Local Eating, Manhattan Style

The New Yorker‘s Adam Gopnik experiments, charmingly, with local eating in the five boroughs. His children star in the piece, which can be cloying, but they’re funny. Some of my compatriots at Grist complained bitterly about this piece, but I enjoyed it thoroughly.

Here’s the core of his argument:

There are powerful arguments against localism:
apart from the inevitable statistical tussles about exactly how much
fuel is used for how much food, the one word that never occurs in the
evocation of the lost world of small cities and nearby farms is
“famine.” Our peasant ancestors, who lived locally and ate seasonally
from the fruit of their own vines and the meat of their own lambs, were
hungry all the time. The localist vision of the tiny polis and its
surrounding gardens has historically led to bitter conflict, not
Arcadian harmony.

It is even perilously easy to construct a
Veblenian explanation for the vogue for localism. Where a century ago
all upwardly mobile people knew enough, and had enough resources, to
get their hands on the most unseasonable foods from the most distant
places, in order to distinguish themselves from the peasant past and
the laboring masses, their descendants now distinguish themselves by
hustling after a peasant diet.

This may be so; but the fact that one can explain everything in
social life as a series of status exchanges does not mean that social
life is
only a series of status exchanges. It was cool to be a
liberal in 1963, but that did not make liberal attitudes to race
foolish. All human values get expressed as social rituals; we place
bets on which of the rituals are worth serving.

Plus, a wonderful picture of a beekeeper named David Graves, who keeps hives on rooftops around the city:

Davidgravesbyjosefastgor

3 thoughts on “Local Eating, Manhattan Style

  1. From time to time I’ve found myself sympathizing with the deep ecology/local food crowd. Then I remember my grandmother. She grew up in an outport fishing village in Newfoundland. Talk about being close to nature. People starved to death if they couldn’t store enough food to get through the winter. My ancestors risked their lives on the open ice in the sealing trade. Every year, hundreds of fishermen and sealers died in the north Atlantic.

    My grandma moved to Brooklyn and was thrilled to discover a city with steam heat, subways under the snow and fresh produce year ’round. She was poor her whole life, and worked at menial jobs, but she never went back to Newfoundland again. “If dey want to see me, dey know where to find me.”

    Like

  2. Nice story. And as a former New Yorker, I must say, I never totally got over steam heat — a helluva 19th century invention, like the subways, that sustains us still. I kinda miss it out here in California, sometimes.

    Like

  3. Nice story. And as a former New Yorker, I must say, I never totally got over steam heat — a helluva 19th century invention, like the subways, that sustains us still. I kinda miss it out here in California, sometimes.

    Like

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