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Corporate America - Can it be stopped?


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That's enough for now. Sorry Pan. You asked a good question. I am sure someone will answer it. Thanks for listening.

No apologies needed, Brooks! You gave a good answer!

It's depressing to hear that lunchroom food is bad even in Louisiana. But frankly, when I was growing up in New York in the 70s, lunchroom food was not good anywhere I went to school - public elementary school, private elementary school (somewhat better but not good), college, grad school. There was one sleepaway camp with decent food, but nothing compared to what my mother cooked, until I got the chance to cook for myself and started learning some basic concepts such as not to boil broccoli with the chicken. By the time I was in grad school, I was a fairly decent cook. Perhaps it's a shame that I seldom cook anymore, but I'm going off topic again... :rolleyes:

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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That being said, attractive timepieces are simply not as central -- not even 1% as central -- to human existence as culinary culture. So while I see the analogy, there's no comparison in terms of significance and impact on society.

Time is less integral to human existence than food? I think they're both necessary. There's a hell of a lot more written about time in philosophy books than there is about food. It's true we don't need to buy a watch to experience the passing of time, but the timepiece in all its forms -- the watch on your arm, the clock on your wall, the little set of pixels in the corner of my screen right now -- has certainly become an integral part of modern society. Certainly its more a part of our day as a society than food. We, as a people, are more obsessed with time and how it passes according to timepieces than we probably are with food. Our whole modern society is run by the clock. Ancient cultures it was broader, the seasonal calendar guiding their lives and depended on.

While we may need food in a physical way that we don't need a timepiece, that says nothing about it's integral nature to society. We could be eating gruel and grubs without the ability to measure time.

The broader point is an excellent one anyway that shouldn't just be dismissed because the analogy isn't perfect. When I read his initial post, I thought about books, movies, music, and art. I can't believe people like to read Stephen King, John Grisham, and the like. I can't get through a chapter in their books. And it's not that I don't like reading. It's that, to me, it's unbearable trash. I can't enjoy reading it. I'm amazed at how much money mediocre movies make and that people actually say that Titanic is the best movie they've ever seen. Britney Spears, need I say more! I cannot believe how many paintings Thomas Kinkade sells. I say I don't understand it, but that's not true because I can empathize through analogy. I buy cheap clothes. I buy cheap cars. I buy cheap stereos. I stay in cheap hotels. None of that is important to me and I recognize it's important to others, just like the quality of movies, music, art, books, and food are to me.

The issue is that the pleasure in food is not more important to any individual than the pleasure in anything else. All they need is nourishment, and that need not give any pleasure. Some people it apparently gives more pleasure than to others. And for those people, like myself, we shouldn't give our pleasure undue weight. It's ridiculous. If a person is happy with mediocre scambled eggs and toast from Denny's, as a friend of mine is, why suppose he'd be better off eating either "well-made" (in quotes because this is always relative) or haute eggs and toast? Maybe he's lucky that he can be satisfied with the $2.99 Grand Slam and those of us here are just being self-absorbed prigs.

One more analogy, FG: sex. Some people think sex is of the utmost importance, either in their lives or in their relationships. Certainly sex is supremely important to humanity, though, like food, it can be bypassed (intravenous fluids = test tube babies). But is someone who finds sex to be of minor importance, especially weighed against other factors, such as religious belief, fidelity, a good friendship, health, money, etc, missing out if that means they don't ever have a good sex life? No more, I think, than one who decides to hit Taco Bell on the way home rather than hit a taqueria or make their own.

Edited by ExtraMSG (log)
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Very well stated, ExtraMSG. "Good" food, like "good" music, "good" paintings, and "good" timepieces, is a matter of taste and not a moral question. And when you bring in art, there's an awful lot of art that's considered just great in art establishment circles that I think is crap. But that's not a moral issue, either.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Are large supermarkets, in your experience, responsive to their customers? Have you ever complained, suggested, petitioned, boycotted or otherwise done anything in an attempt to improve selection or behavior? Did it work?

