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Hype or Ethics? : How to feel good about the food you’re eating without feeding into the hype.

By Christina Ying

The food culture of the major cities has always catered to our paranoia of sustaining health and happiness. Organic and natural are the buzzwords that continue to attract restaurant patrons, but we have to ask, what is health and what is hype? We’ve been trying to eat healthy for years, and with each new fad comes a restaurant to support it. The internet and social media give us so much exposure to food, and every day a new health craze is among us, from Atkins to Paleo, to clean eating. Having a burger without the bun seems sacrilegious, but restaurants have adjusted with the times. Gluten free options are now expected as well as the knowledge of the meat’s origin. No, this isn’t a Portlandia parody of the current time. It’s a reality, and food choices are no longer about just our waistlines, 2016 helped shepherd in a larger social consciousness, and it’s shifting the restaurant culture as we speak.

With poignant documentaries such as Weight of a Nation , S upersize Me , and F ood Inc. the truth of food is more prominent than ever. Health programs are abundant as child and adult obesity is on the rise. Our first lady Michelle Obama has taken action to raise awareness. Shows such as Cooked a nd M ind of a Chef take an active approach in stripping down the root of cooking advocating for a less processed way of life. It’s a life we’ve known since after World War II in which processed foods were created for a more convenient life, but what was easier for the day to day tasks has wreaked havoc on our health. The new modern is no longer saving time to cook and eat out, but it’s taking more time to pay attention to what you’re putting into your mouth.

Chefs are now speaking to our social advocacy. The wasted food in landfills has led to global warming, and in response, Dan Barber of B lue Hill at Stone Barns, New York served dishes made of high­end food waste for 19 days and it’ll be no surprise when more restaurants follow suit, and what follows is a new movement towards no waste restaurants. There’s is also the vegetarian approach and David Chang’s Veggie burger is so convincing that bleeds like the real thing. For those who want to cook w i t h m o r e c o n s c i o u s n e s s , t h e r e ’ s T h e H e r b i v o r o u s B u t c h e r i n M i n n e a p o l i s t h a t ’ s g e t t i n g a l o t o f p r e s s f o r both its advocacy, and it’s fresh and chic presentation. Los Angeles’ own famous chef, Roy Choi has taken a revolutionary approach to fast food with his opening of, LocoL. A health conscious and affordable restaurant, that’s accessible to low­income neighborhoods, healthy dining doesn’t have to be an exclusive experience. Everyone wants to feel right about their health and what they are putting in their mouths.

Customers are just more knowledgeable in general of what they want from their food, but we still have room to be deceived. Nonetheless, people are still trying to assert the effort when dining. It’s common for people to ask about GMO’s in their food, even though a lot of the public still has to google what the acronym stands for. But the truth is, we never really know what’s in our food. In Larry Olmstead’s new book, Real Food Fake Food a lot of the foods that we consume are fake, are filled with more GMO’s than we’d imagine, that fish is not the fish you ordered, and our free range meat is drugged. T a m p a B a y T i m e s f o o d c r i t i c , L a u r a R e i l e y w r o t e a s c a t h i n g a r t i c l e o u t i n g f a k e f a r m ­ t o ­ t a b l e r e s t a u r a n t s , as they continue to lie to their customers about where their food comes from, noting that a particular restaurant’s “Florida Blue Crab” actually originates from the Indian Ocean. Reily went as far as to conducting DNA tests and visiting farms, which is an effort that most Americans will not take to find out the true origin of their food. It’s an arduous task, to say the least, but if you want to commit to your health you’re going to have to a little more work than just looking at what the menu offers.

The truth is that truly healthy and organic food takes a lot of searching, researching, and persistence. Unlike other diet fads, you can’t treat it as a flash moment; you have to commit to the lifestyle to truly live it right. The city life doesn’t actually provide a culture of self­sustained living, but a few restaurants have gotten creative in this problem. Instead of relying on delivered food and produce, Riverpark restaurant in NYC has gained a huge following not just for its fresh and delicious cuisine but also for its sustainable culture by growing most of its produce and herbs in their own milk crates. Bell, Book, and Candle restaurant in NYC is known for its 60 aeroponic towers filled with plants and herbs ready to serve for its customers. It’s not only NYC that’s leading the true farm­to­table movement. From Seattle, Georgia, and Maine more restaurants are bringing true organic cuisine by having its own farm.

Hype is usually created for those who don’t want to do the research. It’s easy to be swayed by the most popular restaurant and diet fad. We have so many options about what we eat, the conversation of food can leave us paranoid and gripped with fear. Following a recommendation seems to be the best answer in a world that moves so fast. With all of the information that we have about the danger of processed foods, pesticides, and GMO’s, it’s still an obstacle finding pure organic food. As we can see from trend after trend, people sincerely want to be healthy but have become too accustomed to our culture’s fast convenience. And, at that expense, we’ve chosen to remain ignorant as long as we’re told that it’s all “healthy.” Most city dwellers wouldn’t even dream of living an actual organic life of growing and farming their own food, but effort and investigation will make the impossible, possible.

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