Food Absolutism

One thing that truly frustrates me is when people think in mindless absolutes about food. A few examples:

1) If you enjoy vegetarian cuisine you must be some kind of a crunchy weirdo. How can you have a real meal without any meat? And where are your tie-dye clothes?

2) Or the converse: If you love meat, you must be some kind of a gun-toting nut who hates both animals and the environment (PS: I know at least one vegan who proudly totes a gun).

Still more examples:

3) If you don't buy organic produce, you are poisoning yourself and the people you love.

4) Healthy food is too expensive, and to attempt to show otherwise demonstrates a lack of empathy towards the poor.

5) If you note that the food industry actually gets things right once in a while, you're a sellout and you must have some greed-based interest at stake.

6) If you shop at Whole Foods, you're a bad person. Wait: if you don't shop at Whole Foods, you're a bad person. (Can anyone tell me which it is now?)

7) If you enjoy raw food, you must be against fire. And electricity.

All of the statements above are demonstrably untrue. They signal intolerance and ignorance, if not obliviousness. And worst of all, statements like these immediately murder open-minded conversations.

Thankfully, nothing in the world of food has to be absolute. A choice to explore a cuisine or a style of eating doesn't have to require a permanent commitment. And, fortunately, nearly everything can be enjoyed in moderation, including most foods that are "bad" for you. There are no one-way streets in food!

Readers, what examples have I missed? And what do you find frustrating about food absolutism?

Related Posts:
How to Give Away Your Power By Being a Biased Consumer
If It's So Cheap to Cook at Home, Then Why is My Grocery Bill So Huge?
Guess What? We Spend Less Than Ever on Food

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Kris said...

How about: Homemade baked goods can't possibly be healthy, what with poisonous ingredients like FLOUR and BUTTERMILK.

(This one drives me up the wall.)

Stuart Carter said...

How about "too much salt is causing high blood pressure so it must be removed from everything irrespective of if it is NEEDED as an ingredient"...

Jersey Mom said...

If I buy fast food once a month, does it really make me a bad mother? I hear it all the time. Why can't people let others be and stop being so judgmental...

Daniel said...

Here's another one that's a big pet peeve of mine: "I won't drink any wine that costs less than $25 a bottle."

Or better still, "I don't drink anything that doesn't have a 91 or better score in Wine Spectator."

Totalmente estupido. These two absolutist statements say a lot--about a person's palate and his or her personality. I'll have a post in the next few weeks that touches on this issue in greater depth. Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

This one bugs me: vegan diets are absolutely (no exceptions) more environmentally friendly than omnivorous diets.
I agree with the point of this entry - nothing is so absolute!

Joanne said...

Vegetarian food is always healthier than omni food.

(not to knock vegetarian food...I love it. But I am constantly irritated when my father derides me for being "too healthy" when in reality I could be eating fettuccine alfredo for all he knew.)

Absolutes are crazy. Who wants to live in a world of black and white?

Daniel said...

Ironically, I actually do want to live in a black-and-white world. It would be a lot easier and I wouldn't have to think as much. :)

Kidding, of course. But I think that many people use absolutism in life (whether with food or with other ares of life) to save bandwidth, time and decision-making effort.

Life can be easier when you let strict rules and heuristics dictate your choices. It's a more passive life, and it's a life based essentially on giving your power away, but it is easier.

Great comments so far.


Kate said...

That wine absolute just drives me nuts. Wine is SO subjective. No one should pin any credence on one person's scoring of a bottle of wine. It's like assigning a number of worth to a human being.

One absolute I come across a lot is the mindset that "I should eat it because it's healthy, even though I don't like it."

Another one is the mindset that somehow soy products are health food so we should be consuming everything with soy.

And the 'green' movement advocates sometimes are the worst, no offense to those who embrace it fully, but we all need to make choices that work for us in our own individual lives. Not all of us can live in an eco-friendly house that recycles our water, breathes for us and produces zero waste. But hey, I knitted my own napkins and dishcloths, doesn't that count for something?

That mentality that just because someone doesn't do everything the way it 'should' be done is so backwards. Instead of knocking one down due to their different choices, we should be applauding what they DO, even if it's just little steps.

Grrrr.... Thank you for posting this. I get pretty irritated by these absolutes apparently!

Anonymous said...

A vegan diet guarantees good health; eating meat, or any animal products, guarantees poor health.

Even the smallest amount of saturated fat will clog your arteries and cause disease.

My biggest gripe, however, is with the people who teach this.

Anonymous said...

You ordered a meatless meal? You must be a vegetarian. Or what about the "You are too skinny, here eat this unhealthy food" (that you don't want and are not hungry for. (and are also a healthy weight)).