Amanda & Merrill

Our Answer to "Politics Don't Belong on Food52"

by:
February  1, 2017

The day after the Presidential Election, we posted this note to you, our readers. There was clearly division in the country and we wanted to hear from you about how we might use our platform—which aims to bring people together around the table—to encourage those with different backgrounds to start listening to each other.

We heard from more than a thousand of you, which was thrilling. In an upcoming post, we’ll lay out our plans for addressing your ideas.

But we also want to respond to a common thread among those who disliked our letter. Their message was: You’re a food site. I come here to escape. Stick to your knitting.

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It’s a view we took seriously—and not just because minority views deserve to be taken seriously. But we think food is inescapably political, inescapably part of a wider world. The Americas, where many of our readers live, were colonized because explorers were looking for a faster spice trade route. Today’s immigrants keep our food industry running. International trade laws determine what foods we can import. The Farm Bill mandates how our agricultural systems are funded. Hunger strikes have long been a form of protest. Voters parse not only what but how our politicians eat, as a gauge of their character and authenticity.

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Top Comment:
“As an Asian American, when I moved to the central coast of California to an 85% white town, I was surrounded by excellent food, wine, and farm country, but I was also extremely disconnected from the foods and ingredients I knew and grew up with. In communities like that, East Asian food, except for Japanese, are considered cheap, weird, or takeout and that kind of mentality really limits earnest appreciation or discussion about whole food cultures. I ended up teaching myself French cooking techniques as a result, which was great, but I also know nothing about Chinese or Singaporean cooking techniques as a result even though I'm ethnically Chinese myself. That's where the internet has provided so much opportunity to learn diverse cooking techniques and I hope Food52 embraces this more. I loved the idea about sharing recipes from all religious holiday's as a step towards a more inclusive and diverse food culture at Food52. Being located in New York is also great, there are so many immigrant communities that Food52 could reach out to and learn from. Personally I'd like to see more articles where you're going to somebody's house that isn't a famous food blogger but is no less respected as a home cook in their own community and learning how they prepare meals for their families and communities.”
— Derek F.
Comment

So, yes, we will stick to our knitting. But that knitting takes up many threads—inspiring recipes; articles about design; delightful infographics; culture pieces; practical solutions for getting dinner on the table and other home quandaries; maker stories; and, at times, politics.

This means we will report to you if imported foods face new taxes that might affect how we shop; if international cuisines are being misrepresented or misappropriated; or if new laws affect our food system or the people who work within it.

This isn’t new. We’ve covered the Farm Bill, G.M.O. labeling, food access, and the environment. Amanda wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times that critiqued Michelle Obama’s stance on cooking. This opinion piece did not deter the administration from welcoming her perspective. She was later named to the Commission on White House Fellows, a non-partisan commission, by President Obama (and was thoroughly vetted by White House lawyers). And Amanda now serves as a Commissioner under President Trump, supporting the Fellows as they continue to work for incoming Cabinet members.

Though we believe that food is political, we don’t believe that that means it has to be divisive. We pride ourselves on creating an inclusive community—it’s been part of our mission from day one. We welcome everyone, and we welcome you to disagree with each other and us. Civilly, of course. If you stand behind a 20% tax on imported avocados, then please share your views. A food site has the power to change the way people think about the world. Let’s celebrate this fact, and each other.

—Amanda & Merrill, Founders of Food52

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A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).

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172 Comments

Alma D. July 5, 2017
I love this site and you guys for putting it together! The politics of food is undeniable! I'm so happy that you present all the views! Thanks, I love learning!
 
