July 22, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Lactose Intolerance/Barbara Kingsolver

In Barbara Kingsolver's book Animal Vegetable Miracle I believe she pretty much lays out factual evidence saying that after the age of 4 many people are unable to properly digest milk.

Apparently there’s a gene gets turned off that makes people unable to drink it. Just saying you might want to check that source.

-- “Randzig”

Via the blog

Before I get to your actual question, I want to say that I recently picked up Animal Vegetable Miracle and was very much turned off by Ms. Kingsolvers’ holier-than-thou finger-pointing and preaching.

Half the time I was reading the book, I wanted to say, "I get it, you're better than me!"

In case you haven’t read the book, it’s basically the account of her and her family’s move to a West Virginia farm for a year, where they eat solely local, seasonal, organic foods from their own farm (or those of nearby farmers’.)

Parts of it feel like an ultra-cheesy “Full House” episode. Everyone is happy, peaceful, and content at all times. Really? So the cure for teen angst is organic lettuce?

Look, it’s one thing to want to teach people about the difference between a minimally processed diet and one laden with added sugars and artificial flavorings and colorings, but I have a very strong aversion to some people who use their organic/local lifestyle as a pass to be self-righteous.

It’s a real pity, because the book offers some interesting insights on agrobusiness and the politics of farming, but it gets lost in the author's obnoxious tone.

I am of the opinion that the best way to impart nutrition knowledge is through simply stating facts that speak for themselves.

Telling people, like she does, that simply “eating healthy” is not enough (in her mind, you have to eat local, seasonal, AND organic) is pure smugness.

Why not encourage people making gradual transitions into healthy eating rather than telling them they just aren't good enough?

It's also quite an insult to assume that everyone can afford to eat only local, seasonal, and organic food.

We are unfortunately living in a time when organic food costs more than non-organic food. It's a frustrating turn of events, but that's reality in 2008 in the United States.

And the reality also is that some people are not going to pay an additional charge for organic food. I can't say I blame them. And I'm certainly not going to tell them, "well, it's great you're eating fruit instead of ice cream every night, but it's not organic, and it's shipped from a non-neighboring state. Tisk tisk!"

In Ms. Kingsolver’s mind, the only “morally correct” way to live is by eating what the land offers. Which means, if you live in Maine and buy bananas, you’re doing Mother Earth a disservice.

Or, if you are vegan and eat tempeh despite there being no soybeans near where you live, you aren't utilizing your natureal resources. Ugh.

Ms. Kingsolver also had my eyes rolling uncontrollably when she attempts to "justify" slaughtering of chickens to her vegetarian daughter by saying that vegetarians kill plants.

I'm surprised Ms. Kingsolver, who studied biology, can make such an inane statement.

Maybe she has forgotten that animals have neurons (which transmit pain) and plants do not?

In any case, Ms. Kingsolver’s argument about lactose intolerance is not very well thought out.

In fact, evolutionists recently discovered that the ability to digest lactose, among certain populations, is lasting well into adulthood.

I am not saying lactose intolerance does not exist – it absolutely does.

However, there are also millions of adults throughout the world who can eat dairy products, including milk, with no difficulties.


Meredith said...

Hi Andy,

Just wanted to say that I completely agree with your assessment of Kingsolver. I only got halfway through the book before I had to take it back to the library, but I certainly wasn't in a rush to borrow it again. Not everyone can afford to take a year off to tend to their own enormous garden, jar their tomatoes, etc. etc. etc. I'm happy that she was, but there was an implicit message in the book that if I was a good person, I'd do the same thing.

The other thing that ticked me off was her DRIVING to her local farmer's market. Yeah, maybe eating locally and organically would be easy for me too if I could drive to a farmer's market once a week. Personally, it seemed a bit hypocritical for someone so otherwise angelic to be driving to get this wonderful food, but maybe I just have a big-city-public-transit-biking mentality.

Anyway, just wanted to chime in and tell you you weren't the only one turned off by her tone.

martalaura said...

I am so glad that you point out how difficult and expensive it can be to eat organic. I have tried and just cannot afford it. I even tried to plant my own garden and I can't imagine how people ate before supermarkets came along because it sure takes long for lettuce, tomatoes, eggplant, etc, to grow.

Its so sad, I really would like to eat organic, but its just unaffordable.