat better at no cost (effort or monetary) on top of what they already spend (and in many cases less). It isn’t easy and “at the coalface” (to use a consulting term *groan*) some people, even after being shocked by the recent J.Oliver programme, still don’t see how that relates to them.

    Thermomixer – I have apologised if i caused any offence; my comments related to broad brush strokes on excuses people make.

    Whilst I don’t agree with all of Sticky’s perspectives here or elsewhere I think you have been outrageously rude to her. her points regarding the lackadaisical nature of most people are plainly supported in some of the other comments.

    “…Aren’t I allowed to (due to finances, choice, time, convenience) shop in a multi-national supermarket and not feel bad about myself?”

    Sure – so long as you are aware of the consequences of your actions, and what you support.

    I think I am quite pragmatic about the issues you raise, am certainly not a zealot when it comes to SOLE.

    Duncan, I am insulted by the way I have been portrayed here and sign off urging you all to open your minds, inform yourselves and think for yourselves.

    There are many things in our world today that are accepted to varying degrees that may once have received the same level of criticism and aggression evidenced in this post, including:

    abolition of slavery
    right to vote for women
    right to vote for aboriginal Australians
    solar power

  24. Grocer, you can feel insulted all you like… except that on more careful reading of my article, you’ll perhaps notice that I targeted no-one and explicitly say that the linked articles “all contribute opinion, wisdom or personal experience”.

    I highlight, factually, that: “some recent posts revealed both common goals and some tensions between the experiences of a diversity of bloggers and the broader eating population”.

    Whilst I raise the issue of some “punitive rhetoric” (again, not pointed at you or anyone specifically), the article is about broad exposure to difficult and at times conflicting ethical arguments. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’re aware of the coverage of organic, locavore and GM issues in much Australian and international food media, and general media as well.

    Grocer, there’s no point feeling insulted when you weren’t portrayed in any way. Ironically, I’ve thought you had valuable stuff to contribute to these issues. It’s a pity you’ve gone for combat rather than discussion.

  25. Perhaps you should carefully read what you have written.

    You have posted an argumentative piece about advocates of SOLE/ethicurean principles, and in addressing the metaphoric pie of good conscience, you cite only four examples of discussion, one of whom is ME, couched in between your “slightly exaggerated summary” of the principles of the ethicurean movement.

    I consider myself a firm believer in re-evaluating the way we eat as a society and I myself am not sure how best to navigate the issue of SOLE (which I have mentioned on numerous occasions on my blog).

    I don’t live under a rock – far from it! Whilst certain cooks and theories are getting more media attention than before, I certainly don’t think consumers are bombarded with the SOLE message, rather the selection of media you are looking at is focussed on those issues.


    You say there’s no point feeling insulted – you’re right, there is no point feeling many emotions as they achieve little if that’s all they are.

    Your article is not reasonable, you have treated 4 fellow bloggers with disdain, and an editor such as yourself is surely smart enough to know the impact of placing examples in amongst rhetoric.

    You are disappointed in my failure to contribute “valuable stuff” to these issues and accuse me of “combat” – heavy stuff. What I am saying to you is if you are going to post emotional hype and insults and carry on with silly and exaggerated rhetoric that is your problem. But if you incorporate me into your case in the way you have done, then the only attention you will get from me is objection and disdain.

    As one of your friends says above, “If you want to convert people to your beliefs, honey catches more flies than vinegar.”

  26. Grocer, you have written about SOLE in a fair way I think. I’ve read the articles you wrote and you yourself have said that

    “whilst acknowledging S.O.L.E criteria are not univerally applicable, and that the ethicurean stance is that one of the criteria are met, it is clear that there is no single correct answer in the debate – our choices, with all things in life are half chance.”

    There is no single correct answer and Duncan is pointing out the other side of this discussion. He is pointing out the confusion amongst many others in regards to this issue and what some of the factors that are making SOLE not necessarily a first choice, or not even a choice, for some people.

    You also write

    “I find the post inflammatory and misleading. It’s broad brush-strokes DO NOT REPRESENT the way I think or feel about this issue.”

    But this post isn’t representing how you feel at all, it’s about the issue itself and the massive amount of confusion that may occur for some people. He merely uses your posts as a starting point of discussion.

    If you are going to infere your own summary of what you think Duncan thinks of your stance, then should I also do the same to what you write? You write

    “Duncan, I am insulted by the way I have been portrayed here and sign off urging you all to open your minds, inform yourselves and think for yourselves.”

    Should I feel insulted that you are infering that I’m a closed minded, un-informed person who can’t think for themselves in regards to this SOLE choice? Or instead, should I infere that you are encouraging all of us to think about each of our choices?

    The mere fact that we’re discussing this topic has already increased my awareness of this issue by a large amount. Although I still don’t choose to eat SOLE, I have to keep reiterating that I’m not against SOLE. What I don’t like is that when someone like myself might say something like “I can’t cook”, and then you might say something like (as you commented on Sticky’s post) “these are simple dishes cooked with simple ingredients, but for some reason people believe they can’t do it”. You’re making a judgement of others already based on what you can do.

    I think it’s healthy that everyone is discussing this issue and it is only helping to further educate all of us in this issue. Hopefully, in the future, all of us, for whatever reasons, will be eating SOLE.