Derek F. February 15, 2017
I applaud your perspective that food is political. Much more so if you live in a community where you are an outsider without access to the things you know how to cook and eat cost effectively. As an Asian American, when I moved to the central coast of California to an 85% white town, I was surrounded by excellent food, wine, and farm country, but I was also extremely disconnected from the foods and ingredients I knew and grew up with. In communities like that, East Asian food, except for Japanese, are considered cheap, weird, or takeout and that kind of mentality really limits earnest appreciation or discussion about whole food cultures. I ended up teaching myself French cooking techniques as a result, which was great, but I also know nothing about Chinese or Singaporean cooking techniques as a result even though I'm ethnically Chinese myself. That's where the internet has provided so much opportunity to learn diverse cooking techniques and I hope Food52 embraces this more.<br /><br />I loved the idea about sharing recipes from all religious holiday's as a step towards a more inclusive and diverse food culture at Food52. Being located in New York is also great, there are so many immigrant communities that Food52 could reach out to and learn from. Personally I'd like to see more articles where you're going to somebody's house that isn't a famous food blogger but is no less respected as a home cook in their own community and learning how they prepare meals for their families and communities.
 
Stockton,NJ February 15, 2017
As I understand it, your intentions of this thread was to start a conversation about how you could use your platform to encourage people to listen to each other. I agree with you that there is a clear division in our country that is unmistakably politically charged. By making a statement about how "we think food is inescapably political" the conversation thread led to differences in political beliefs and opinions and not too many ideas on getting people to listen to each other with respect to agree to disagree. <br />I feel this is what happens when people are disconnected from one another and why it is easy to be drawn into combative conversations where no one is listening. Framing your discussion questions in a way that promotes positive discussion may help. Also, when you give your thoughts and opinions before the discussions take place, there seems to be an awful lot of discussion that is defending you and criticizing each other.<br />Food can also be about connection. Information about where our food comes from and how it is raised is very informative, we appreciate that, but food goes further than that..it is also eaten and shared. Sometimes, we just have to check our opinions at the door. That doesn't mean we oaren't entitled to them, it just me that there is a time and place. Being a great cook can mean more about bringing people together and how you host, than the story behind the mushrooms being served. Being connected to the food you are eating can be important, but so is being connected to the people you are sharing it with. I guess, of course, that you do have the ability to only invite people that agree with you. But was that your intention? Maybe not, but by taking opinions out of this thread, ask yourself if your original intention of getting people to listen to each other was achieved. Not everyone loves a good argument, besides it can be bad for digestion, lol!
 
Smaug February 8, 2017
As this discussion continues to rage on long after the article appeared, I feel I should point out once again that there has been virtually nothing on this site that could be called a political discussion, only a discussion of whether politics would be appropriate, and some discussion of how implementation of some government programs might affect consumers as individuals.
 
Susan February 8, 2017
Go you! If not impossible to be apolitical at this particular moment, it's at the very least irresponsible. Public policy affects each and every one of us in so many parts of our daily lives (health, education, food) that we can't afford to ignore it, or pretend it doesn't matter. Civilized discourse and intelligent critical thought is as vital to the strength of our citizenry as ever. Keep it up.
 
Dana R. February 8, 2017
Trying to delete my account but can not find the option to do it on my account profile or account settings please advise.
 
Meredith R. February 7, 2017
Until we Americans get involved in the politics of food there will always be an underclass, hungry, homelessness, sexism, enviormental harm homophobia, we just don't pay the correct price for the food we eat.
 
Dione H. February 6, 2017
Thank for remaining true to what you believe, without the divisiveness of what is happening in the US.
 
Sean R. February 4, 2017
PLEASE, Amanda and Merrill, PLEASE moderate the comments section!!<br /><br />If you don't have commenting guidelines, the poison of anonymity washes everywhere. I think this is a great example of a popular, respectful comments section with guidelines like, Stay on Topic, Be Respectful of Other Commenters, Don't Feed the Trolls, and more. http://tomandlorenzo.com/tom-lorenzo-community-guidelines/<br /><br />PLEASE consider removing inappropriate comments and banning hateful accounts. It'll make visiting Food52 so much more positive!
 
