As evidenced by my ode to Mark Bittman last year, I’m a fan. But I was disappointed with his article in last week’s New York Times Magazine, titled “Faster Slow Food.” Although I agree with the general premise of his piece, I was sorry to see that he didn’t promote the idea of using local farms and CSAs as shopping resources. Here’s the letter I sent to the Times today on the subject:
Normally I see eye to eye with Mr. Bittman’s philosophies on cooking and shopping for food, but in last week’s “Faster Slow Food” article, I found myself shaking my head. I agree that Mr. Bittman’s hopes for easier shopping through the use of “computers, including hand-helds and smartphones” so “we can make our preferences better known to the people who bring us the food we buy and eat” is something we should strive for, but hoping to find these solutions through large online grocery stores is not the answer. Why should MyWebGrocer.com be promoted in the article and local farmers and CSAs ignored? Many local farmers are striving to update their own distribution and ordering systems to create real local and organic solutions for customers who live nearby (often in cities). At this point, we all know that shopping locally guarantees that shoppers get the freshest foods available, which are usually organic and have the fewest food miles to boot. What people may not know is that these farms often strive to personalize their services: one of the local CSAs I use in the Bay Area offers shoppers the option to state preferences in their account, so if you really hate broccoli, it will never be delivered.
As an advocate of local food, Mr. Bittman should have mentioned that the convenience of shopping online doesn’t mean you have to abandon shopping at your local farm.