For a movement that's always been touchy about being labeled elitist, the food movement has been surprisingly outspoken lately about the virtues of expensive food. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Michael Pollan sang the praises of sustainable eggs that cost eight dollars a dozen and delectable peaches that go for $3.90 each. Such prices would seem less shocking, he assured readers, if conscientious consumers were willing to "pay more, eat less." Likewise, when asked to explain how average (i.e., not famous and rich) consumers could actually be expected to spend more on food in the midst of a recession, Alice Waters was as clear as she was unabashed: "Make a sacrifice on the cell phone or the third pair of Nike shoes." So there.
Needless to say, the backlash—as Pollan and Waters must have known it would be—was swift. Anthony Bourdain, who dedicates a full chapter of his latest book, Medium Raw, to attacking Waters's airy idealism, scoffs at the idea that people should be willing to spend more on food: "She annoys the living shit out of me. We're all in the middle of a recession, like we're all going to start buying expensive organic food and running to the green market." Jason Sheehan, author of Cooking Dirty, is even less restrained in his assessment of Pollan. Admitting that Pollan is "damnably right about a lot of things," he can't quite stomach that pricy peach. "When you've been too broke to buy soup," he writes, "some iconoclastic dickhead trying to tell you that paying $4 for a peach is a good idea because it is a really good peach can be the kind of thing that makes you want to buy a rifle and a map to the homes of famous food writers." (Dude, it's just a peach ...)