Dana R. February 8, 2017
I agree Sean R.
 
karen H. February 8, 2017
Agreed Sean R.<br />
 
Dana R. February 2, 2017
Safe starting point or not....after reading posts below I must emphatically say No Politics. They are not a good appetizer .. in fact I am to stressed out to read cook or eat.
 
Dana R. February 2, 2017
If you choose, you can relate politics to every topic in the world. If you choose, you can just as easily avoid to make that correlation. Finally if you choose to make a political statement those who come hear for peace, enjoyment or just damn good recipes can choose to unsubscribe. Thank you
 
Sheila D. February 2, 2017
If you wish to unsubscribe, do so. Life includes both food and fear, created by those who should be protecting us. We need to support each other. <br />
 
Saffron3 February 2, 2017
I come here daily, read and get ideas. Great food. I looked for this thread because I want to hear attitudes that are different from mine. Too much of this current national discourse is they said, they said, anger bubbling up, salt on wounds. It is difficult to find civilized opinionated discussion today, right now. I appreciate the effort for that. If you cannot discuss the social and political sidebars around food, don't get upset, just go read about great soups and breads. This site has hundreds of great topics. I don't understand why a few discussions closed away from all those other topics are offensive to some folks. Thanks.
 
PHIL February 2, 2017
agreed
 
duckfat February 2, 2017
True.
 
amanda S. February 2, 2017
So tired that politics has to permeate ever part of life. Everyday I am forced fed a diet of opinion many of which border on crazy and hysterical. While the same peope refuse to consider any level of decent or diversity of views. Total intolerence. So I will no longer shop on Food52. I hate to be like this but I don't need a lecture with my shopping. I am sure others will feel differently as is their right
 
mary M. February 2, 2017
Well, I do agree, politics and food are inextricably intertwined. However, there are two sides to every story and this site continues to only present one side. What about the people (and wow, yes there are many!) that are indeed happy that Mexican imported produce may now fall under tariff restrictions and they might be able to regain their footholds as American farmers and growers? What about the sugar and rice farmers that are pleased that their factories may reopen? What about the shrimpers and crawfish farmers who have been struggling for years to battle against the Chinese imports? Not one story on the plight of the "deplorables" in the South or Midwest and how they may actually boost the economy by providing more jobs at home and increase their productions within our great country. <br />This was only one story in the past few months that I had to read and "hold my nose"-- the puerile stink of slanted "journalism" at its finest. Yes, there are many other stories out there in food and politics that are vastly underreported here. <br />I think if you want to insist that politics has a place here at F52, please make sure that you show all sides of it. Trust me, there's a whole lot more to this country's food story than Michelle's garden.
 
Panfusine February 2, 2017
I'm with you, those ARE issues that should be highlighted. I believe Perennial Plate had a series a couple of years ago traveling to rural America and spending time with residents there.
 
RH February 2, 2017
Two thumbs up.
 
Saffron3 February 2, 2017
Maybe you can write an article. I agree I'd like to know more about the corporate agro business and how smaller farmers are being held back.
 
duckfat February 2, 2017
And where will the farm workers come from? How can American farmers reclaim their foothold without workers? BTW, Corporate "farms" are what have been hurting small farmers.
 
mary M. February 3, 2017
Actually, the industries I referenced are doing fine worker-wise. Sugar cane is harvested (and planted) entirely by machinery these days, fyi. Many other crops are also done this same way. Crawfishers and shrimpers have plenty of local Louisiana laborers, without needing to depend on an sort of immigrant labor. I know plenty of people that run boats "on the side" and we all have friends willing to spend a few hours fishing. There is no scarcity of laborers around here, contrary to popular opinion. Sugar cane is not harmed by corporate farms, only by the current lack of processors/refineries. Domino Sugar closed their Louisiana factory about 2 years ago due to the mass importation of (cheaper) sugar from Colombia and other parts of South America. I have quite a few friends that were working their own land and selling directly to the processors, but when the processors close up shop, they are unable to do this. They have had to move to other crops, in order to continue to work their land. There are many other industries facing the same challenges- sweet potatoes, rice, etc. If our country continues to allow other countries to dump our markets with cheap imports, our local producers will not stand a chance. We need to stand with our countrymen. And yes, I am aware that I cannot speak for every agricultural industry. I know soybeans (among others) are indeed affected by large "corporate" farming practices and that certain products do need migrant laborers. But there are MANY others that aren't affected by those issues and that are DEFINITELY hurting for other reasons.
 
