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Carbon offsets for restaurant criticism
Looking out for the South and its eaters
Reviewing restaurants can take a toll on the body.
One of my earliest memories from annual meetings sponsored by the late Association of Food Journalists is heading to the hotel gym and finding fellow critics on every treadmill, exercise bike, and StairMaster. (As I recall, this was around the time that pork belly was newly popular in fancy restaurants.)
But it recently occurred to me that it’s not just my personal health which stands to suffer from the demands of this job.
Back in April, I asked The Food Section’s subscribers and non-paying readers to suggest which Southern interstate was ripe for an exit-by-exit eating guide. The response was a resounding “I-95,” so I last week set out on a multistate exploratory tour.
I was about 45 restaurant visits into my trip when I realized I’d been driving and eating meat for three days straight. In other words, what I’d been referring to as “rigorous food journalism” could also be called “environmental irresponsibility.”
To be clear, I’m not suggesting that eaters across the South ought to give up their cars and switch to vegan diets. Even if that was the right choice for everyone, many people don’t have the privilege of considering it. But I think it’s incumbent upon those of us who are charged with thinking seriously about food to reckon with the consequences of consumption.
As I messaged my friend Dave Infante from the road: “Are there carbon offsets for criticism?”
There are now.
Using the carbon footprint calculator provided by Cool Effect, a respected nonprofit that grew out of a small clean-burning cookstove project in Honduras, I determined I’d done about a tonne of damage to the earth on my reporting trip. As penance, I purchased an offset benefitting The Chestnut Mountain Project, protecting trees and water in White County, Tennessee.
Obviously, sending a few bucks to Southern Appalachia is roughly equivalent to a few tugs on the rowing machine after a foie gras tasting. It’s a superficial measure at best. Still, it’s a reminder that the meaning of a meal isn’t confined to the table--which is why The Food Section has work yet to do.
The best way to support that work is to pay for a newsletter subscription. For just $9 a month, you’ll receive original food reporting and unique perspectives in your inbox every Monday and Wednesday.
Plus, if you don’t pay, you won’t get to read the results of my I-95 research. Trust me: This is a guide you don’t want to bypass.
Have a great weekend.
p.s. If you’re not a paid subscriber, you missed this week’s review of Blacksheep in Beaufort, as well as coverage of the new restaurants to know in Kentucky, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Why waste time this weekend on regret? Upgrade your subscription here.