I came away from your essay in the American Conservative a bit baffled about why eating well has to be rebranded as conservative in order to make it palatable to people of your demographic and political/cultural persuasion. If it’s a good idea, something that is healthful for the individual and the community, why not just adopt it without the ideological windup?
The proper response to this question centers, I think, on the fact that people tend to respond especially well to ideas when they’re presented in ways that relate them to convictions that they already hold and identify with. Hence one of the reasons why so many people have been unsympathetic to the cause of good eating is that it’s generally been put forward as a trendy lifestyle choice for cultured elites (cf. Michael Pollan on the history of “arugula”), a response to various public health crises of both the real and imaginary varieties, an overt hostility to “capitalism” and the free economy, and so on. These kinds of rhetorical appeals resonate quite well with certain segments of the American population, but they ring absolutely hollow with a great many others. And so it seems well worth trying to show how the case for eating well can also – indeed, or so it seems to me, can better – be made in terms of attentiveness to tradition, commitment to family values, rejection of agricultural subsidies and nutritionist technocracy, and the centrality of the quest for community. Failure to do this runs the risk of leaving a huge portion of the American populace at best ambivalent, and at worst outright hostile, toward a bunch of ideas that really should be able to appeal to just about anyone. That so many conservatives have responded to my TAC piece and my other blogging on these issues with a happy mixture of enthusiasm, gratitude, and outright relief at no longer feeling like they’re supposed to leave good food and farmers’ markets to the lefties seems to me to suggest that it’s been well worth the effort.