Eco-chic: constructing class identity through food choices

set of organic fresh eco labels

Yesterday I wrote about the ways in which maternal foodwork reinforces privilege:

Those engaged in intensive maternal foodwork may claim — and may even believe — that they are improving their children’s health, but the primary purpose of intensive foodwork is to demonstrate privilege.

In other words, rather than rejecting consumerism, women who embrace intensive foodwork (organic food, homemade baby food, and even breastfeeding), represent niche consumerism, the consumerism of the privileged.

Are the stories we tell about “good” mothering — breastfeeding, homemade baby food and organic produce — just another way to assert privilege, ensuring that ONLY privileged women can qualify as “good” mothers?

As Cairns et al. write in The Caring, Committed Eco-Mom: Consumption Ideals and Lived Realities of Toronto Mothers:

…The realm of eco-consumption is also shaped by dynamics of social class, given the considerable financial and cultural capital required to achieve the performance of the discerning, environmentally-conscious consumer… [W]e argue that eco-consumption is one contemporary form of caring consumption that North American mothers are encouraged to perform – a resource- and knowledge-intensive mothering project that operates as a gendered form of class distinction.

In other words, the difference between feeding children McDonald’s and products from Whole Foods isn’t so much a difference in healthfulness, it’s merely a convenient shorthand for class distinctions and aspirations. It’s not a coincidence that poor women and women of color are more likely to choose McDonald’s and well-off, white women are more likely to shop at Whole Foods. It’s just one of the many ways that well-off white women use to flaunt their privilege and distinguish themselves from poor women and women of color.

The authors explore “caring consumption,” a form of consumerism beloved of natural parenting advocates:

…[E]co-mothering is idealized as a pleasurable consumption project easily attained alongside other maternal commitments, such as protecting family health. North American lifestyle magazines offer a seemingly endless array of “‘simple’ and ‘easy’ ways for women to ‘go green’” while fulfilling caretaking responsibilities.

But far from being easy or pleasurable:

… [T]here are three key points of tension that characterize the lived experience of mothers who strive to fulfill the Eco-Mom ideal… tensions in how 1) information, 2) time and 3) money factor into mothers’ consumption choices. These tensions make eco-consumption problematic for the Canadian mothers in our study, as they require investments in resources that vary by class …

Access to information, time and money vary dramatically by economic and social class. Ultimately eco-consumption is yet another way that the privileged leverage their privilege to display their privilege.

The authors explore these constraints individually.

Information:

Many mothers described engaging in ongoing research to better understand the health and environmental implications of their food shopping…

Access to knowledge is mediated both by cultural capital (e.g., knowing which sources to read and trust) and financial capital (e.g., using smart-phone applications to guide one’s purchases).

And yet:

Lamenting how “complicated” shopping has become, Matilda remarked, “I don’t think my mom sat there and thought, ‘it is local, is it organic, is it ethical, am I supporting factory farms?’ I mean, she just went and bought food.”

Of course she didn’t. She probably didn’t have time or the money to do that.

Time:

In addition to the challenge of navigating a sea of contradictory knowledge claims, the mothers in our focus groups experienced time as a major constraint in their efforts to live up to Eco-Mom ideals…

…[M]others in our study described spending significant time devising meal plans and shopping lists. They then ventured to multiple vendors in order to access food that satisfied their standards for health and ethics, and also suited family members’ diverse preferences.

Indeed, mothers fetishize inconvenience as yet another way to distinguish themselves from mainstream women who aren’t privileged:

In addition to the time requirements of planning and specialty shopping, eco-mothering also demands that women eschew ‘convenience’ foods designed to make feeding children easier, such as pre-packaged lunch items.

Ultimately, though, it comes down to money:

Fulfilling the Eco-Mom ideal presumes the regular purchasing of expensive items such as organic produce and grain-fed, hormone-free beef, and women spoke openly about how one’s class position enabled or constrained these practices…

Others critiqued the status displays associated with the Eco-Mom ideal … [E]co- food is often sold in classed spaces (like farmers’ markets), catering to values that are more readily practiced by privileged consumers.

Breastfeeding has similar time and financial constraints to eco-mothering. It requires privilege to have the time, financial spousal support, maternity leave and/or a job that allows for frequent pumping breaks without which women cannot sustain exclusive breastfeeding. Poor women and women of color are much less likely to have such privilege and that makes the contemporary emphasis on exclusive breastfeeding doubly problematic. Not only do these women lack the time and money to engage in exclusive breastfeeding, they are berated by privileged women precisely because they lack privilege.

The authors conclude:

…[E]co-mothering operates as an elite mode of caring consumption by reproducing and reinforcing class and gender distinctions… The idealized version of caring consumption emphasizes that mothers find care work satisfying, empowering, and effective. In practice, eco-mothering  … was often confusing, tiring, expensive, and typically a gendered burden…

Each point of tension, moreover, was intensified by dynamics of social class, serving to further underscore the ways in which eco-mothering acts as a distinctly classed form of caring consumption that mothers strive to perform.

What’s the take home message?

Privileged women need to ask themselves whether the stories we tell about “good” mothering — breastfeeding, homemade baby food and organic produce — are just another way to assert privilege, ensuring that ONLY privileged women can qualify as “good” mothers.

  • keepitreal

    Who knew the humble goldfish could incite such fury among the righteous food babe warriors and Mommy Dearests of nutrition? Wishing all kids of ‘real food’ moms a big bag of goldfish, if for no other reason than to show that: They’ll live. They’ll survive.

  • niteseer

    OT, but I woke up with a 102.4 temp yesterday morning, after having had very mild cough and scratchy throat for a couple of days. Rapid flu test was positive…….who knew that my city is famous for having late season breakouts? I’d had the flu shot in October, so in one way, you could count it a failure…….BUT…. I remember having flu several times in my life before the advent of the vaccines, and feeling like death would have been a mercy. This time, the symptoms were not even 10% of what a full blown flu feels like. So I am guessing that even though I caught the flu, the severity was decreased? Is that the way it works?

