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Strange Fruit

People pay lots more for organic produce, but are they getting their money's worth?

Great Britain is not a country hostile to organic farming. Charles, the prince of Wales, maintains an organic regimen and supports theories stranger than ones about using only manure on your kitchen garden. He was once quoted as telling a group of journalists something along the lines of, "You would be surprised at how a rhubarb reacts to a good talking-to."

How did this complex of unprovable organic notions become a multibillion-dollar business? Americans have been susceptible to pseudoscientific theories of diet for most of their history. The graham cracker, a staple of schoolchildren's milk breaks during the Cold War years, was invented by a man who preached against the evils of white bread in the years before the American Civil War. T. Coraghessan Boyle's novel The Road to Wellville recently explored American obsessions with food reform and the hucksters who promoted it.

Perhaps it comes from a notion that food is a way to ingest moral superiority. "By paying more for my onions," the thinking may go, "I'm showing I care more about my family, I care more about the human race."

Location Info

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Ruth's Chris Steak House

5433 Westheimer, 100
Houston, TX 77057

Category: Restaurant > Steakhouse

Region: Galleria

Well, in Ford Madox Ford's remarkable pre-World War I novel The Good Soldier, two childless, minorly upper-class couples, one English and one American, spend most of their time together drifting about Europe. In one chapter, the American narrator reminisces about the dinners the group ate at a kurort in Wilhelmine Germany. The continentals at the tables around them enjoyed flavorful dishes and rich sauces, while the four WASPs chewed thin, rubbery slices of roast beef. None of them would admit that they would have enjoyed indulging in the more enticing dishes, because they were all trying to prove to each other that they were morally superior to the people around them. And of course, the irony of the novel is that they were not morally superior. Not at all. And those rubbery slices of beef didn't save them.

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