Arthur Johnson, aka "fresco"
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Are large supermarkets, in your experience, responsive to their customers? Have you ever complained, suggested, petitioned, boycotted or otherwise done anything in an attempt to improve selection or behavior? Did it work?

I successfully convinced my local Whole Foods to carry frozen organic grapefruit juice. That's the only time I'm every complained to them, and they responded by stocking the item I requested..

Does Whole Foods operate on the same pathetic profit margin that most grocery chains do? Isn't it something like 2%?

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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Very well stated, ExtraMSG. "Good" food, like "good" music, "good" paintings, and "good" timepieces, is a matter of taste and not a moral question. And when you bring in art, there's an awful lot of art that's considered just great in art establishment circles that I think is crap. But that's not a moral issue, either.

Excellent thoughts MSG.

I do think that a distinction needs to be drawn between food that is good for you and food that people think is good. The term "good food" is used for both of these (though by different groups) and the truth is one of the groups listed above (food that people think is good) can contain either some, none, or all of the first group (food that is good for you).

There is nothing wrong with Denny's as an institution (and I will mount a well planned defense of Waffle House at the first sign of attack :wink: ) per se, the problem comes when the person eating in Denny's chooses to eat the over and aver again. The food, while perfectly fine (not for many of us in terms of taste, but we are talking l.c.d. here) is calorie and fat laden and over a period of time is bound to cause all of the things that fat and calories cause (obesity, heart trouble, etc.).

My point is that the average person needs to rethink the way he eats, both for health reasons and for ones that are more economic in nature. One "plate o' eggs 'n bacon" is not going to hurt anybody in the long run and can certainly be satisfying if decently prepared, but 10 meals worth of this kind of fare, 52 weeks a year, is going to cause someones health to deteriorate pretty quickly. And people really do this. I am not talkinabout going to Denny's 10 times a week, but many families and individuals do pretty close to what I described above.

My children go to a school where the average income of the families there is well in excess of $100,000. I am in the older group of parents. I am 42 and have a 13 year old and an 11 year old. I will say that we are outside of the norm, food wise, even for our peers (mainly because I like to cook and shop and have the time and the energy and the money and the facilities to do both) and I base this fact on this scenario:

I go to soccer games 3 or 4 days per week. I sit in the stands with the same parents and listen to their conversations with their smaller children and other moms and parents. I can say, without stuttering, that on the average night 8 out of 10 of these families are heading for either straight up fast food or something close, like Mc Appleback's. They don't cook. Some of them actually know how (being raised in the south in a middle class home used to mean you automatically learned how to cook and it still does to some degree) but choose not to because it is wither too much trouble or there is a percieved lack of time. These moms (generally) don't work and have plenty of time to cook and even if they only did it one day a week and froze the proceeds for later use, they would be better off both healthwise and economically. And don't fool yourself thinking they are eating like this on "event night". They do it all the time. My children have friends who have told me that they eat pizza 3 or 4 times a week.

The result of this is going to be a second or third generation of kids that think big kitchens are like big expensive cars. It's great to have Heinkel's and copper pots and pans hanging all round and a great appliances, but only to show them off. People don't really want to get that kitchen dirty anymore than you want to mess up that car. It's just window dressing.

Let 'em eat pizza

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Time is less integral to human existence than food?

You know I didn't say that, ExtraMSG. While you attack the straw man, it remains clear that food choices are more important to society and culture than watch choices. I'd be interested in a list of major philosophers who have discussed watches, and specifically the differences between electronic and mechanical ones. I could provide, for comparison, a list of academic literature about food that has nothing to do with the issue of nutrition.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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(Lots of great posts in this thread, BTW!)

Well, it may not be quite as specific as a "quartz vs. mechanical" argument, but the invention of the first accurate timepiece (the marine chronometer), allowing sailors to accurately determine longitude, was considered (by folks like Newton and Galileo) one of the most important problems of the 18th century, for a number of reasons. You maybe don't think about that sort of stuff because your hobby is food, not watches. :rolleyes:

But I think you're missing my point as it relates to this thread, FG.

