The week that was (20 August 2017)

I’m currently in London. It’s a little bizarre to be back in this world after the simplicity of Pantelleria. It’s not just about being inside, under lights and in temperature controlled rooms (although it has occurred to me that we spend a lot of time bemoaning the plight of animals, while subjecting ourselves to much the same lifestyle) but more about the mentality. The competition for life here seems more astute, but I’m not talking about the struggle to exist, rather the struggle to keep up with the Joneses.
Veganism is a major buzz word, along with “clean living.” It occurs to me that while this generally comes from a good place, it so often comes off as an accusation to the other. I say buzz word because we really know so little about diets. We know so little about what is healthy and what is not. Here the health claims extend from skin care to weight, to curing disease and cancer, while the environmental claims run the gamut too.
I am all for eating responsibly, I am all for making careful choices with the meat, fish and veg we consume. If you want to be vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, all power to you. Certainly no-one is denying Dan Barber’s philosophy “eat food, not too much, mostly plants" and I’ve also been pleased to see gut health is getting a good run at the moment. I have a feeling that is important (have you read 10% Human?) But, if the sugar vs fat debate taught us anything, it is that food and science and agribusiness are all too closely connected for us to have any idea what is what. 
By coincidence a couple of articles have been written on the same topic this week. In the NY Times they looked at the demise of Weight Watchers. The lengthy article is a little hard-going, but the conclusion is thought-provoking for how the marketing has changed: “… they no longer wanted to talk about ‘‘dieting’’ and ‘‘weight loss.’’ They wanted to become ‘‘healthy’’ so they could be ‘‘fit.’’ They wanted to ‘‘eat clean’’ so they could be ‘‘strong.’’ The shift was supposed to be about empowerment. "The word ‘‘wellness’’ came to prominence. People were now fasting and eating clean and cleansing and making lifestyle changes, which, by all available evidence, is exactly like dieting." 
That all sounds ok, but it appears the positivity has slipped into accusatory - damaging not just to those who don't conform but also to those who do. "... “clean eating” was more than a diet; it was a belief system, which propagated the idea that the way most people eat is not simply fattening, but impure." The Guardian looked at the wellness movement via those who have become consumed by it - the quest becoming the disease. “We are once again living in an environment where ordinary food, which should be something reliable and sustaining, has come to feel noxious. Unlike the Victorians, we do not fear that our coffee is fake so much as that our entire pattern of eating may be bad for us, in ways that we can’t fully identify.”

Coupled with Ecoanxiety, we have a recipe for fear and loathing where there should be celebration and conviviality. It's a dilemma. I'm not sure how to fix it.

The final nail in London’s coffin was an article in Time Out explaining to the people of London how to eat their xiao long bao. Nope. I'm looking forward to heading back to the Med.