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What's Next? A Locavorgy?

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By James Geneau

When it comes to the press taking a term and blowing it out of proportion and beating it like a dead horse, I get very upset.  Ask anyone who knows me personally and they can probably name about 10 different “buzz words” I have ranted on about in the past 15 years.  A word becomes popular, it is used in every single publication, television program, and radio advert then suddenly it disappears.  In the world of public relations it is brilliant for selling a story but for an initiative to provoke global long-term change these “buzz words” can be deadly.   I loathe them.  I yell at people for using them.  And more importantly, I hate it when people misuse them.

I guess it all started back when I was an Urban Planning student and was writing papers and doing research on inner city gentrification and the related strategies and models used in various cities around the world.  Gentrification is an official Urban Sociologist term used to describe the movement of socio-economic groups from one jurisdiction or geographic region to another.  More specifically, it is when statistical evidence proves that a substantial socio-economic group has officially moved into an area of lower prosperity and therefore increased the economic vitality of a region.  Kind of the opposite of say, the exodus of Caucasian Detroit residents to the suburbs with the invention of the automobile.  When a Starbucks opens in a neighborhood, it is not “gentrified” or “gentrificated”.  Realtors and developers cannot “re-gentrify” anything with new condos or lofts.  None of these words really exist.  You can’t “gentrify” your look, or be “gentrifying” in your ability to make things new again.  Unless you physically move 30,000 rich people into a neighborhood and allow them to live in harmony with 29,000 less fortunate people and buy them all homes, cars, and cash to spend in local stores, I am afraid that you are a “gentri-nothing”.

But maybe you can still be a metrosexual, another word I despise.  You see, the term metrosexual has nothing to do with the amount of gel a man wears in his hair, if he wears Prada, or owns cool sunglasses.  It is not his car, his ability to cook, or if he remembers his mother’s birthday.  Metrosexual isn’t even something exclusive to men.  It was a term used in a magazine (one I am not going to help sell copies of by naming) where it described the ability of any global urban citizen to move from New York, to London, to Paris, to Hong Kong and never have to alter their lifestyle.  Essentially, they could live anywhere and their apartment, daily routine, and activities would be the same anywhere they lived.  They were metrosexual meaning that they could “blend into any metropolitan environment”, not a straight man who looks gay.  A few years ago the hilarious cartoon series South Park made fun of the term and soon after a not so successful show was produced called Metrosexual.  And within days, the term was considered to be offensive and fell off everyone’s vocabulary.

And now, a new one has emerged.  One I actually have reservations over more for its potential demise than its use.  In 2005, Jessica Prentice from the San Francisco Bay Area, on the occasion of World Environment Day, uttered a single word to describe and promote the practice of eating a diet consisting of local food harvested within a 100-mile radius of their home.   Overnight, the new term "Locavore" began showing up on blogs, discussion boards, and in books.  Chefs, farmers, and activists began using it as part of their battle to encourage local eating and to a good degree, used the term correctly.  The New Oxford American Dictionary even made it the official 2007 Word of the Year!  It has become such a phenomenon, for good reason, that there is even an iPhone application for die-hard “locavores” who need help understanding what is seasonal.  Then somebody noticed that a large percentage of those who eat local happen to be highly educated and affluent with above average household incomes and BANG – the destruction of the term “locavore” began.

Why is it whenever mainstream media takes on a great new buzz word they butcher the shit out of it?  I mean, come on guys, what is the goal here?  Sure, Gremolata is a media company, a new media venture specifically, but “locavore” is OUR word.  It is something we believe in.  We live and breathe it every single day and so do the majority of our members.  So we are always extra careful to make sure it is used in the spirit by which it was created.  But for the other publications out there, may God strike you with a million bolts of lightning!  In the past month alone I have seen so many headlines where the term “locavore” was has been misused or the journalist clearly had no idea what they were talking about.  I loved the article by one newspaper showing how the “locavore” diet could not work for their “test subject”, a vegetarian who was already disadvantaged when it came to finding variety in terms of eating.  She spent a week trying to be a “locavore” in the middle of a cold and damp Toronto winter and was miserable.  What a great message for all of the consumers local farmers are trying to rely on for their ever so generous $16,000 a year salary!  A little advice, being a “locavore” is a hell of a lot easier if you eat meat, especially in colder climates where local vegetables are a little scarce – say Canada in February!  Maybe next time you should get a better test subject.