Saffron3 February 3, 2017
I appreciate your response. I went and read some small amount on sugar cane in Louisiana; second largest business in the state it said. I certainly have no ideas new to the very difficult business of small farms; I have had a few such folks as family friends, most in years past, but hard hard work each day. <br />And in Maine, again living by the sea, folks work hard days, everyone trying to provide for families and towns. We as a country do need to find ways to help the small land owners survive and prosper. The alternative would be imported foods from countries without any regulations. But, don't we also have to export corn, soy, wheat, etc? Seems to me that exports belong to big agro, and more local farmer markets should be greatly expanded for medium range food businesses. Then we learn to eat seasonally. Teach folks food skills, and well, how do we keep all that freedom of choice when we cannot import products and pickers. <br />I'd love to learn more, and talk more. There is a middle road for food growth etc. So many facets for a large country. Take care.
 
SarahInMinneapolis February 4, 2017
Great post, Mary Moon!
 
Alan S. February 2, 2017
I'm tired to death of politics, mostly because no one discusses them, they scream, yell, and throw tantrums. This applies to both sides of the aisle. Calm is dead in this country, quite possibly this world. I say a pox on all politicians. Now lets cook.
 
SarahInMinneapolis February 2, 2017
Thank you so much, Amanda and Merrill, for writing this post which I hope sets the tone for Food 52. Agreed: "food is inescapably political, inescapably part of a wider world." <br /><br />Or as "Throwcly," who runs a 4H Club in KY wrote in the comments below, "Politics are unavoidable, but having a safe starting point is fundamental."<br /><br />"A safe starting point" is brilliant. What's not safe? Again, pulling from the comments below, your managing editor Kenzi Wilbur, writing that Food52 editors thought about referencing the "Muslim ban" in a post about Iraqi funnel cakes. That's not "safe," because there is no Muslim ban. 85 percent of the Muslims in the world are not affected by the ban of people from seven countries. A list Obama created, not Trump.<br /><br />In my view, greatly hindering your ability to create safe starting points is that your writers and editors suffer from "Brooklyn Bubble" Syndrome. [For those who don't know what I'm talking about, the Brooklyn Bubble is a sketch on Saturday Night Live in which narrow-minded people in Brooklyn live isolated from any facts or opinions that disrupt their world view.]<br /><br />Two other points. One, thank you for allowing unedited comments from readers. I do think it really helps people "understand" the other side's thinking -- or lack thereof.<br /><br />Two. Much of the "divisiveness" in our country right now is caused by a certain segment of people who refuse to accept the results of the election. Trump was legitimately elected under our Electoral College procedure in our Constitution. [Others can rant about the popular vote, but that's not the system we have.] And, as Obama -- rightly -- said, "Elections have consequences."<br /><br />In sum, if I ran Food 52, I'd put two phrases in big bold letters on the chalkboard in the conference room: "Safe Starting Point" and "Brooklyn Bubble."<br /><br />On a lighter note and for those who have been following this discussion, I think I'll make a big vat of Pimento Cheese this weekend. But I won't be using Cabot Cheese from VT; I'll opt for the more locally-sourced and truly tasty two-year aged cheddar from Widmer's in WI.<br />In sum, if I ran Food 52, I'd put two phrases in big bold letters on the chalkboard in the conference room: "Safe Starting Point" and "Brooklyn Bubble."<br /><br />On a lighter note and for those who have been following this discussion, I think I'll make a big vat of Pimento Cheese this weekend. But I won't be using Cabot Cheese from VT; I'll opt for the more locally-sourced and truly tasty two-year aged cheddar from Widmer's in WI.<br /><br /><br />
 
SarahInMinneapolis February 2, 2017
Sorry the post is a mess at the end. Got screwed up in my cutting and pasting. Can anyone delete thos last two repetitive grafs? Thanks.
 