    Anyway, I could not help thinking of the anti-vax crowd who says having the disease is better for your immune system than having the vaccination, and point out that vaccines don’t always prevent the disease. To them I say, having the vaccination was WELL worth it! I am feeling mildly bad, instead of feeling on the verge of death. This just makes me appreciate even more, the privilege of having access to vaccinations. My son and husband were vaccinated as well, so I hope they will either not catch it from me, or will only have mild symptoms, too.

    • Heidi

      Glad to hear you don’t feel like the walking dead! Hope you feel 100% better soon, though and the rest of the family avoids catching it.

    • Merrie

      I’m pretty sure my husband and I just had a bout of the flu and are getting over it. We were both vaccinated, but our symptoms matched better to flu than to a regular cold. It was not pleasant but it wasn’t as much of the “being hit by a train” as I remember from having the flu in high school. Which, considering we have 2 little kids and I’m pregnant, was a mercy.

  • Ella Mae

    ‘Girls’ And The Power Of Hannah Horvath’s Vagina
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/girls-and-the-power-of-hannahs-vagina_us_58f8744de4b081380af518fc?9km

    Just had to bring this to someone’s attention, even though it’s not really the topic of this post. I’m pretty sure whether or not you are acculturated to be ashamed of your lady parts has little to no bearing on if you will give birth vaginally or via c-section. Crazy talk.

    • lawyer jane

      A reminder that social scientists can be as dumb as they can be insightful 🙂

    • Heidi

      I’d argue in the last 20 years, as a whole women have become less ashamed of their vaginas. It’s almost like other factors related to C-section likelihood have gone up – obesity, maternal age, fertility treatments.

    • BeatriceC

      I finally got around to reading that. It doesn’t make any sense. I mean, maybe this show she’s talking about is more crass about the after effects of giving birth, but every single TV show birth I can recall from when I was a kid (the 80’s) assumed an uncomplicated vaginal delivery. Maybe the drama shows like St. Elsewhere may have included complications, similar to Grey’s Anatomy today, but that’s it.

    • Wasnomofear

      Also, taken in context of the series, I don’t buy Hannah having a vaginal birth as some kind of statement, except maybe annoyance at the injuries, because in one of the early seasons, there was a supporting character who got pregnant and was trying to birth at home in her tub; she was nutty, and doing that was given an eyeroll by the main characters, until the pregnant one’s brother (a main character) realized she was in trouble and they all literally carried her to the hospital, where, iirc, she had a section. I was pleased with the writing of that whole storyline. Additionally​, that nutty character was definitely not ashamed of her body, either, so this essay’s whole argument falls apart on that alone.

    • Merrie

      That’s pretty stupid. I think that most people know that vaginal birth is the default operating mode, so to speak, and it’s not going to have much influence on whether they personally birth vaginally or have a c-section.

    • AnnaPDE

      Well, it does have a little bearing.
      I’m pretty sure that women ashamed of their lady parts and bodily functions will have a harder time voicing a desire for a C-section on the basis that they’d like to make sure their pelvic floor, vagina and perineum stays intact. Especially in a culture where the whole “natural is good, so mothers must do natural” trope is prevalent, such as what I’ve experienced in Germany and Australia, and read about in a US context, actively wanting a C-section is pretty rare. (The article’s author exemplifies this by the implicit assumptions in her basic stance that it’s bad that so many women have C-sections, and that women who are at peace with their bodies would want a vaginal birth.) This similarity is despite the vastly different level of comfort with naked bodies and their bits that exists between Germany and the US.
      In contrast, the attitudes I know from my Hungarian and other Eastern European friends are along the lines of “give me that C-section, thankfully we’re not in the middle ages any more”, while having a reasonably comfortable relationship to their bodies. Though admittedly this has been changing in the last 10 years or so, at least in Hungary, towards a more “natural” leaning.

      I’d say it’s more about what Dr Amy described above: Expressing privilege. The thing that is difficult to get without privilege is what people want, independently of practical considerations.

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    I’ve said it before, the problem in the US is not that we don’t have a healthy diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s that we don’t have a healthy diet without any fruits and vegetables. Canned fruits and veggies would be a huge improvement over french fries and potato chips.

    That right there is the bulk of the challenge. All this stuff about organic and even fresh produce means nothing when people aren’t even eating non-organic, processed produce.

    • Roadstergal

      I have a mom friend who was so frightened by the hyperbole of all of her upper-middle-class college-educated white peers that she’d give her kids a baked snack (Amy’s, usually) if the only other option was non-organic fruit or veg. That’s not good.

      • lawyer jane

        So weird. I was castigated by the other preschool moms when I had the temerity to include a couple of chocolate chips in the class snack (baggies of cheerios and raisins, with literally like 3 chocolate chips per bag) and it was also heavily implied that the cheerios were declasse in and of themselves But these same moms basically gave endless Annie’s Bunnies, organic pretzel sticks, and cheese sticks, as if all those salty refined carbs and fat are somehow superior to 3 chocolate chips and whole grain cheerios. Literally THREE CHOCOLATE CHIPS PER CHILD got me a huge lecture.

        • Roadstergal

          (Ooops, I meant Annie’s, not Amy’s – I get the crappy overpriced snacks and the crappy overpriced ready-to-eat meals confused.)

          • lawyer jane

            Hey now, I like Amy’s frozen meals! The Indian ones and spinach lasagna, and the pizza too. Although, the flavor seems to have gone downhill recently.

          • Roadstergal

            I used to buy the Lightlife ones, but they seem to have stopped doing those. I tried to shift to Amy’s, and I just found them so bland and dry in comparison… and then they started getting all of the non-GMO signage.

