Monday, November 5, 2012

Activated almonds

Twitter in Australia was all ... a-twitter ... yesterday, apparently, with a wave of increasingly jolly barbs tagged #activatedalmonds. Anyone coming to this late (ie me) had little trouble catching up with the initiating incident, which was an article in The Sunday Age newspaper in the "My Day on a Plate" series, featuring celebrity chef Pete Evans running through a typical daily menu. (You can see it here).

It seems to have taken the twitter-sphere approximately NO SECONDS to latch on to some of the items that Evans listed in his daily eating guide and use them to parody, mock, be amused by, be incredulous about, or feel aggrieved by, Evans and his food choices. The hashtag, by non-unanimous consent, became #activatedalmonds, after one of the less accessibly named food items on his list. (There was a strong secondary push for #emuballs, after the emu meatballs that featured in Evans' dinner. I think that one's funnier, but edgier, and probably would've pushed things in an even smuttier level quite quickly, although people still managed all the obvious riffs on activated nuts).

Some of the more unusual items on Evans' menu included alkalised water, cultured vegetables, and apple cider vinegar, as well as the natural sweetener stevia, cacao nibs, and the famous activated almonds. A lot of these are foods that lots of people have never heard of - well, with the adjectives, that is. Water, veggies and almonds - yep, most everyone can go with you there. Add in the describing words, and it all sounds a bit more esoteric.

The reaction to Evans' menu seemed to get a life of its own so quickly due to a mixture of factors. There was a strong whiff of anti-elitism about it - Evans' menu reads like the diet of a rich person, as none of the foods are particularly cheap or easy to procure (well, I guess one could self-activate regular almonds by soaking them in water for a while ... but even so, almonds aren't super cheap). There was a pushback against the self-absorbed-sounding prissiness of it - probably, ultimately, this is a tonal objection. There was an incredulous querying of the validity of it as an actual diet - does alkalising one's water actually do anything, people asked, other than massively increase the price of said water? And why is it better to eat germinating nuts rather than, well, just nuts?

A lot of what was tweeted was funny, lighthearted, and showed a reasonably good humour. Some of it was indignant in tone, some (there is *always* some) was fairly offensive. There were the usual resorts to ad homs and the usual number of people declaring themselves bored by the whole business. Situation normal for a tweetstorm, in other words.

What I find really interesting, though, is weighing my own gut reaction to the article and the hashtag (which was to find the article a bit pretentious and offputting, and the twitter smackdown quite funny) with my generally strong resistance to food policing. That the humorous reaction to Evans' diet had elements of "diet cop" in it was made even clearer to me by my Twitter friend, @stitchsista, who pointed out that having a go at someone because of what they choose to eat is pretty antithetical to the ideas of bodily autonomy and respect that we like to think we're all about.

I am the first to stand up to people bullying others for their food choices generally; you just do not want to go there with me about people eating "junk" food or "fatty" food, especially if it comes with a nice little side helping of body shaming, which it often does. The fact that it did not immediately occur to me that the reaction to Evans was partially (not totally) cut from the same cloth is telling, and says something very interesting about a blind spot in my own ethical vision. Apparently, I don't mind so much if people snark about other people's eating if the target is privileged and their diet choices are "weird" or "elitist". That is not a positive thing in me, and one I need to address.

Because, at the end of the day, what's it to me if Pete Evans wants to eat activated almonds, sprouts and kimchi every day, or bake muffins with stevia, blueberries and goji? If he eats emu meatballs for tea, whose business is that but his? (And possibly, you could argue, the emu's.) Would I support snarking at his diet if he'd copped to eating Maccers or deep-fried bananas instead? (Hint - No, I would not.)

I need to keep remembering it - bodily autonomy means my body is mine, and yours is yours. You put the fuel into yours that you choose, and it's not up to me to take issue with that. Just as I make my own choices about what I'll eat, so should you - without judgement, or moral outrage, to be washed down with your alkalised water.

So Pete Evans, not that you will ever read this - I'm sorry for laughing at those tweets. What you eat isn't my business at all, and what anyone else thinks about your diet doesn't matter. I will continue to eat my (non-activated) almonds happily, because that's what works for me, and hopefully everyone else can get on with just feeding themselves sometime really soon.

This is post 5 in NaBloPoMo. 5 down, 25 to go!


  1. Great post. Honestly, I have a big problem with Day on a Plate for many of the reasons you outline above. This minute obsessing about what one person consumes in a day, the competitive element, the slight air of dishonesty, the nutritionist who criticizes any minor deviance...for me Pete Evans contributions seemed the ultimate entry, pushing the exercise beyond the logical conclusion. It could have been a parody! I am not comfortable with out and out meanness directed at Evans, but I do think most of the ribbing was aimed at the format as much as any individual contributor.

    1. You make a very good point. The format is an unhelpful one in the extreme.

  2. This guy Evans is Wanker of the Year, don't beat yourself up for laughing at him, we're all human after all. And it is your business because it was in a newspaper which he contributed to (rather pretentiously and unhelpfully) and we live in a society, nuff said.

    1. I'm not beating myself up, don't worry :-) But I am trying to live consistently with my own principles, though. If it's not OK to snark about food, then it's not OK to snark about food, y'know? No matter how risible I personally find it.