It's Time for 'Locavores' to Shut Up and Eat

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The New Oxford American Dictionary chose "locavore" as its 2007 Word of the Year. Commentator Amy Stewart says it's time to change the subject and end the year of eating locally.


The New Oxford American Dictionary chose locavore as its 2007 Word of the Year. The locavore movement, as Oxford University Press describes it, encourages consumers to buy from farmers markets, even grow or pick their own food. The idea is that fresh local products are more nutritious and taste better.

Well, Amy Stewart is already set this to send this word of the year into retirement. She is the essayist today for our series, Oh Contraire.

Ms. AMY STEWART (Commentator; Author): Last summer, an invitation to a book festival encouraged me to visit the hospitality tent, where I would be served water, cookies and local fruit.

Must I be assured of an apple's pedigree weeks before I bite into it? Is it really necessary to flash one's locavore credentials before setting out something as mundane as a snack tray in a hospitality tent?

Now, I don't object to the eating locally grown food. I love those homegrown snap peas and farm-stand brandywines. But we've all become a little too pleased with ourselves and our newly reformed eating habits. All the fuss over the origin and early childhood experience of our broccoli is just another symptom of our deeply troubled relationship with food. Can't we just change the subject?

I know how hard this will be. In some circles, dinner party guests have come to expect that every ingredient, down to the last fried sage leaf, will be duly catalogued and praised. But didn't dinner party conversation used to be about something other than dinner? Doesn't anyone gossip or tell dirty jokes anymore?

This will be especially hard for writers who are halfway through their my-year-of-eating-locally memoirs. Writers, I feel your pain. I know that your advance has already been spent on chicken coop construction and quixotic attempts at growing a coffee bush indoors. But it's not too late to come up with a new topic. Those of you who are serious about reducing your carbon emissions might try my year of riding public transportation or my year of turning down the thermostat.

Instead of regaling your readers with tales of pressing your own olive oil, you can recount your adventures with bus schedules and insulated duct work. Or how about my year of never ever talking about food not even once - the story of your offbeat quest to find something else to say at breakfast.

This moratorium applies to the media too. Isn't it time for reporters to stop following celebrity chefs through farmers markets as they squeeze melons and coo over speckled brown quail eggs? I don't mind chefs engaging in this sort of behavior. I just don't think it has to happen in front of a camera crew and a microphone. It's not newsworthy or interesting. It's just grocery shopping.

Our obsession with local food has gone far enough. We've heaped all our fears and anxieties onto the dinner plate. Climate change, globalization, agrichemicals, animal rights, food insecurity - these are heavy burdens to place on a lettuce leaf.

I'd like to go back to consuming my food rather than letting it consume me. Next year, I think we should all just shut up and eat.

(Soundbite of music)

NORRIS: Amy Stewart is the author of "Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers."

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