            These days, my ready-to-eat freezer backups are almost exclusively Trader Joe’s.

          • Amy

            Oh…..I’ve got some bad news for you then! Many (though not all!) of the TJ’s house brand frozen meals are just repackaged Amy’s. Trader Joe’s does that with a lot of its house label products. They have to change the label in order to be able to sell them at the lower price.

            BTW, I am NOT knocking them. We get almost all our groceries at Trader Joe’s. And before anyone says they’re overpriced and a sign of privilege……they’re CHEAPER than any of the big supermarket chains, especially Stop and Shop, the other option for me.

          • Cody

            Agreed. Those frozen meals taste good. I buy those when I know I’m eating dinner by meself because the kids will be out with my husband or something.

        • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

          yeah, all snacks have to be non-GMO,all natural, gluten-free, organic, etc. Ummm I don’t care if its made with agave, honey, molasses or whatever they are ALL sugar. Here have a non-organic gluten free apple

        • myrewyn

          Did you lose your shit? I would have lost my shit.

        • Cody

          I love that. You always know you’re in for it when you show up at a birthday party and all of the party snacks come out of Whole Foods shopping bags. At that point I know that my kids are going to do or say something that the other parents disapprove of.

        • BeatriceC

          I got a lot of flack when Leo was dying because the vet told me to feed him absolutely anything he would eat. The vet himself was feeding the bird goldfish crackers when he was hospitalized. He ate them, so they were put in his food bowl. OMG the horror! GMO! Non-Organic! Eleventy! Whatever.

          • StephanieJR

            My rabbit gets kale out of a bag, and gobbles it up. She’ll actually try and tear it out of my hands. Amy does not give a flip where her food comes from. She just wants food.

          • BeatriceC

            Charlotte will attack you if you get between her and her bananas. She does not care at all about how they were grown, just give her the damned bananas.

          • Mishimoo

            Danny (weimaraner) waits until I’m busy and then pinches the scrap bucket off the bench so he can scarf the carrot peelings before the chickens get them.

          • Azuran

            I hospitalized a very sick cockatoo due to a cat bite a few months back. It wouldn’t eat. I gave that bird pieces of everyone’s lunches until I found anything he would eat and when it ate something I gave him a metric ton of it.
            Fed is best doesn’t apply only to breastfeeding I guess. Except in a few cases when a very strict diet is absolutely necessary, you give sick pets whatever they want to eat. Animals that eat are much more likely to make it through.

          • BeatriceC

            Exactly. The best quality food in the world doesn’t mean a damned thing if the animal won’t eat it. Get calories into him or her anyway you can, and worry about the rest once recovered.

          • StephanieJR

            I’ve experienced the singular pleasure of squirting fibre mush into the mouth of an uncooperative rabbit refusing to eat because of stasis. Sometimes you have to force them to eat, because fed is best even when the animal doesn’t want fed.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            It is very common for vets to recommend giving animals whatever when they are terminal. They’ll say the same thing for dogs with cancer – give them snacks and keep them happy.

            Who are the morons giving flack about how you feed your parrot in the first place? Much less one that is terminally ill?

          • BeatriceC

            Bird group people are terrible. And at first we didn’t know he was terminal. I’m sure there’s a few people, who thankfully kept their mouths shut, that would claim if I fed him better he wouldn’t have died. Ummm, no. ABV is fatal 100% of the time. Some species of birds are responsive to treatment and you can delay the inevitable months or even years, but eventually ABV is going to kill the bird. Senegals are not one of the species of birds that are generally responsive to treatment.

            I

          • Mariana

            That was the exact recommendation I got from the pediatrician when my kids get sick and refuse to eat: “give them whatever drink they’ll drink and whatever food they’ll eat, we’ll sort nutrition out when they get better. Right now we need to get some calories in them.”

        • fiftyfifty1

          I get your point, but don’t go criticizing “salty refined carbs and fat “. Very few humans have any problem processing salt at all (it doesn’t cause high blood pressure except in a very few), and carbs and fats are wonderful macronutrients that fuel us.

        • Petticoat Philosopher

          Oh yes, cheerios are very déclassé now. I am 30 and back in my preschool days, my parents used to send me with a bag of cheerios and raisins because they were trying to be healthy. At the time, they were more health-conscious than a lot of parents that they knew, though their rules were pretty basic and even old-fashioned. No sugary snacks and junk food kept in the house, no pop except for birthday parties and occasionally when eating out, candy and sweets limited to special treats and sometimes a little only after eating a good dinner, which had to include at least one vegetable. The rationale behind the cheerios was that they were not full of sugar. Seems reasonable to me! But, wow, crunchy parents now would eat my late 80s/early 90s parents alive now! This despite the fact that many thought them rather quaint at the time.

      • myrewyn

        Yep. Slap an organic label and a cute bunny on it and all those snacks are TOTALLY good for you.

        • Cody

          I had to explain this to my husband because they sell lots f organic crap at Costco. It fools a lot of people. I totally believe that there is a quality difference between organic, in-season, local produce and non-organic, in season, local produce. I think all else being equal, organic tastes better. Having said that non-organic whole grain bread is better for you than organic white bread. And just because a granola bar says organic doesn’t make it a good choice when the alternative is carrots.

          • myrewyn

            I don’t even believe there is a quality or taste difference between organic and non organic produce.

          • StephanieJR

            I wonder if any of it could be like a placebo or psychosomatic? If you’re convince it tastes better, it does taste better, or something like that.

            I swear free range, orange yolks taste better than caged hens with pale yolks, but I’m probably lying to myself. And we’re pretty privileged in the sense that my dad gets all the eggs we use (my family runs a B&B) from a friend/local farmer. Or maybe it’s just that we live in a small town surrounded by farms.