"Quartz versus mechanical" is really a moot point, in the same way that "Applebee's versus French Laundry" is a moot point.

Haute cuisine is no more important to our nutrition or anything else than haute horology. Sure, you can find tons of scholarly texts about food, but that's really irrelevant to the thread, "escaping banality in the Average Joe's diet".

Last time I was in NYC, one of my travel companions suggested quite earnestly that we should go eat at T.G.I.Friday's for dinner. I was aghast, but there are many "food as fuel" folks out there, and people for whom the most important aspect of dining is a lack of surprises, as evidenced by the astounding success of McDonald's and the millions of cookie-cutter dining experiences that followed.

Edited by bleachboy (log)

Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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Nobody is talking about haute cuisine here. We're just talking about good food.

Totally aside from the question of nutrition, food culture is central to human culture. The kitchen has historically been the center of the home, restaurants are tremendously important as social meeting places, and food rituals are inextricably linked with virtually all holidays, festivals, and important milestone occasions. If everybody suddenly started taking a nutrition pill once a day, or wearing a nutrition patch that would totally replace the practical function of food, and everybody stopped eating as a result, all these important cultural institutions and traditions would also collapse.

Those of us who think food is more than nutrition think -- or at least I do -- that the loss of aesthetic appreciation of food, and the decline of the food-culture tie-in, is a big step towards the nutrition pill and the destruction of food culture. Indeed, in a study by Paul Rozin, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, when several hundred Americans were asked if they would be willing to give up eating altogether in favor of a pill that could fulfill all their nutritional needs, 26 percent said yes. And I think that the erosion of the tradition of the family dinner has been very destructive to the American family (and these days the European family as well).

Now, what is the timepiece equivalent of that? I don't see it. If everybody switches to digital watches -- in other words if everybody takes the time pill instead of observing the time ritual that a serious watch allows -- what happens to society? Not much. It's a sad loss of a time-honored craft, but we go on telling time just fine. We can still navigate our ships. Philosophers can still write about time. It doesn't change much of anything outside of that industry and hobbyist/collector niche.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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You know I didn't say that, ExtraMSG. While you attack the straw man, it remains clear that food choices are more important to society and culture than watch choices.

FG, it'd be a straw man if that's all I said. But I went on to talk about the central nature of the timepiece to our society and the importance of it in ancient societies as well. This is just a internet forum, afterall. The clock also played a central role in the expansion of the western world through the ability to better navigate. An accurate clock was essential to navigation and helped Britain become the colonial power it was.

But the point is that good (ie, tasty) food being central to some people, to some cultures, to some traditions doesn't need to be so, and it certainly doesn't need to be more important to any individual than the beauty of a timepiece. Time is as central to our existence as food and it is perfectly reasonable to imagine a culture centering around their timepiece as a symbol of this aspect of our existence and because of its practical use. Stone Henge might be a good example. Some people speculate that it's a quasi-religious timepiece.

I just think there's a tendency here, because so many of us love food, to give it more weight than it deserves. We project its importance to us onto others.

My point is that the average person needs to rethink the way he eats, both for health reasons and for ones that are more economic in nature. One "plate o' eggs 'n bacon" is not going to hurt anybody in the long run and can certainly be satisfying if decently prepared, but 10 meals worth of this kind of fare, 52 weeks a year, is going to cause someones health to deteriorate pretty quickly. And people really do this. I am not talkinabout going to Denny's 10 times a week, but many families and individuals do pretty close to what I described above.

Mayhan, I don't disagree with you in general. But it's important to remember that nearly all poisons require not only their ingestion, but the ingestion of a minimum amount, and that many things we think of as normal to ingest can become poisons once we ingest over a threshold. In other words, it's not what we eat, but how much. That friend who pretty much just eats breakfast foods all day, every day, also eats less per meal than almost any one else I know. He usually can't finish half a plate of whatever I make when he's over for dinner. He also works out a lot and is very muscular. He's also one of those people with a high metabolism who gets shaky if he doesn't eat regularly and has to have a snack before and during a round a golf or before and after we play basketball or else he'll get ligh-headed.