Bevi February 2, 2017
I cannot detect anything in your post above, SiM, that offers a safe starting point for discussion. And as a granddaughter of one of the founding members of the Cabot Cooperative Creamery, I am happy to see you buy your cheese elsewhere.
 
SarahInMinneapolis February 2, 2017
I was not offering a safe starting point. I am commenter with an opinion. <br /><br />I am betting most farmers currently in the Cabot Coop don't care about the politics of their buyers -- as long as they stay buyers. If I'm wrong, Cabot goes on the same list as Penzey's.
 
Betsey February 2, 2017
I wish you would change your handle. You are giving the Food52 readers an impression of Minneapolis as a non-welcoming, bigoted and frankly rude place. Maybe you should actually move to Wisconsin? Your politics and attitude seem to match that state much better. Minneapolis and Minnesota will continue to remain a safe and welcoming place for refugees and immigrants from all over.
 
SarahInMinneapolis February 2, 2017
Back to your Bubble, Betsey.
 
Panfusine February 2, 2017
SarahinMinneapolis, - from your profile, it appears like you've contributed ZILCH/zero to this collective site that many of us Americans from around the world rally around with pride. That definitely puts you in the category of an entitled 'taker' ( even Freeloader perhaps). Thank you for giving us a glimpse into what 'your' political bubble clearly is.
 
SarahInMinneapolis February 2, 2017
Now we're at the oh-so-predictable stage where you shoot the messenger instead of responding to the merits of the message. So far: "Bigoted," "non-welcoming," "rude," "taker," "freeloader." Nonsensical name-calling.
 
Betsey February 2, 2017
Pot, the kettle is on the phone for you.
 
Alex W. February 2, 2017
SarahInMinneapolis,<br /><br />1. Seems like you like to snoop around a bit and then pass judgement on the editors of Food52. I wonder what you think you know about ME based on what you read on the internet. I wonder if you can determine anything about my childhood, my parents, my family, and my experiences. And then based on what you think you know about me, do you think it's okay for you to tell me what I'm allowed to think about, how I should spend my free time, or what I should do for work? This isn't a rhetorical exercise—I would actually like for you to tell me what you think you know about me and what "bubble" I fit into based on your thorough online research.<br /><br />2. It seems based on your comment that you don't think Food52 is a "safe space" for you to express yourself. I've seen quite a few comments in this thread that offer insightful ideas about how to cover politics and food. It seems like there are many people of differing opinions and backgrounds on F52 and they feel safe enough to share their thoughts without personally attacking and discounting the words of others. To me, you are the only one making this space unsafe and that's a shame. Please grow up and join the conversation in a constructive way.<br /><br />3. Finally—and this is a response to a political statement that you made so anyone not looking for politics should stop reading now—but if you really believe that people are protesting the results of the election then perhaps you are much worse at internet research than I previously thought. People are not protesting the outcome of the election for President; they are protesting the actions of our elected President. And after seeing the alarming and xenophobic actions of our President, the question shouldn't be, "why are we concerned," but, "why aren't you?”<br /><br />Best regards,<br />Alex
 
Jeffrey B. February 2, 2017
1. All political comment results in judgement. Like the “20% tax on imported avocados” avocados is a heart health oil but we should eat regional seasonal. Which view is best? Now we have a judgement to make.<br />2. You are judging this person by saying “you are the only one”. So is it not a “shame” that you are judging others?<br />3. Finally by attracting Trump you have just for lack of a better word attached the 50% of Americans which voted for Trump based on the idea that he would follow through with his campaign promises. Also not this is a web page directed at the “Americas” so do politics of England matter to the readers. And one must ask does “Best regards” mean you English for it is much more common ending from and Englishmen then an American. So should English accept negative comments about the English Leaders? Let’s keep all polices comments out of food or the food will be lost .<br />
 