  27. Thanh, if Duncan wanted to present the converse argument or play devil’s advocate he is (or should be) a smart enough writer to present it without painting a portrait of SOLE zealots and inserting names into the middle of his introduction to such advocacy where those people are hardly (or at least I think I am not) guilty of the extreme picture painted. Surely a professional journalist is familiar with the nuances of the english language to know this?

    Using me for a starting point of his discussion (as you put it) is wrong when I do not agree with it (the point he makes) or the way it has been done.

    I have not nor presume to infer a summary of what duncan thinks of my posts, my thoughts nor of me – he says little about the posts yet the context in which he places them is either (a) intended to provoke or (b) poorly executed.

    Perhaps if Duncan had omitted the emotive language, the finger pointing and references to punitive rhetoric there would be scope for discussion.

    What you INFER from my comments is entirely up to you – that’s the difference between and inference and an implication. As a scientist you will know the difference of approaching an experiment with either a projected (or even intended) outcome or not.

    It is of course, healthy to discuss these issues, however I don’t think Duncan has encouraged any discussion, rather stifled it.

    I don’t know why you feel you have to iterate your non-objection to SOLE even though you aren’t compelled to head down that path. I didn’t even realise it was something you could be against!

    You say “โ€ฆAren’t I allowed to (due to finances, choice, time, convenience) shop in a multi-national supermarket and not feel bad about myself?” Why do you feel bad about yourself?

    As for your example of something I have commented on elsewhere, that is not a judgement of others – it is a statement of fact, people believe they can’t cook something, that they don’t have the skill. I think this is because we spend so much time being told (via the media) how DIFFICULT it is.

    A large part of my work involves turning this perception on its head not judging people, rather demonstrating how delicious simple meals can be prepared with basic ingredients by anyone that can read and count provided they are empowered to do so. Readers of my newsletter can attest to the effort that goes into this, but you lot are all based in Melbourne and haven’t signed up.

    I am not against discussion. I am all for encouragement and education; I like to learn from my peers. I dislike being quoted out of context and I long for rational debate. Extremism in any form is dangerous. Thus my objection.

    If anyone wants to debate/discuss any issues feel free to visit my blog.


  28. Grocer, thanks for your reply.

    I can see your point in terms of using your views and how you may object to the context. But I really didn’t read that he was painting you a zealot. I followed the link and read your post and you did say that even you weren’t sure about the applicability of SOLE to everyone and that it is confusing and the choice itself is half chance.

    I was only using your sentence as an example. I know that you mean we should all question our choices but I was just trying to show how the language can be misinterpreted.

    It feels like (and this is my own feeling so I’m not saying how others feall) that people who are into SOLE see those who are not as being against it. So hence I keep saying that I’m not against it. Just because I don’t apply it, doesn’t mean I’m against it.

    I don’t feel bad about going to the supermarket at all. But it seems (again, my own feeling) that people are pushing the message that large supermarkets are bad and therefore those who use them are supporting bad things. Maybe the media has a part to blame, with celebrity chefs all saying we need to eat local and how much harm we’re all doing when we don’t. Do you see why I think I have to defend my stance for not eating SOLE?

    About the not cooking part, it feels like a judgement to me. Here are all these people who can cook really well saying its so easy to cook. Yet that’s not what I think. I’d rather have people say that they understand that not everyone finds cooking easy but it can be learnt.

    Well I’ve found all of these posts, even with the disagreements, highly informative. It’s helped me to see what others feel and why they think what they think. Hopefully no one has taken personal offence to anything I’ve said. It’s all about the topic and the different points of view on it.


  29. Grocer, the links to you in the article have been removed, as you persist in interpreting this article as misrepresenting you. You seem to be the only person so far who interpreted the article in the way you so vehemently claim it is structured (it’s possible Sticky did, but I think her focus was different… that’s irrelevant now anyway). I wrote to you privately to say that no insult was intended, but you seem more interested in letting it grow and flourish. As for the rest of your claims about me stifling discussion, pointing fingers, pots’n’kettles, etc… sigh. I’ll leave all the other commenters to judge that.

    For the first time ever on Syrup&Tang, comments will be moderated from now on. I’ve been relaxed in permitting open commenting, but there’s a point when rehashing the same aggressive stuff serves no further purpose.

    [This comment has been edited 27/07/08, 20:28. The person known as Grocer objected to me mentioning her real first name, even though I was under the misapprehension that her name was publicly known. It has been removed from this comment. Apologies.]

  30. [Further to the above comment with added detail, the person known as Grocer has asserted in a follow-up comment that I’m wrong, insulting, etc. And that she says “Moderate conversation if you will – I think most are now aware that you [Duncan] aren’t capable of receiving a rebuttal without taking it personally.” She also intends publishing her full comment elsewhere.]

  31. Oh man, what’s happened? I thought we were all discussing a really interesting topic and presenting our points of views, even if we disagreed on them. Why has this turned into a mud slinging battle?

    From these posts, I’ve gone off and explored more about SOLE and searching up information on the web. Why has something that is a good thing become a battle over who said what about who?

    I’m with the Gobbler, can’t everyone just make up?

  32. In the spirit of the appeal for an end to conflict, I’ll close comments on this article. It wasn’t intended to cause offence.

    And gobbler, I’ve never thought of myself as your ‘mon’ ๐Ÿ˜‰ You have long been a father figure to me ๐Ÿ˜›

Comments are closed.