Are North Americans spoiled? Oh, you know the answer is “yes.”
A writer for the Baltimore Sun recently reviewed a new farmer’s market, run by Amish, in that city. The Amish, from neighboring Pennsylvania, took on renovating an unused bingo hall and opened a three-day market. The writer was so disappointed to find that (please sit down, this is bad news) not everything in an Amish market is Amish made or even organic.
I know. I’m so sorry to break it to you.
It takes less than two hours to get from Baltimore to Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania. Has this well-educated, widely-traveled woman never entered Lancaster County? Has she never spoken to the many Amish and Mennonites who live in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware? Has she never been to the Amish markets that surround Baltimore?
Her chief complaint: Many of the products sold in the market are available in local grocery stores. Oh. But if I need a jar of mustard to go with the rolls and sausages I just bought, do I want to go to the Giant (grocery store name) or the Safeway (another grocery store) on the way home, in order to stand in line for fiteen minutes, to buy a three-dollar jar of mustard?
Her second complaint: The butcher mistakenly told her that the beef she bought was grass-fed. She checked with the distributor from which he bought the meat, and found that it was not. She called the Amish butcher. He apologized, said that he had been told otherwise, and he would find a distributor who would guarantee that the beef was grass-fed. Seeing that he was new to the business, in a new market, isn’t it excusable that he had been mistaken? It may have been too late, though; her family may be permanently disfigured by eating beef tainted with hay, or the suggestion of antibiotics or hormones. (It is entirely possible that the beef was free of any of those drugs, but she didn’t go so far as to send it to the lab for substance testing.)
She continued her “beef” with the Amish on her blog, where many people commented along the lines of calling for someone to investigate this fraud, those Amish just dress up for the tourists, and what about the puppy mills, hey! (The Amish puppy mill myth, now at least a decade old, refuses to go away.)
Have a look at what Eric wrote over at Amish America (http://amishamerica.com.) As always the voice of reason, he didn’t seem to have made much of an impression on Miss Outraged Baltimore. He also links to her article and blog.
The Amish are not preserving Americana circa 1890. They are not a living history museum. They are people who dress and live in a way they believe follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. They make decisions about technology and how its use will affect their families and church. Most people make no decisions about using technology except to get the latest as soon as they can afford it, even while noticing that their children have drifted off and they never talk to their neighbours.
So the shoo-fly pie may contain partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. (Crisco in the crust – I don’t make my crust all-butter, either.) The fields may have been fertilized with a nitrogen-based chemical. The corn may have been sprayed with a pesticide.
So do North Americans think that the rest of their food is pristine, or are they looking to the Amish to save them from Monsanto? (One commentor at the Sun blog bellowed something along the lines of “Amish chemicals are ruining our waterways!” as if agri-business isn’t.)
The shock and outrage are really echoes of a disappointment that someone else living a gentler way of life won’t save us from our own excesses. It transfers the responsibility of living a life of consumption to someone who doesn’t consume as much. They can’t be using the same bad products as us – they should know better, and do all that we will not do ourselves.