Mike S. February 2, 2017
Amen, Alex!<br /><br />I love that SarahInMinneapolis is just following the typical Trump supporter trope of calling people who don't agree with her ignorant or that they live in a bubble. You've already outed yourself as a bigot, and indeed you have given a bad name to Minneapolis. You live in a sad bubble, Sarah, that is indeed filled with racists and bigots. Your idea of a Brooklyn bubble is from SNL? Good thing you're watching that show. I wonder how many people of color, Muslims, immigrants you know. You probably don't. Your accusation of liberal bubbles is so old and tired that it's just funny. YOU live in a bubble of white racism and privilege. <br /><br />It is also obvious that you just came on here to pick a fight and then quickly discovered you didn't have the knowledge to back it up. In reality, as on this thread, you are outnumbered by good people who are open to each other, to experiences, and to the world.
 
Jeffrey B. February 2, 2017
Michael you are yet another example of why politics should not be on this site. It turns to name calling and endless arguing. Next someone will pull up the fact that 95% of all terrorist attack are done in the name of Islam and anther will rightly say you cannot judge a person on their color or faith. ETC. ETC. ETC.
 
SarahInMinneapolis February 2, 2017
Michael.Sidman.5: Are you a writer for The Onion parodying The Left?
 
Mike S. February 2, 2017
Huh?<br /><br />I think we're all still waiting to see if you have anything of substance to say. You've been asked a whole bunch of questions to see why you would spew the things you say, but instead you turn to juvenile tactics to avoid it. So either say something of substance, or leave.
 
E February 2, 2017
Go Michael and Alex!!!!!
 
E February 2, 2017
(as in keep it up!!)
 
Lesley E. February 7, 2017
Brilliant. Agree with you 100%<br />Didn't even mind the repetitive ending. ;)
 
Doris February 2, 2017
What ever we think of the current administration, we all need to eat. Nowadays when we go to the grocery store whether it is a fancy high-end shop where people are concerned about exactLy what is in that product, or we are at the food pantry trying to feed the family for a week, food and the production of it does have a political aspect. <br /><br />
 
Marale G. February 2, 2017
Politics is all around us. It is history. I live in Washington, DC and have a huge dose of it on a daily basis, so much now that my mind simply wants to take a break and think about other things. Let us celebrate food, its roots and how it brings us together. I was forced to leave my country twice but food was always a constant. No matter where I was, food brought us closer together. It was about old friends, meeting new people, and loved ones coming together to talk, laugh, cry, and eat. In celebrating, let us focus less on the media and the 'she said' 'he said' and remember those suffering in the meantime. Refugees from war torn countries, people who have lost their homes, relatives and loved ones, and those who find themselves not able to return home and be reunited with the people they love. We are fortunate and can voice our opinions. Many others sit in silence.
 
healthierkitchen February 6, 2017
Marale - we all would probably like a break, but what's so sad is when sharing stories like yours and other who have been forced to leave their countries seems political to some people. I wish that wasn't so, and wish it to be true that we can all come together around food. But we're learning that not everyone in this country (or even in this community) actually believes in a diverse and free America and not everyone welcomes refugees here. To the extent that this site is helping to share stories of food from around the world and from different cultures within our country in hopes of bringing people together, I for one would not like food52 to pander to the few who find that unpalateable. We are a proud country of immigrants and migrants and refugees. For anyone who feels that is political, my vote would be for that person to quietly log off. They have that right.
 
karen H. February 2, 2017
Absolutely perfect comment!
 
Nanda D. February 2, 2017
Thank you, I couldn't agree with you more.