          • myrewyn

            Ok I do see it (taste it) with eggs. I suppose you would have to blindfold me to know for sure though.

          • fiftyfifty1

            I had backyard hens for a few years. I was unable to detect a difference blindfolded.

          • Mishimoo

            I haven’t done a blindfolded taste-test but I have found that eggs from our backyard hens poach better than the storebought ones, which was pretty frustrating. Our hens went broody, so I used storebought eggs when making poached eggs for lunch and voila: murky vinegar water with egg bits.

          • Who?

            It’s a freshness thing. Fresh eggs hold together really really well, which is why they poach more nicely than the less fresh but fresh from the shop ones. I don’t put vinegar in the water, just get a little whirlpool going, or if doing them for a crowd, drop them into egg rings in poaching water. Lazy but tidy and effective.

            Hope all is well with you.

          • Mishimoo

            Ooh the egg rings are a great idea – the kids have discovered the wonders of poached eggs, and that would make it easier!

            I’m studying, volunteering, and applying for jobs. Managed a high distinction on my first uni essay, so I’m going to be slightly anxious until I get the results for the next one. I’m about to start the third (final) one for this subject which I’m excited about. Hope everything is going well for you too!

          • Mariana

            They probably poach better because they are fresher. The white is firmer and doesn’t spread so much.

          • Amy

            That’s not an organic/non-organic dichotomy though. You can raise free-range chickens who give you those eggs and give them the cheaper, non-organic feed. I’ll go out on a limb and bet that MOST people who keep backyard chickens don’t bother to shell out for the organic feed, at least based on what I see at the feed stores around here, where they keep the standard feed out front and have to call someone to go fetch organic when someone wants it.

            It’s the fact that the chickens are out running around and eating a more omnivorous diet that gives the eggs that quality. From what I’ve heard it’s the higher levels of beta carotene that free-range chickens eat (from grass and other grazing) that gives the yolks the deeper color.

            It’s the same with locally-grown heirloom produce. There absolutely are appreciable qualitative differences in the way local, in-season produce tastes. But whether that produce is grown organically or not doesn’t change anything about it except the price.

          • AnnaPDE

            This. Not sure how it’s in the US, but the German laws on what can be called “organic” have rules for farming practices (free range animals, restrictions on what you can use to make your produce grow) that lead to this kind of quality increase. Of course, you could just practice those quality-improving things without the rest of the organic guidelines, but that doesn’t have a well known label.

          • Petticoat Philosopher

            I think they taste better too and I didn’t even know that I was eating them the first time I did. They were just really, really good eggs for some reason. And, really, if they look different, why shouldn’t they also taste different? It’s not an outlandish notion.

            I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having the privilege to enjoy higher-quality produce and food in general. The problem is when people start insisting that doing so is a mark of virtue and that there’s no way to be healthy or to keep your kids healthy besides buying premium or having access to special sources.

          • Cody

            The difference that I find could be accounted for by the size of the farms or something. Perhaps the farmers at the local organic operations have the time to sing to each of their peaches before tucking them in at night. Presumably you can’t do that when your peach orchard is larger.

          • Heidi

            Finding good peaches is always a struggle.

          • myrewyn

            I will admit that if I stand right under my very own volunteer plum trees and eat them as I pick, they are better than any plum I have ever bought from the store but I think that’s because I am eliminating all transport time.

          • BeatriceC

            The boys and I visited a friend in the Portland, OR area a number of years ago during prime berry season. My boys gorged themselves on raspberries and blackberries straight from the bushes, and since then no other berry has been tolerable to them.

          • myrewyn

            Yep. Fruit and berries are a couple things we do very well here.

          • Who?

            I think it’s freshness that makes the taste difference.

          • AnnaPDE

            With meat, there’s a big one, at least compared to the non-free range stuff. It does make a difference whether those muscles got some use.

          • Azuran

            It probably depends a lot on how the conventional product is farmed (standards vary a lot from country to country, not everything is super intensive farming like the USA) and what are the standards from the various accreditation from the country. Some accreditation are just bullshit.
            Free range farm are also often smaller and go for quality over quantity, so they might use different races of animals than intensive farming. The diet is also often different, especially if they can forage.

          • Petticoat Philosopher

            To me, it depends on what it is. I very much notice a difference with bell peppers and cauliflower but not with most things. In season certainly makes a difference though. There’s usually just no point in buying fresh, out-of-season strawberries or tomatoes that have been bred for long travel and not for taste. (Though, for the latter, I have recently found a good supplier of hothouse-grown tomatoes in Chicago and I treat myself because having them around makes me more inspired to eat salads and other healthy stuff. Easier to eat more vegetables when they taste good.) For most of the year, good canned tomatoes do just fine and frozen strawberries are plenty good for smoothies and oatmeal and stuff. (Both those things are cheaper too.) Then I just wait for the seasons to buy fresh. I give myself permisson to gorge myself on farmer’s market strawberries because that season is so short and you only live once.

          • Mariana

            But there is! Organic lettuce comes with slugs! (At least they do here in Brazil). No thanks… I’ll keep my hydroponic lettuce (which used to cost a lot a few years back, but not is really cheap!)

          • fiftyfifty1

            Why are carrots a better choice than a granola bar? Carrots have lots of vitamin A, and a tiny bit of fiber, potassium and vitamin C, but not much else. Granola bars, in contrast, are rich in the macronutrients we need to fuel us: carbohydrates, fats and protein.

          • Cody

            I’m thinking of the kind my husband buys. Those ones are chocolate bars masquerading as health food.

          • myrewyn

            I think a lot of granola bars are glorified candy bars. I like the nature valley crunchy ones though.

          • fiftyfifty1

            “a lot of granola bars are glorified candy bars.”

            You say that as if it’s a bad thing.

