Thursday, January 21, 2010


Last week I took a media tour through the land of food beliefs. Beginning with a newsletter from a highly respected senior citizen organization, I browsed through publications lying on my coffee table, then progressed to the web. Within an hour, I'd learned the following:

• The right foods could help me live forever (??!!!!)
• Every single grain is evil, and will make me fat
• A careful choice of whole grains helps everyone lose weight
• Some foods would lower my cholesterol
• Others would keep me safe from the 'flu
• Consuming sugar would kill me
• Everyone who has Celiac Disorder is at risk of lactose intolerance
• Everyone who has Celiac Disorder already has lactose intolerance
• Dairy is bad for everyone
• We should all drink more milk to strengthen our bones
• Calcium loss has nothing to do with milk or menopause - it's caused by eating meat

..... and I didn't even read the advertisements!

How could there be so much contradictory information about something as simple and glorious as food? I have to wonder - though I also have to confess I'm not equipped to answer - where this mess came from. There is an image from the past that connects, however, and that's the snake oil salesman working the frontier. The ill, the desperate, the uneducated and the underserved bought his products by the gallon. (It probably didn't hurt that a lot of them (the products) were intoxicants.)

It's sad to think there are still so many of us who are ill, desperate, uneducated and underserved. This is partially the result of a culture that creates an unrealistic image of the human condition. The image is in every billboard, every TV advertisement, every magazine: the sleek and beautiful human - youthful, muscled, busty and tanned and butt-less, sexed up daily and possessed of wealth as well as health.

Thank you, photography - you have served our fantasies well.

What we fail to realize is, this image is a fantasy. Instead we chafe at its unattainability while assuming we really are exactly like those pretty pictures. Every realization that we are not jolts the brain. Then, perhaps because such an absurd fantasy is infantile in the first place, we turn to our oral fixations and blame food.

Ill? It's something you ate. Or didn't eat. Fat? It's food of course. Lonely? Must be halitosis. Organic products will cure that. And etc and etc and etc.

I'm saddened - and a little angry - about many of our food beliefs. I also feel partially responsible since I've not only been a photographer but taught photography more than 25 years. I doubt my words will have much influence but I'd still like my opinions tossed into the mix. So, beginning with my next column, I'll be taking on some of our food beliefs and saying what I think about them. I'm going to start with gluten. It is good. Yes, that's right - Gluten is Good. And I will explain ..... next column.

Today's tip:

Love pizza? So do I. Fortunately there's lots of excellent GF pizza recipes out there. Each one is better if you skip a bit of cookware: the metal pan. Instead buy a pizza stone - you can use it to make hearth style breads too, if you need to justify the $30. Press out the pizza dough onto a floured square of parchment and toss this right onto a very hot (500 degrees or more) stone. Bake without topping for 2 - 4 minutes, then remove the crust, take away the parchment, add the toppings and return until done. You'll never have a soggy crust again.

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