Sexual harassment at McDonald's, Jamie's hypocrisy, & taking the weekend off
Nice Pear: a weekly(ish) feminist foodletter | Issue #004 | 09 August 2020
If you’re new to this newsletter, you can read my mission & ethos here.
I’m afraid don’t have an essay for you this week.
Full transparency: I’m coming off my antidepressants (for reasons, and supervised by my GP) and honestly, my mental health hasn’t been great.
I’m not in the right frame of mind to produce an interesting, well-researched essay today. I’m okay, but I needed to prioritise self-care this weekend.
I’m sharing my usual links below, but then I’m logging off and gathering my thoughts to give you my best work in the next issue of Nice Pear.
Things to read this week
Jamie Oliver was interviewed in The Guardian this week and some of the things he was saying about today’s restaurant industry seemed a little off to me. For someone who’s restaurants chain went into administration last year, he seems to have a lot to say about the restaurants that have managed to stay open (or even to flourish) in the period since lockdown began.
In the interview, he asserts that “if you look at everyone doing well at the moment, they are basically prepping and shifting fairly low-food”. Given that the food at Jamie’s Italian was average-at-best, that statement seems like a reach.
If this was supposed to be a dig at the big corporations able to prepare and sell food cheaply and undercut more ‘ethical’ businesses, it was poorly-worded. I know from first-hand experience that there are so many small and independent food businesses managing to make it work right now precisely because they have brilliant food, teams and service - which bring customer loyalty.
That said, many restaurants are (understandably) struggling right now. The best dishes and staff in the world can’t make up for the fact that we’re still in a global pandemic and that eating indoors at restaurants is likely to be dangerous - especially for people at a higher risk, and in areas with higher infection rates.
While this piece on Vox is based on the US industry, many of the same principles apply in the UK: “Officials who recognize it’s important to wear masks inside need to also recognize that you can’t eat while wearing a mask” - we need to give restaurants the financial support to keep their businesses running while keeping staff and customers safe (which may mean reducing sales to takeaway, delivery and outdoor dining only).
Another puzzle-piece to keeping restaurants afloat: using sustainable hospitality models as a way to save costs. “Most people hear the word sustainability and they think it means buying expensive metal straws and installing solar panels, but reducing waste also means saving money”.
I am disappointed but not surprised about the prevalence of sexual harassment in the world’s largest fast-food organisation.
“Since 2015, scores of women have accused the company [McDonald’s] of fostering a workplace rife with sexual harassment and of turning its back when they came forward to report their treatment… It’s a systemic problem”.
Non-managerial jobs in hospitality, and particularly in fast food, tend to be seen as a first job, or a job you take when your options are limited. When these roles are low-paid, and often with very little training on issues like sexual harassment, an environment is created where it’s normalised. It can be hard to even know whether you are being sexually harrassed (or, indeed, whether you are committing sexual harassment), and hard to report it when it does happen.
Jobs like this, that are further down the traditional career ladder, also lay the ground rules and expectations for those workers who do go on to a different job or career. When sexual harassment and discrimination are so overt and expected in these types of working environments, it sets a very low precedent for other workplaces, allowing more ‘subtle’ forms of sexism to go unchecked because ‘at least it’s not as bad as it was in that other job’.
Two big food media stories this week:
The NYT piece on the chef (and particularly the white, male celebrity chef) as an ‘auteur’: a lone genius, who “is volatile, meticulous, impenetrable, charming, camera-ready”. Reading the article, so much of it strikes a chord. The stereotypes about what it means to be a chef that perpetuate abusive, hypermasculine kitchen environments. The idolisation of an individual chef ignores (and exploits) the work of all the other people who make up the foodservice industry - from farmers and factory workers to servers and dishwashers. Hopefully, the repercussions of MeToo and BLM on the restaurant industry are starting to make us see that we need an alternative model.
And Taste’s explainer of how food media is increasingly moving to indie newsletters (like this one) is another interesting read.
It would appear that Nestlé and Danone are, once again, using exploitative and unethical tactics to market baby formula to consumers. While recent brand ambassadorship programmes in Southeast Asia may not technically break the law, there are very real concerns that they may be violating World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines: “public health experts have expressed concerns that their actions go against the spirit of the WHO code… aggressive advertising undermines breastfeeding efforts and can cause mothers to move to formula unnecessarily”.
Between zero-hours contracts, agency commissions and the actual working environment, the reality of working in meat processing in the UK seems dire.
Things to eat this week
Honestly, my mental health has been getting the better of me in the kitchen and I have mostly been eating pasta and pesto this week. Instead, take some of the recipes I’ve made before and loved (and hope to work up the energy to make again soon):
In this weather, I require quick salads & other foods that make me feel good without demanding I cook
I made this Kung Po cauliflower from HalfBakedHarvest a while ago, and it was really tasty and pretty easy to make, too
Not exactly summer food, but I’ve been craving the lapsang-scented mushroom stroganoff from the Mildred’s cookbook and I cannot wait until its cold enough again to make it
Where to find me this week
Say firstname.lastname@example.org with stories, commissions & foodie chit chat