          • myrewyn

            If you don’t really like candy bars it is 🙂

        • Empress of the Iguana People

          cute bunny tho

          • Heidi

            Same cute bunny on conventional snack foods and OMG they’re brainwashing the children and are 100% to blame for childhood obesity!

          • StephanieJR

            It’s a conspiracy, I tells ya!

          • Roadstergal

            We had the most stereotypical rabbit ever as a pet when I was young – big, fluffy, white, loooooved humans, ready for an Easter photoshoot every moment of every day.

            My mom brought him home from the lab when he was no longer useful for raising antibodies. :p

          • BeatriceC

            My stepdaughters had a few rats growing up that met that description as well. And came from a similar source.

          • AnnaPDE

            My sister rescued a week-old lab rat whose brain she was supposed to freeze, slice and analyse under the microscope. Her professor went out to buy the cage and other supplies while she hid the rat in her jumper’s sleeve.
            That rat grew up convinced she was a human, was way too clever, and very friendly and clever towards people, but had very little patience for the comparatively stupid pet shop rats we bought her as company. It would have been a shame for that brain to end up on a microscope slide.

          • Nick Sanders

            It didn’t happen to come from NIMH, did it?

          • AnnaPDE

            Nah, just the bog standard £8 rat she’d get at UCL. I doubt they had extra special imported rats. 🙂

          • Box of Salt

            Nick’s comment is a children’s literature reference 🙂

          • AnnaPDE

            Almost suspected that much, but embarrassingly I couldn’t find what the reference was exactly. Can you please fill in this cultural blind spot?

          • swbarnes2

            “Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH” (book) or “The Secret of NIMH” (movie) about a mouse widow who gets the help of recently escaped NIMH experimental rat subjects to help her move her home. It’s considered to be a pretty good movie, but awfully intense. The “Flying Dreams” song over the credits is also awesome.

    • Amy

      To be fair, as a kid who grew up not remotely poor but with an Irish-American mom whose idea of “cooking” was throwing a roast in the oven and heating up a can of vegetables……canned vegetables taste like crap, especially compared to french fries and potato chips. I grew up believing that I just didn’t like peas or beans (the only two vegetables we ever had other than canned corn nibblets). It wasn’t until I moved out and exercised some of my privilege in the direction of food choices that I discovered how delicious fresh and frozen peas are, and about the existence of other green vegetables as more than abstract concepts (or cartoon punchlines).

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        canned vegetables taste like crap,

        To some people. But not to everyone. We’ve tried fresh veggies with the kids. They prefer canned.

      • Kerlyssa

        canned green beans are my comfort food for this exact reason. reminds me of mom’s cooking 😉

  • fiftyfifty1

    In this post you focus mainly on the way eco-consumption and foodwork reinforce class identity, but I am doubly struck by how they enforce gender. All this obsessing over homemade organic food makes a (financially privileged) mother be rated as a “good mother”, but the same level of behavior from a father would be seen as neurotic and effete. Neuroticism is fine in moms though, because women are seen as neurotic by nature. Likewise, In certain circles, if a mother brings her kids to McDonalds it shows she is a bad mother, but if a father does it, it’s just sort of funny: That’s dads for you, ha ha ha, can’t be expected to do it right the way only a mom can, can they?

    • StephanieJR

      Ugh, I hate the ‘bumbling dad’ trope. I hate the thought of important life skills, such as cooking, sewing, or car matience, being so highly gendered, but that’s a rant for another day.

    • lawyer jane

      Yep. A dad going to McDonalds = “being dad.” A mom going to McDonalds has to have additional layers of meaning. Either you are the “rebel mom” (self-consciously being “bad”); or you are an actually bad mom.

      (And in any event – McDonald’s is actually really good now! The fries are made to order and more delicious than any French restaurant. The chicken nuggets are made out of real meat. The ice cream sundae is only $1 and the perfect size for me to share with the kiddo. The quarter pounders are still disgusting meat product with cheese product on top, but that’s what I’ve always liked about them …)

      • Roadstergal

        I don’t know about McD’s, but every once in a while we pop into the local BK for a veggie burger. They have, well, veggie burgers, as well as salads, and a kid menu that includes apple slices and milk. You can eat some pretty decent stuff at most fast-food chains these days.

        • Heidi

          Taco Bell actually has a vegetarian and vegan menu now.

          • Roadstergal

            They’re my ‘guilty pleasure.’ Especially after a track day when I’m all tired and hungry and just want gooey comfort food!

          • myrewyn

            Taco Bell I literally can’t stomach. Luckily we have a bunch of taquerias around my house for gooey Mexican comfort food.

          • Heidi

            Back in college when I was a strict vegetarian, even without a specifically vegetarian menu, it was always easy to replace the meat in any item with beans.

      • myrewyn

        Huh. I’ll have to give it another chance. I haven’t been in decades.

      • Steph858

        A happy meal contains 2 of your 5 a day! Bag of mixed fruit + small bottle of Tropicana. Reminds me of this:

        https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/91/c3/ae/91c3aed0b6266c06f3427e9245b67e6b.jpg

      • Heidi

        I love their sundaes with the little packet of peanuts and their dipped cones now that all the DQs around here have closed.

      • Azuran

        I made my baby out of Mc-Donald’s. It was one of the few consistent meals that I could eat in my first trimester.
        I ate so much of it it became a running gag at my job and my coworker got me a McDonald teething toy for the baby.

        • Mrs.Katt the Cat

          I made my baby on Chikfila and burger king.
          First trimester was cabbage and potatoes, hence the minis nickname of Irish Rabbit, but later was sweet sweet nuggets.

        • Mel

          Taco Bell Nacho Grande. I don’t like it when I’m not having morning sickness – but my God, it was about the only source of protein and fat that didn’t make me vomit.

