In food, just like in politics, there are extremists and moderates.
There are, sadly, lots of people out there who are truly militant about what they eat--and often, equally militant about controlling what you eat. "You aren't going to buy those chicken breasts, are you? They most likely came from a CAFO that fed them antibiotics and tortured them. Oh, and that coffee you're pouring me? It better be fair trade and local."
I rarely run into militant proselytizing vegans or vegetarians, but when I do, I enjoy their company about as much as I enjoy drinking rotten mayonnaise. And keep in mind, for every militant vegan there's probably four or five steak-loving nuts who will squirt rotten mayo at you if you try to take away their meat.
So why are people so militant about their food choices?
If you were to ask my favorite psychology blogger to explain food militancy, he'd probably say that people use food--as well as control over other peoples' food--as a way to seek validation. It's a shortcut that lets us view ourselves as ethical and good. Further, it's a shortcut to finding at least some degree of meaning and control in what seems like an increasingly meaningless world.
Lisa: Oh, the earth is the best! That's why I'm a vegetarian.
Jesse: Heh. Well, that's a start.
Lisa: Uh, well, I was thinking of going vegan.
Jesse: I'm a level 5 vegan -- I won't eat anything that casts a shadow.
Here's the thing: not everyone wants to be a Level 5 Vegan. Not everybody wants to swear off meat, or sugar, or gluten, or HFCS, or carbs, or refined foods, or white foods, or cooked foods--or whatever--for the rest of their lives.
Here at Casual Kitchen, I probably have a few Level 5 Vegans among my readers. But the vast majority who visit here are normal people who have no problem eating things that cast shadows, and who have every intention to remain normal and moderate in their food choices.
So, as a food blogger who wants to help readers eat healthy and spend less money, I have a choice. I could repeatedly and forcibly persuade my readers to become vegetarian and maybe succeed in persuading 1% of them. Or, I could help the "silent majority" of my readers take the far more palatable step of switching to veggie meals just 2-3 times a week.
Which approach do you think will be more effective? Which will piss off fewer readers? Which do you think has a better chance for success? And which would result in a more significant reduction in agregate meat consumption?
The bottom line is this: there is a large, and largely silent, majority of food moderates out there that we can either 1) help motivate with our ideas, or 2) drive away if we are militant or won't concede middle ground.
In food, just like in politics, the center drives everything. If you can gently pull the center in one direction or another, you can have an enormous effect on overall eating behavior. But to attract and influence that silent center, you need to be thoughtful and reasonable, not strident, condescending, or militant. We food writers--and food readers--must grasp this.
Readers, where do you stand?
Organic Food, Chemicals, and Worrying About All the Wrong Things
The Do-Nothing Brand
Understanding the Consumer Products Industry
On the Benefits of Being a Part-Time Vegetarian
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