So, there are at least two choices for how people could change their eating habits: 1) change what they eat, 2) change the amount they eat.

I have another friend in Texas who constantly points this out to me. He eats worse than just about anyone I've ever known. His refrigerator's crispers have only 2lb bags of M&Ms in them. He eats out daily and always has appetizer, entree, and dessert and usually eats high calorie foods, never salads even for an appetizer. He loves Mexican and bbq of course. And when he snacks, it's chocolate. But he only eats one meal a day and even though he never exercises, he hasn't gained weight in years.

Edited by ExtraMSG (log)
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in a study by Paul Rozin, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, when several hundred Americans were asked if they would be willing to give up eating altogether in favor of a pill that could fulfill all their nutritional needs, 26 percent said yes. And I think that the erosion of the tradition of the family dinner has been very destructive to the American family (and these days the European family as well).

I would even say there is another factor yet to be brought up. The mistaken idea that the world run on 24/7. Sure 7-11 started out being just open those hours but I have yet to see one closed except in a power failure.

I have had clients want assurances that there network be up and running 24/7. Ok, if you’re a large bank or multi-national insurance company this makes sense. Not if you are a landscape architectural firm in Lisle IL. But we are tricked into thinking that should be the accepted practice. Who ever had a 2:00 AM shrubby emergency?

It’s great that one of the Home Depots near me is open 24 hours. It was actually quite busy at 1:30 when on a lark I decided to get a gallon of custom blended paint. But for the vast majority of us this is not needed. The real rub was when my wife and I went there on a Saturday afternoon to ask about custom counter tops and where told that we would have to return during the week between the hours of 9-5. Where is the logic in that?

So the guys at the big box store (any of them.) seem a bit fanatical about the organization. The same observations have been make at other companies be they IBM, Radio Shack or Kirby Vacuum cleaner. Some people need that sort of environment and while a number of studies have compared them to cults, true though it may be. We don’t produce anything to speak of here in the USA. Why else would Toyota and BMW set up shop to take advantage of “cheap labor.”?

Sam Walston became in the end what he was trying to fight in the beginning. Strange how things work out sometimes. Seldom do you se a place that repairs consumer goods. As they are more easily replaced than repaired. How can a part cost more than the unit it is used in? GM came up with that long years ago. Planned obsolescence. So all the guys that used to work in the mills and factories now have to go to the Big Box and where stupid looking vests. We just got what we asked for. We wanted cheaper, faster and longer and got screwed in the process.

So back in the late sixties when computers started to be more affordable they where lamented as great time savers that would relive the drudgery. We all would work smarter and have to put in fewer hours. Wrong! Now enter the PC. We where to be able to do more for ourselves in less time. Unfortunately with the factory mind set in most businesses it was seen as a way of getting more work out of fewer people. We all bought into it suckers that we are. Instead of working fewer hours we take the work home and do it there. No additional pay, just the hope that you will keep your job by looking productive.

I don’t think the problem is business at all. We allowed ourselves to let this all happen. We invited it and embraced it with open arms. Like the self important brats we where taught to be we look to make excuses and look for others to blame.

Living hard will take its toll...
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An accurate clock was essential to navigation and helped Britain become the colonial power it was.

Can't see how that works. Sextant and other navigation instruments maybe.

Clocks may have told them when it was time for a G&T.

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An accurate clock was essential to navigation and helped Britain become the colonial power it was.

Can't see how that works. Sextant and other navigation instruments maybe.

Clocks may have told them when it was time for a G&T.

I'm pretty sure those navigation instruments don't work particularly well if you don't know what time it is. But I'm no navigation expert.

I'm happy to let the wristwatch tangent die without another round of debate. I've made my point as well as I can make it.