        • Charybdis

          DS was a Sonic lemon slush and peel-and-eat shrimp baby. With occasional McDonald’s cheeseburgers and Tex-Mex food.

      • Christy

        My baby wanted fresh fruits and veggies. I mean, it’s great but I get a little jealous when I hear about other babies who insisted on being made out of yummy fast food.

  • Heidi_storage

    Speaking of food…uh oh. I just realized that the pork has been stewing in Cherry Pepsi, not regular. Oh, well, I’m going to dump barbecue sauce all over it, anyway.

    • Heidi

      I bet it will be good. I like bbq with fruity backgrounds.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      That sounds good. Especially with bbq sauce

    • BeatriceC

      I have chicken marinating in tequila. Your dinner is probably better for you than mine.

    • lawyer jane

      Um, that sounds delicious.

  • BeatriceC

    I’ve been thinking about this topic since yesterday and I’ve had a difficult time putting my thoughts and feelings into words. I think what it boils down to is that we’re fighting against human nature. As humans we need to be “better than”. As ugly as it is, it’s something that seems to be a uniting theme among all humans of every culture that’s ever existed. Sure, it manifests in different ways depending on the time and the culture, but the theme is still there.

    Worse than that, even among inherently privileged groups of people, the need to one up and prove “better than” still exists. We see this not just in mommy groups, but any groups. One example is my parrot groups. I honestly think they’re meaner than mommy groups. Simply being in a position to have exotic birds means we’re more privileged than most of the rest of humanity. Hell, there’s $10,000 worth of birds and equipment in my living room. If that’s not a disgusting amount of financial privilege, I don’t know what is. But among those groups, people get nasty. Oh, I don’t feed pellets, I make all my birds’ food from scratch. I only use organic/non-GMO. My birds are free range/free flight. You “just” have a lovebird/budgie. I’m better because I have a macaw. I’m obviously more special because I have a black palm cockatoo and you “just” have a goffins. It just goes on and on. And why? It should be good enough that we all love our birds and do our best with them. But just like in the mommy wars, there has to be some sort of way to say “I’m better than you. I’m quite certain that those people who’s interests are in other places probably experience the same thing.

    • Azuran

      Parrots group are the worst. I’m not going anywhere near them.
      I’m basically considered a mutilating monster there because I trim my youyou’s feathers.
      Doesn’t really matter to them that she is very loving when she can’t fly. But I when she can fly, she either fly straight into windows at full speed and almost kill herself, or becomes an aerial warlord. Viciously attacking and trying to kill the other birds (and yes, this has resulted in serious injuries to other birds more than once as well as a lot of stress for them), the dog and all humans around. I have a baby now, can’t have a bird prone to anger fits randomly deciding to fly into her bassinet and eat her face.
      But in bird forum, I might as well be setting puppies on fire.

      • BeatriceC

        Oh, god. The clipping issue. I stay out of those discussions. Most of the time I don’t think it’s appropriate to clip wings, but there are times when it’s the best option. Goofy, aka The Evil Attack Parrot ™, is clipped for pretty much the same reason your bird is clipped. He’s cool as long as he can’t fly. As soon as he can fly he becomes demon spawn, staging an ariel attack on anything that moves and half of what doesn’t. Oscar came to me clipped and I let his wings grow out and we’ll see what happens when he figures out how to fly and I’ll make a decision then. The same thing with Leo. I was working on teaching him to fly when he died. Charlotte obviously can’t fly with one wing and no body feathers, so we don’t bother clipping her existing wing. The budgie and lovebirds (Liam, Donovan and Arco) all have similar stories. Liam is a baby and came clipped. I think he was clipped before he fledged, so he mostly just does a controlled glide. It’s the same story with Donovan (lovebird, also YK’s bird). Arco has a plucking problem and has no tail feathers and is missing feathers around his neck and under his wings. He found me at a gas station (hence his name), and I’m a sucker and took him in. If any of them, once they learn to fly, present any sort of behavioral problem that can be solved by clipping, I won’t hesitate to do so.

        And also, I’ve decided I’m renaming my house. It’s now Beatrice’s Home for Delinquent Parrots, since I seem to attract Parrots With Problems.

        • BeatriceC

          I just realized this is the parrot corollary to Bofa’s Second Law. All things being equal, unclipped wings are best, however, all things are never equal.

        • Heidi

          You must attract parrots! Who know there were domesticated birds to be found at the gas station?

          • myrewyn

            I found a very cold cockatiel at a hotel once. He was very happy to be brought in and have some coffee. I’m not kidding. I managed to find his owners who were super annoyed that they had to drive to come get him.

          • Heidi

            I need to get out more!

          • BeatriceC

            Just don’t tell that story on a bird forum! You’re a terrible person on the scale of Hannibal Lecter for giving the bird coffee. *eyeroll*

            (Caffeine isn’t all that great for birds, but a beakful or two isn’t going to do any damage)

          • myrewyn

            Ha! He flew to my ex’s shoulder and started drinking right from the cup as soon as we had made morning coffee. Apparently it was part of his morning routine.

          • BeatriceC

            I maintain there’s a giant flashing sign visible only to parrots across my forehead that reads “SUCKER”.

            That particular gas station has a couple of large apartment complexes next to and behind it. I’m sure the bird either escaped or was dumped.

          • Mel

            My parents have that sign appear whenever the total number of cats and dogs drops to below 3

          • Mishimoo

            I once went out for garden supplies and came home with a ginger kitten. Nearly a year later, my husband admitted that he loves me more than he hates cats (while insisting we only have one cat at a time). He promptly bought me a black kitten as a welcome home present because “they don’t die like flowers” and the now-giant ginger cat has adopted him to the point of yelling for his own chair whenever my husband plays computer games.

