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Jamie Oliver is an internationally known chef and anti-obesity crusader. In a recent TEDtalk presentation (Technology, Entertainment, Design), Oliver argues that one of the culprits in our dysfunctional food system is the household. In one shot he looks directly at a young mother with her household’s weekly food choices piled on the table: pizza, corn dogs, cheesy casseroles, soda. Jamie Oliver peers at the table and then at this mother and says:
How does Oliver propose to stop this woman from killing her children? First, he would put a food ambassador in every store to teach her how to shop and how to cook convenient, healthy meals. Manufacturers and retailers would reform product labeling so she would have more information about her food choices. Big industry would put food education at the heart of their practice. Most importantly, she would teach her kids about food by cooking more at home, thereby helping them learn where their food comes from as well as life-long cooking skills.
To his credit, Oliver brings attention to the quality of food we provide our children in schools and the necessity of making significant changes for our children’s health through his “Food Revolution” series on American television. Although Oliver stresses local food, fruits and vegetables as the foundation of fighting obesity and healthy eating, the vehicle for making change is still individuals gaining more information on what and how to eat. This emphasis on individuals making better choices through education, especially in households, is problematic on many levels. Foundationally, a focus on education is a variant of the rational choice model that assumes a socially isolated actor who makes decisions in his own best interest. We know, however, from excellent ethnographic research that grocery shopping is as much about producing and reproducing relationships and family as it is about satisfying individual desires (DeVault 1991; Miller 1998).
Stuff White People Buy: Race, Consumption, and Group Identification
Ashley Josleyn French
Graduate Center, City University of New York
In January 2008 Los Angeles computer programmer Christian Lander decided to start a blog after a humorous conversation with a friend about things that they noticed that all of their white friends liked. Within the first month, the website received more than four million hits. The website Stuff White People Like (www.stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com) became so popular that Lander was offered a book deal by Random House to create his list into book format; it is reportedly the highest book deal offer made to a blogger who has not previously had any traditional publications. It was released in July 2008.
The first time I was introduced to the SWPL blog was by a friend and fellow graduate student. He emailed a link to me for #81: Graduate School. The cynical and snarky description of graduate school for the white person details the lengths to which white people will go to prove their intelligence and perceived expertise, all the while hiding ineptitude and a fear of being found out not to be smart. The entry ends: It is important to understand that a graduate degree does not make someone smart, so do not feel intimidated. They may have read more, but in no way does that make them smarter, more competent, or more likable than you. The best thing you can do is to act impressed when a white person talks about critical theorists. This helps them reaffirm that what they learned in graduate school was important and that they are smarter than you. This makes white people easier to deal with when you get promoted ahead of them.