New York Times columnist and professional food alarmist Mark Bittman has a well-documented track record of espousing elitist food policies that would all but eradicate consumer choice. This week, he cooked up a crusade on the cheeseburger and shared the results of his year-long effort to determine the “true costs” of the inexpensive entrée. Apparently, in the course of what we will charitably call “research,” the Upper West Side’s favorite food pundit uncovered a vast (corporate? right-wing?) conspiracy to promulgate obesity and environmental damage through the deceptively innocuous burger.
Knowing Bittman’s advocacy, there was never going to be any other outcome. But tellingly, Bittman cautions his entire analysis is inaccurate, openly admitting, “[T]he kinds of studies required to accurately address this question [of cheeseburgers] are so daunting that they haven’t been performed.” It looks like Bittman is serving up speculation with a side of hypocrisy: in the past, his only “question” was whether to recommend ground chuck or sirloin in his “Basic Burger” recipe. So are we supposed to simply accept the back-of-the-napkin scribbling of an opinion writer?
What’s more, even the theoretical speculation—which, by his own admission, is the only basis for his claims—is inaccurate. Forbes calls attention to Bittman’s moronic assumption that the burger is the singular culprit responsible for American obesity: “Do we think that in a world where burgers did not exist then Americans would consume 5 trillion less calories in a year? Or do we think that perhaps some, many of, all of those calories would still be eaten but in forms [i.e. “fried chicken, burritos, ice cream and deli sandwiches”] that don’t contain that essential hamburgerliness?”
Perhaps the most glaring omission of the report is the stubborn refusal to acknowledge the simple pleasures of eating. In an accusation resonant of the meat-is-crack rhetoric of his past, Bittman condemns the cheeseburger as “the coal of the food world.” He articulates hope that by proliferating his guesstimated cost analysis, the fast food industry would “either cease to exist or be forced to raise its prices significantly.” Unbeknownst to the food snob, beef and pork prices are already at record nominal highs, and the “peasants” beyond the Hudson are starting to revolt.