        • StephanieJR

          I know someone whom has Totally Not A Rabbit Rescue 🙂

          • BeatriceC

            That’s about how I feel about my house. Nope, not a rescue. Really. I swear. But they keep finding me! I just got back from the vet with the foundling, making sure he’s all good health wise, and also getting him tested to find out if he’s a he or a she. I need to get YK’s lovebird in for a DNA test as well. Should have done that today too. Also had Oscar in to grind his beak down. Again. Damned bird’s beak grows so fast he can’t eat after three weeks if I don’t keep it ground. He’s also officially up to an acceptable weight. Difficulty eating in addition to a horrible diet contributed to severe malnourishment prior to me taking him. At least he doesn’t need baby bird formula anymore.

          • StephanieJR

            So much work! They must keep you on your toes.

          • BeatriceC

            They do. And I like it that way. But they really are a full time job all on their own. Of course, I could make it easier on myself by not taking in Parrots With Problems, but then it wouldn’t be half as much fun.

        • Azuran

          XD yea, I mostly have parrots with problem as well. As soon as I decided to be a vet, pretty much everyone in my extended family started dumping their pets on me. So I ended up with 7 birds with varying degrees of behavioural problems when I was 14.

          • BeatriceC

            I told my vet one day that my goal in life was to have a bird with all their appendages, fully feathered, and no attitude problems outside of normal parrot stuff. He just sort of laughed and said those birds were for other people since I was a sucker for the delinquent ones.

          • Azuran

            XD I’m a vet. I’ve long gave up any hope of having pets without problems.
            Even my dog is epileptic.

          • BeatriceC

            My vet has three amazons that are totally normal. Except that they’re his wife’s and they hate him.

      • BeatriceC

        Also, if it makes you feel any better, I just got back from my vet’s office. Both my vet and his office partner have birds with clipped wings for various reasons. Google Dr. Jeff Jenkins (San Diego, just in case there’s another avian vet with his name). He’s certainly not a vet quack. 🙂 You’re in good company.

    • myrewyn

      Totally. I’m a horse trainer (hunters and jumpers) and people with that kind of money go NUTS over how they care for their horses. You should see the flame wars that erupt over whether it is natural or not to trim whiskers for shows or blanket in the winter and whoever disagrees with you is a raging horse abuser.

      • BeatriceC

        I’ve seen it. I hesitate to decide if horse people or bird people are worse. There’s some slight differences, in that “normal” people can certainly afford smaller birds, so there’s a little bit of species snobbery going on in the bird world that doesn’t exist in the horse world, but horses in general are far more expensive, so you get the whole money thing as well, and probably on a higher scale than in all but the most expensive species of parrots.

        And I’m just over here going “oh, look. Here’s a bird with major behavior problems. Sure I’ll take him/her in!”

      • Mel

        I don’t think my husband would help matters. He’d tell them that horses are far too large to not earn their keep and casually mention that he thinks horse tastes wonderful 😀

        We’re not nice people.

      • Mishimoo

        I’ve also found that Horse People (as opposed to horse people/horse owners) tend to very loudly believe in a lot of woo, and woe unto anyone who uses science or reason.

        • myrewyn

          Oh yes. I know plenty of people who will do ALL the woo for their horses.

    • lawyer jane

      Wow, some sociologist should totally do research on bird groups v mommy groups! Fascinating.

    • StephanieJR

      That’s really fascinating (and a bit sad); I wonder what other pet owning groups display privilege wars like that? I know dogs can be subjected to it, especially around training, and the whole designer mutts debacle.

      I’m trying to think if there’s any ‘better than’ displays in the rabbit community (aside from the privilege of just owning an animal, the time to bond with it, and maybe the status of buying a rare breed, though buying instead of rescuing is frowned upon); most of the problems of having a rabbit is correcting wrong information. Rabbits are very expensive pets, and to a new owner, if they aren’t clear on the specific needs, some of the requirements probably look something like privilege, a lot of work for supposed ‘starter’ pets. Or a bit judgemental; we care about bunnies, but it can get a little intense.

    • moto_librarian

      Aquarium people can be fucking awful too, especially those who keep reef fish and corals. The sanctimony about which animals you stock, what you feed them, how often you do water changes, etc., is reminiscent of the mommy wars in obvious ways. I think that you’ve hit the nail on the head here, BeatriceC.

      • myrewyn

        Ah yes. And African rift lake cichlids.

        • moto_librarian

          I feel sorry for any parent who asks a question about a Betta fish, because they are going to be crucified for using the half gallon tank sold at every pet store on the planet.

          • BeatriceC

            Yup. Same for people asking about “starter birds”, aka budgies. While I agree the terminology is a bit crass, I think it would be much more helpful to politely explain why that term raises ire instead of going ballistic on a person who’s just trying to get information so they can set their kid up with a bird and provide both with the best life possible.

  • Sheven

    Here’s a question for people who might know. I’ve heard that pretty much the most “eco” thing you can do is just make sure you finish all the food you buy. Food waste is, apparently, a huge part of consumption. Making sure you finish a pack of regularly-farmed carrots is better than buying everything-sustainable carrots and throwing the last two out because you didn’t get around to eating them before they spoiled.

    • TsuDhoNimh

      Exactly …

    • fishcake

      Minimizing food waste is a main promise made by at least one meal-delivery service. I understand I’m privileged to be able to subscribe, but I have noticed that we are wasting less food. I also love not having to go shopping mid-week for dinner supplies.

      We’ve only used it for a month, and we’ll probably skip a lot of weeks, but I have been appreciating it.

    • Mel

      It really is. Or at least compost the wasted food if you can.

      In farming, margins are everything, so industrial and organic farming both have squeezed every last bit of efficiency out to maximize the amount of sale-able goods.