Another favorite?  The US-based television station that decided it would be great to go “locavoring” around their state in the Channel 5 Hummer.  Unless you live in Delaware, the smallest state in the union, I can’t even begin to tell you how many things are wrong with that concept.  And what did the act of “locavoring” mean to them?  Jams and jellies of course, err, uhm, in local towns, but not necessarily made there.  And then there was the reference made by a sales person at my local wholesale club one day who offered me a free sample of some grilled frozen fish.  Now, before I go further, let me clarify some things for you die-hard “locavores” out there.  Wholesale clubs and big-box retailers kick ass when it comes to the price of laundry soap, razor blades, antiperspirant, dish detergent, and toilet paper but it is not where I buy all my food.  And even if the term “locavore” referred to the disposal of one’s digested food in addition to what we ingest, it would be a hard sell for me to buy an inferior yet locally made tissue for my ass.  But hey, I love a free sample when I stroll past with my 50 rolls of toilet tissue and will always steal a nibble.  But I was especially intrigued by the sales rep’s comment that it was “100% Locavore”!

“Really, 100% Locavore huh?”, I said with a puzzled look on my face as my eyes darted back and forth 2-3 times between the 70 year old lady and the box with the words “Finest in Alaskan Pollock Fillets”.  “How so”, I enquired?   She grabbed the box with great zeal, turned it over, and pointed to the back.  Proudly, she showed me that it was in fact, fished and packaged in Alaska, locally.  I nodded in agreement and said “thank you, it is lovely”.  I wasn’t about to pick a fight with someone’s bubby and continued to the cash.  But it was at that point I knew that the term “locavore” was doomed and that mainstream media was the culprit.

And so, instead of trying to fight it, I am going to go gang-busters on the term “locavore” and try to kill it.  After all, when your dog has been hit by a car and, there is blood everywhere, and the vet can’t help him, do you wait it out or help him with his pain?  I am confident another word can be generated to help the local food movement as soon as this one is put out of its misery.  So this weekend, I am going to go to the local farmers’ market with all my other “locavores” for a good old fashioned “locavorgy”.  Hands everywhere touching carrots, and beans, and fresh tomatoes with mud on them from being picked that morning a few miles away.  Mmm, how sinful.    This will be followed by a call to a fellow “locavite” I know in Vancouver who will ship me some wine from the Okanagan I cannot get in Toronto.  After all, I am just using the word without understanding it, no?  Then, I will update my Facebook page and let all my friends know I am going “locavoring” to Montreal for the weekend to try some of the new organic restaurants that just opened.  I may even Twitter some comments about how “locavoriciously” prepared the food is and how it had just the right amount of “locavorisity” to make it truly “locavoricious”.  Or better yet, that the food was simply “locavorgasmic” in comparison to other “locavorinian” cuisine I have tasted.  After all that, I will hop back into the “Gremolata Locavore Discoveries Bus – Sponsored by Monsanto”, and head back to Toronto.  Malcolm will need to take his own company-issued Hummer as car-ride conversations make me uncomfortable.

That should put an end to this non-sense and help put a bullet into my old friend “locavore”.  I really hate doing this, but I think it needs to be done.  If it gets too far out of hand and god forbid becomes a South Park episode then everyone in the Western world will drop it like a hot “locally grown” potato.  Oh how I am going to hate doing this.  I cry like a son of a bitch every time I watch Old Yeller.  Be strong James, it is for the good of the movement.


Hey Shawn, I am less offended with the message as I am pretty sure this is classic sarcasm by Mr. Geneau. His pieces tend to be "extreme" to make a point. That being said, another great article and I certainly got a laugh! I am sure we will still be seeing you use the word Locavore for many days to come!
Post Reply By Jack in ETOBICOKE on 5/25/2009 8:41:56 PM

I loved the article; it was well written and linguistically astute, but I take issue with its underlying premise: that we should abandon words that matter to us because they have been misused by marketing buffoons and media philistines.
The term ‘locavore’ has definitely been misused, but, as was pointed out in the article, it is less than four years old; a babe in the woods compared with ‘organic’ or ‘natural’, terms that are still misused and perversely appropriated by corporate food conglomerates.

Language has always been misused, especially when politics and money are involved, but instead of capitulating to the forces of mediocrity and corporatism, someone with James’ writing talent and acerbic wit needs to set the record straight and speak up for accurate and appropriate use of the term. So, yeah, you should have “picked a fight” with someone’s bubby in the supermarket. Educate, educate, educate.
Post Reply By Shawn in TORONTO on 5/25/2009 12:51:34 AM

"It would be a hard sell for me to buy an inferior yet locally made tissue for my ass." - James Geneau, Gremolata, May 2009

This sentence is a beauty.

This is pure James Geneau. Geneau just the way we like it. Untouched Geneau. Unrefined Geneau. Sassy Geneau. Metrosexual Geneau. Provocative Geneau. So Geneau and so unique that I am starting a new word right here on this site: Geneautal. Yes, Geneautal. Like in...

Oh, this sentence is so geneautal!

Hope you like it James and will never try to destroy it! Good job on that article!

Post Reply By Andre in NORTH YORK on 5/21/2009 2:22:08 PM

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