In addition let me remind everybody that we're trying very hard not to have a referendum on all things American and capitalistic here. Let's try to use each post on this thread to talk about food. Thanks.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Now, what is the timepiece equivalent of that? I don't see it. If everybody switches to digital watches -- in other words if everybody takes the time pill instead of observing the time ritual that a serious watch allows -- what happens to society? Not much. It's a sad loss of a time-honored craft, but we go on telling time just fine. We can still navigate our ships. Philosophers can still write about time. It doesn't change much of anything outside of that industry and hobbyist/collector niche.

I can't remember the exact context but I once heard a well known doctor speak aabout nutrition and longevity. The doctor said that he's had four patients live past 100 and they all had one thing in common: they didn't wear a watch.

I have know idea what that has to do with this thread but thought it was interesting. :blink:

"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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Now getting back to food. I believe there are many people who when buying food or eating out equate big with good.

As long as the restaurant serves big portions, they'll deal with the mediocre food. I believe that thinking goes a long way toward the success of places like The Cheescake Factory, Macaroni Grill, etc. Using my in laws as an example, they'd have far fewer complaints about a place like Macaroni Grill or Carrabas than San Domenico. At Macaroni Grill they'll wait for a table, get rushed into ordering, and have a waiter or waitress be amateurish but as long as their bowl of pasta is overflowing, they're happy. If they went to Sam Domenico, they'd undoubtedly complain about the size of the famous ravioli with the egg and truffle even if was the greatest pasta dish they ever tasted.

I think some of the success of the Costco's, Sam's Club, etc also gets to the size of things. I'll never forget the Seinfeld episode when Kramer joins the local wholesale club and buys ridiculous amounts of food for one person, because the value was so good. He ends up feeding the biggest can of Beefaroni you've ever seen to a horse with disastrous results.

"These pretzels are making me thirsty." --Kramer

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FWIW, I haven't worn a watch in about 4 years.

I don't think I could go without eating for 4 years.

I haven't worn a watch for somewhere around forty years. I used to carry one in my pocket, but gave that up too. I don't really use a timer when I'm cooking. Sometimes I start the one built into the stove just to remember when I started something. People seem obsessed with time these days. Some issues of the New Yorker are filled with ads meant to entice people into buying watches costing thousands of dollars. Though that obsession may have more to do with ego than time. Think of the number of good meals that could be had for the price of some watches. :blink:

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If the corporations are "stopped," where will all of the people they currently employ work?

Maybe for the small, locally-owned businesses and manufacturing plants and family farms, etc., that companies like Wal-Mart drive a) overseas, or b) out of business? Hey, they might even make more than minimum wage....

amanda

Googlista

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FG, sorry I helped move it off-topic. I should have tied in my comments a little better. I do think the discussion of the importance of these items to society is relevant to even the specific topic about the evil of corporate food. I think to assume that offering quantity over quality is wrong you have to assume an importance for food quality that I think needs to be proven (and we're generally talking about taste here, rather than health since presumably a Wal-Mart potato is no less healthy than a Whole Foods potato). Sure, food quality is important to us, that's why we're here, but I don't know that it's important or necessarily a "good" to society or that it should be. In fact, I think a strong argument can be made that the search for good, ie, tasty, food has caused a lot of ill in the world and that in the same sense that John Lennon imagined a world without religion, someone could imagine a world without taste, where we only eat what we need and would never withhold food from another, wouldn't cut down a rain forest to grow coffee, and wouldn't colonize a country over chocolate and spices.

I don't know that quantity should be looked down on. It's only a recent phenomenon that people have too much food.

Sam Walston became in the end what he was trying to fight in the beginning. Strange how things work out sometimes. Seldom do you se a place that repairs consumer goods. As they are more easily replaced than repaired. How can a part cost more than the unit it is used in? GM came up with that long years ago. Planned obsolescence. So all the guys that used to work in the mills and factories now have to go to the Big Box and where stupid looking vests. We just got what we asked for. We wanted cheaper, faster and longer and got screwed in the process.

It's not the replacement piece you're paying for, but the service. I'm glad that people are valued more than things.

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An accurate clock was essential to navigation and helped Britain become the colonial power it was.

Can't see how that works. Sextant and other navigation instruments maybe.

