On his blog today, Michael Ruhlman asks, "Is it justifiable for me, known and read primarily for writing about food, cooking, and the work of the professional kitchen, to voice my opinion on a matter unrelated to food?" The blog post, titled "Vote! (a question to readers & a free signed Ruhlman's 20)," comes four years after Ruhlman posted about the last presidential election with a post titled "Vote Obama." Ruhlman now says he thinks he was wrong to write that post, because no one should tell anyone else how to vote. But he does wonder if it's fair for food writers to express their opinions on things that don't directly relate to food. He goes on to say "I wonder is there anything unrelated to food?"
He's gotten some interesting responses, both in the comments section of the blog and on Twitter. Bilbo Douchebaggins (nice name) says "A food writer is also a citizen, as is a mailman, doctor, pilot, etc. So yes, you have the right (and moral duty?) to express your political opinions as a citizen of your country." P Lindsley says "While I value your opinion, and believe you have the right to share it any way you choose, I don't want to hear your political views. I follow you because you are an expert in food and cooking. I am a fan because of topic specific information, reviews, ideas, and sound culinary judgment...When I follow you, I want to escape news, politics, and religious debates, I want to hear and learn about food." Seattle Weekly's Hanna Raskin tweets "How many political opinions don't pertain to how we eat, what we eat or whether we eat at all?"
This, in many ways, gets to the heart of the question. Many of us who are food writers got into our line of work because we see food as a lens through which to see life. Love, family, health, spirituality, and yes, politics. Ruhlman may be right that posting a "Vote Obama" editorial on a food blog may be taking it a bit far (although it is his blog and as far as I'm concerned he can do what he damn well pleases there), but when you think about the Farm Bill, Prop 37, issues of hunger and the environment, it's awfully hard to separate politics from what we eat. Admittedly, reporting on these aspects of food is different than expressing an opinion. What do you think?