more recent-ish class(ism) links

I also wanted to post one of the chewiest quotes from the 1st article i linked to in yesterday’s round-up:

Adam Drewnowski, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington, has spent his career showing that Americans’ food choices correlate to social class. He argues that the most nutritious diet—lots of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, and grains—is beyond the reach of the poorest Americans, and it is economic elitism for nutritionists to uphold it as an ideal without broadly addressing issues of affordability. Lower-income families don’t subsist on junk food and fast food because they lack nutritional education, as some have argued. And though many poor neighborhoods are, indeed, food deserts—meaning that the people who live there don’t have access to a well-stocked supermarket—many are not. Lower-income families choose sugary, fat, and processed foods because they’re cheaper—and because they taste good. In a paper published last spring, Drewnowski showed how the prices of specific foods changed between 2004 and 2008 based on data from Seattle-area supermarkets. While food prices overall rose about 25 percent, the most nutritious foods (red peppers, raw oysters, spinach, mustard greens, romaine lettuce) rose 29 percent, while the least nutritious foods (white sugar, hard candy, jelly beans, and cola) rose just 16 percent.

“In America,” Drewnowski wrote in an e-mail, “food has become the premier marker of social distinctions, that is to say—social class. It used to be clothing and fashion, but no longer, now that ‘luxury’ has become affordable and available to all.” He points to an article in The New York Times, written by Pollan, which describes a meal element by element, including “a basket of morels and porcini gathered near Mount Shasta.” “Pollan,” writes Drewnowski, “is drawing a picture of class privilege that is as acute as anything written by Edith Wharton or Henry James.”


3 thoughts on “more recent-ish class(ism) links”

  1. That’s an interesting point about Pollan! I really enjoyed The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and especially the mushroom hunting bits. But now that I think about it, I read it from my cultural background, where mushroom hunting is very common as almost everyone has a forest nearby and it is silly not to go pick mushrooms but instead by them from the store. Also, you can pick mushrooms and sell them with no income tax deducted, so a lot of foreign workers come to Finland solely for the purpose of mushroom and berry picking.

    But in the U.S… I rarely hear of anyone going mushroom hunting. I guess you need a car and ample time to do that, which says plenty about class.

    1. Also, for the most part, in the U.S. all i’ve ever heard about mushroom-hunting boils down to “It’s scarily easy to pick the wrong sort. Don’t do it. YOU’LL DIE.” Which isn’t to say there aren’t people who go mushroom hunting (there’s the Puget Sound Mycological Society, for example), but it’s definitely not built into the culture.

      You are definitely right, tho’: there’s a vast difference in culture — and class markers — between country and city. I once got into a rather heated debate with someone when i mentioned that if my power goes out i’ll just fire up our wood-burning fireplace for heat. They thought i was really showing off my class privilege, and it took me a minute to realize i was talking to someone born and raised in/near very large cities where fireplaces certainly are privilege markers. Whereas i’m from the country where people across classes have a fireplace or woodstove. In fact, it’d be more likely a poorer household would use a woodstove because electric and gas are expensive.

      1. I once got into a rather heated debate…

        Ouch, heh heh ;)

        My reaction would probably have been the same: only either rich people or people who live in very old houses have fire places in Finland, so I am still a bit taken aback when I see fireplaces here at any small house.

        I once was very offended when a friend of ours went to the Philippines (she’s Filipina) and told us how it was very primitive for them not to have bath tubs there: the shower just drains into the same floor that is shared with the toilet and it’s all tile! I had to filter that info quickly before I got too upset: most American houses have bathtubs–unlike in Finland, where the setup is exactly like she described and why I felt slighted (“it’s not primitive, damnit!”)

        It’s definitely difficult to navigate between cultural notions of class privilege and, indeed, even within the same state! I’ll try to keep the chance of difference in mind, but it’s easy to forget…

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