Clocks may have told them when it was time for a G&T.

I'm pretty sure those navigation instruments don't work particularly well if you don't know what time it is. But I'm no navigation expert.

I'm happy to let the wristwatch tangent die without another round of debate. I've made my point as well as I can make it.

In addition let me remind everybody that we're trying very hard not to have a referendum on all things American and capitalistic here. Let's try to use each post on this thread to talk about food. Thanks.

Naval clocks were necessary for measuring longitude. Latitude (north-south location) had been measured for hundreds of years by measuring the distance of the north star above the horizon with a sextant, but longitude was harder. The basic idea, as I get it, is that if you know the day of the year, and the exact time the sun was supposed to rise in Greenwich, England, where the observatory was, and the exact time it rose wherever you were you could tell where you were. In other words, if sunrise were known to be 7AM in Greenwich on December 8, but sunrise caught your ship at 10:43, you could calculate how far west of Greenwich you were. This also speaks to why degrees of latitude and longitude are broken into minutes and seconds.

[Apologies -- back to food next post]

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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Most industrialized countries are already seeing children develop health problems, including diabetes, that were usually only seen in adults, and then most often in late middle age. Bad diet is part of it, but lack of exercise is also to blame.

Four words: tv, computer, video games

Add that to McDonaldsApplebeesOutbackBurgerKingPizzaHut and you have our county's obesity problem.

True Heroism is remarkably sober, very undramatic.

It is not the urge to surpass all others at whatever cost,

but the urge to serve others at whatever cost. -Arthur Ashe

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If the corporations are "stopped," where will all of the people they currently employ work?

Hey, they might even make more than minimum wage....

Or not. And they might get no benefits since most small businesses are exempt from treating their workers fairly.

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

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you have to assume an importance for food quality that I think needs to be proven

I'm all for proving things. What standards of proof should we be using, however? I mean, I think it's self-evident that in the Western world the decline of the family dinner ritual, the rise of Antarctic Red Delicious apples, etc., all tie into a kind of cultural impoverishment. I don't see the view that food is important to culture as an irrational niche projection of overimportance; it's not like we're a bunch of stamp collectors saying that all of human history can be explained philatelically. I mean, food is serious shit: there are thousands of books, there are departments in many of the major universities, it occupies a tremendous amount of the day for so many people, the kitchen is traditionally the center of the home, the restaurant and the tavern are traditionally the meeting and gathering places of society, food is essential to holiday rituals, etc. I don't think it's possible to separate those things from the quality issue, because once you say quality is irrelevant you may as well just take the food pill and dismantle all the structures.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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One thing that is worth pointing out is that there are very good reasons why many of these "corporate foods" are the way they are.

In 1924, iodine was added to salt to prevent goiter. With that change, the rate of goiter in Michigan, for example, quickly fell from 39 to 9 percent. Between 1906 and 1940 in the US, about three million cases of pellagra (symptoms: diarrhea, jaundice, dementia, death) were diagnosed before the government mandated that all flour be enriched with niacin, iron, thiamin, and riboflavin. How many people have you known who have had pellagra these days? Same goes for vitamin D (in milk) and rickets.

On a global scale, trying to go "natural" or "anti-corporate" for food is reckless and inhumane. Agricultural researcher and Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug predicts that producing enough food on existing farmlands to feed an expected 2.3 billion more mouths by 2025 will require an astonishing 75 percent jump in productivity. That type of productivity increase is absolutely impossible without large-scale factory farming and, probably, GM foods.

In America, yes, we have enough food. The majority of the world does not.

This post may be almost as extreme as the "replacing food with pills" example, but it's worth noting that a return to an artisanal past and meals cooked with care in your own home from whole ingredients and fresh herbs, romantic as it may be, is probably going to be limited, at least in the present, to the affluent or passionate, not the common man in America, and definitely not to the common man worldwide. As much as I would love to see canned corn and enriched white bread disappear, it ain't gonna happen - and really, it shouldn't.

Don Moore

Nashville, TN

Peace on Earth

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