“Seth Pecksniff, a character with a holier-than-thou attitude in Charles Dickens’s 1844 novel Martin Chuzzlewit, was no angel, though he certainly tried to pass himself off as one. Pecksniff liked to preach morality and brag about his own virtue, but in reality he was a deceptive rascal who would use any means to advance his own selfish interests.” according to Merriam-Webster.
Why do you need to know this? Pecksniffery has been used as a synonym for hypocrite, apparently since 1949. How does that relate to food? Well, finding a way to point out the inconsistent actions we take around issues related to food, health, and nutrition has cost me a lot of worry. But a farm-mom friend in Illinois gave me the perfect word from her thesaurus – pecksniffery.
Pecksniffery is a way of saying that we want to hold certain beliefs around what is right in food, health, and nutrition – yet we sometimes behave differently. For example, I believe in eating healthy, but then stress drives me to chocolate. I intend to do the right thing, but my actions do not always align with my belief.
Inconsistent behavior happens all over the grocery store, including in the cereal aisle. Have you bought any organic fruit loops lately? How about some natural cocoa puffs? Why when General Mills made a GMO-free Cheerios sales did not in increase at all?
If we pause and become aware of our choices, we’re likely to find hypocrisy on our plate, in our cart and across food labels.
Case in point: potatoes. Potato grower John Halverson points to the sales of potatoes as an example of consumers spending their dollars differently than they say they will when surveyed about food choices: “Consumers constantly say they are looking at healthy attributes, but sales of fresh potatoes continue to shrink while sale of chips and fries grow at record pace.”
Let’s face it; we all want to believe we’ll buy “healthy” food, but then reality strikes. Or in this case, the potato chip crinkles. At the deli, in a restaurant – or a French fry reaches out and grabs you at the fairgrounds food booth. We may want to believe we’ll buy more “whole” food like a baked potato, but the numbers don’t lie about America’s preference for fried food.
The same goes with issues like GMOs. One of the reasons I’ve extensively covered this contentious issue is because of the hypocrisy involved. Is GMO evil in your grocery cart, but miraculous if it saves a little girl’s life? Is GMO good if it can cure blindness through golden rice, but wrong if used to keep worms out of sweet corn?
Canadian farmer Dale Leftwhich talks about the medical value of GMOs. Not because of the crops he grows in his fields north of the border, but because it’s far more personal to him. Dale has a daughter who was diagnosed with diabetes at age seven. “Life is better because of a stable source of insulin due to a GMO process with bacteria producing insulin. There’s an abundant source of consistent, cost effective insulin due to GMO,” he explained.
Is it possible emotionalism has clouded our thinking on issues like GMO, how meat is raised and “big” agriculture? Is it possible we are practicing pecksniffery?
Read more at Food Truths from Farm to Table to arm yourself with 25 truths you urgently need to know about food so you can shop without guilt, confusion, or judgment. A new book, Food Bullying, releases November 5 to upend the way you think about eating choices.