Saturday, March 27, 2010

Is local food "ethnocentric"

Star Phoenix columnist Sarath Peiris says local food advocates are "ethnocentric" because they advocate against buying imported foods that are so essential to the cuisines of other cultures. He specifically mentions coconut, rice and mangosteen. He writes:

"I raise all of this to make a point that seems to elude a growing band of "eat local" advocates, who sound so smugly "green" and earnest in making their case. Not for one minute does it seem to occur to many of these do-gooders the degree of ethnocentrism behind their agenda." Read the full text from the Star Phoenix.
This accusation hurts. For five years, I've written a column about local food for this same newspaper. I often write about cooking international cuisine with Saskatchewan ingredients, and who cares if I buy an imported ingredient or two? (For instance, my kitchen is never without lemons and olive oil.) While I support local food systems, there's no point in pretending we aren't tapped into the global marketplace. Read my response letter to the editor.

What do you think? Is the local food movement "ethnocentric?"

Pictured: Locally grown ingredients for salsa verde.


The Humble Bee said...

Wow, I am also finding myself feeling hurt and a bit on the defensive side, I don't blame you. I try to eat locally for many reasons: I believe a connection between food is very important for so many reasons and I want to have a more active role in the journey my food makes from farm to fork, I want to know who's handling my food and make sure I am supporting producers whose values are aligned with my own, and I want my food to be fresh for my health, enjoyment, and for our environment. Ethnocentrism is not among one of the reasons I chose to eat locally.

I am a 22 year-old, 3rd generation, Canadian, who has met many people from across our country and the globe who believe Canada has little-to-no culture; and now I find myself starting to believe this as well. I think part of why we feel we lack a true culture is because we are a very young country that has had less time to develop a strong heritage than other countries, and also because we are a major melting-pot of the world - which is a great thing, but I also feel that we have diluted our own cultural values for the sake of political correctness.

I really hope that my generation will realise that we have a great opportunity to shape our culture into something unique to our land, our past, and our future. One of the strongest ways to do this would be through a tight connection to our own foods that have truly built our Canada into the country it is. It is actually heart breaking for me to think of the lost traditional ways of living that my ancestors had here; their connection to land and food as settlers and farmers, and how we have abandoned any trace of culture they had built before us.

I think your response to Sarath's article was en pointe and really illustrated the positives to incorporating local foods into our diets. I would like to ask Sarath how exactly embracing my own Canadian culture through supporting and enjoying our local cuisine is ethnocentrism? I felt Sarath's article was really leaving Canadian culture out. We are in Canada, I'm a Canadian, and as long as I am I will continue to support, embrace, and build upon our culture.

Laureen said...

One of things I love about living in another country is discovering the local food, although I admit that sometimes when I'm homesick I crave a food I can't get here. That craving is just a symptom, though, for what I really want which is to talk to or see family and friends.

So I understand the craving for a food that carries wonderful memories, but to see a degree of ethnocentrism behind advocating buying local? I think that you and the other groups proposing "buy local" have always made it clear that buying local supports Saskatchewan farmers and producers, no matter what their ethnic background. You have also always searched for ways to grow anything you could whether it was native to Saskatchewan or not. Ethnocentrism has nothing to do with it. It's about a sustainable community and also lowering pollution from shipping food long distances. I, for one, hope you keep up the good work.

JJ Moneysauce said...

No, I just think that that ilk of douchebag newspaper reporters need to write about something or other every day, and sometimes the dookie that comes out is a little smellier than other times. I don`t see any logic in his statements at all except a smattering of cultural misandry, as it were.

Levi & Megan Lust said...

Interesting. I am mostly interested in the tomatillos in the picture. Grown locally? Hook me up please! Where do you find your local grown tomatillos?