      Likewise, farm equipment does use a lot of fossil fuel. Consumers driving hundreds of individual cars to pick up organic food at a specialty shop uses even more fossil fuel. (And don’t get me going on the people who argue that returning to draft animals is the answer. That’s a spiral where you have to pull more arable land out to feed draft animals. Unlike our tractor that sits idle most of the year, a horse needs food every day of its life….)

  • Roadstergal

    There’s a lot to get annoyed about with this trend, but my own personal pet peeve is that they brand it as ‘eco,’ but then go ahead and search out ‘organic’ and ‘non-GMO,’ despite the fact that ‘organic’ has naught to do with environmental friendliness or sustainability, or that recombinant technology can make food more environmentally friendly and sustainable. It is, as you note, a fetishization of inconvenience to display privilege.

    • myrewyn

      I go out of my way to avoid “organic” and “non GMO” labeling whenever possible but it’s actually getting hard to do.

    • maidmarian555

      This!! In addition, I had a bunch of people I know go vegan last year. They bang on and on about how much better it is for the environment and then post photos of their avocado breakfast with almond milk from California on the side. I would say about 90% of what they’re eating comes from far-flung foreign lands and yet I’m the bad guy for buying local honey and eggs *eyeroll*

      • Roadstergal

        Almonds in California get my hackles up. Sure, grow a thirsty crop in the desert during a drought.

      • Heidi

        Veganism is not the most sustainable way to eat from what I understand. If the article I read is scientfically accurate, lacto-vegetarian is the most, then lacto-ovo, then someone who eats a small amount of meat THEN veganism. Some land will not grow foods we can eat but we can raise cattle on it. I think an almond takes something like 60 gallons of water.

        • maidmarian555

          Almonds are dreadful. They take an enormous amount of water but tend to be grown in places where there isn’t much at all. I went to Morocco a few years ago and there were almond trees all over the place. We went to see a waterfall and the local people were bringing their dishes and laundry down to the river because water is so scarce there. It seemed an insane waste of what is clearly a valuable resource. I stopped drinking almond milk after that.

          • Heidi

            Yeah, I knew they took a lot of water, but not as much as I found out they do. I was drinking almond milk until I developed an intolerance to it (it started with cashews and now no nuts for me at all if I don’t want to be miserable for a week) and my husband told me that. I wish he’d told me before that.

          • maidmarian555

            It can actually be pretty difficult to find these things out. We get told to ‘eat healthily’ and it’s a generally accepted ‘truth’ that eating fruit and veg is always better for the environment than eating animal products. The actual truth is way more complicated than that and finding information amongst all the noise can be difficult. I mean, who literally looks up every single thing they eat and weighs up the benefits of eating it vs environmental cost? And then you’d have to work out that environmental cost based on where the product was from and where you live too. I certainly don’t have time for that, especially when I’m hungry!

          • BeatriceC

            I’m an “all things in moderation” kind of gal. Well, most things. The California almonds issue is one that gets my hackles up, but in general, I feel that if we go to any particular extreme, the balance tips to being more damaging than it’s worth, so the key is to keep a variety of things around and potential damage is minimized.

          • maidmarian555

            I have a fairly similar philosophy. There are some things I do that are ‘environmentally friendly’ and some things that most definitely are not. I fully support my friends in whatever they choose to do with their own lives and if they want to be vegan and it’s working well for them then that’s great. What I can’t abide is then being lectured about my ‘terrible’ omnivorous diet by people on Facebook obliviously tapping away their arguments on an iPhone that has been made in a factory on the other side of the world using metals that have been mined (possibly by children) on yet another continent. It’s pretty much impossible to do everything ‘right’- we all have to pick our own battles (which are often dictated to an extent by personal circumstances) and decide which causes we want to support.

          • StephanieJR

            I try to buy cruelty free, but I’m also fairly certain some of my possessions were made in sweatshops. Eep.

          • Mishimoo

            I’m lucky – I live in Australia and thanks to the push to buy Australian and the new labelling laws combined with my decent grocery budget; I can buy food without overly worrying about the environmental impact or spending too much.

          • Roadstergal

            I’ve honestly given up almonds altogether. And I do love the flavor.

          • Merrie

            I tend to avoid almonds for this reason. I’ve been making an exception for almond milk this pregnancy because I can’t tolerate dairy, but I don’t think the almond milk is agreeing with me either, and after I finish off the current carton (if I can’t drink it, I’ll bake something) I don’t think I’ll buy anymore.

        • Steph858

          There’s been a bit of a brouhaha about the fact that the new polymer notes contain a tiny amount of animal fat. The Bank of England is now considering using palm oil instead in the future, which will be far less environmentally friendly. Although I don’t see eye-to-eye with the Animal Rights crowd, I could see their logic if the use of animal fat to make polymer notes was resulting in lots and lots of animals being killed, but someone did the maths and the amount of animal fat used is so small that to make all the polymer notes currently in circulation required the life of a grand total of 1 whole cow.

          Even if you believe that it’s wrong to kill animals to eat/wear/etc, that 1 whole cow could have died of old age! If she could have written a will, she might have been happy to have her body used for this purpose; I know that, if my body were deemed unsuitable for organ donation/practise by trainee surgeons, I’d be happy to be made into money after I died.

    • Steph858

      I wonder how many anti-GMO folk would like to eat food as it was before our ancestors painstakingly selected for desirable traits over the course of many centuries. Here, have an all-natural unmodified banana:

      https://goo.gl/images/IM9wYX

      • BeatriceC

        And their beloved kale wouldn’t exist without centuries of genetic tinkering with the cabbage plant.

        • Mrs.Katt the Cat

          I need a meme explaining that kale is gmo, oh i would love it.

          • BeatriceC

            There’s a great meme with a picture of a wild cabbage plant and a description of how kale, broccoli, and brussel sprouts were selectively bred from the original plant. I saw it a month or two ago. Should have saved it.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Or avocado!