15 September 2010

How to Eat Responsibly

There's an excellent article by Wendell Berry (who is from Kentucky...RAWK!) over at Organic Gardening about why it's important to understand where our food comes from. He says that eating is an agricultural act that begins with planting and ends with consumption (no not tuberculosis), and the modern person considers themself a "consumer" of a product, and not a participant in the biological reality of farming and the land. This particular excerpt caught my attention:
The passive American consumer, sitting down to a meal of pre-prepared or fast food, confronts a platter covered with inert, anonymous substances that have been processed, dyed, breaded, sauced, gravied, ground, pulped, strained, blended, prettified, and sanitized beyond resemblance to any part of any creature that ever lived.
Sound familiar? I am convinced McDonald's has ceased to serve real food, and is instead serving some sort of synthesized "food product" created in a lab. Yummy.

Here's where it gets real interesting (emphasis mine):
[I]n the food industry—as in any other industry—the overriding concerns are not quality and health, but volume and price. For decades now the entire industrial food economy, from the large farms and feedlots to the chains of supermarkets and fast-food restaurants, has been obsessed with volume. It has relentlessly increased scale in order to increase volume in order (presumably) to reduce costs. But as scale increases, diversity declines; as diversity declines, so does health; as health declines, the dependence on drugs and chemicals necessarily increases. As capital replaces labor, it does so by substituting machines, drugs, and chemicals for human workers and for the natural health and fertility of the soil. The food is produced by any means or any shortcut that will increase profits.
No wonder our country struggles so much with obesity. The quality of our food has surrendered to the demand for quantity...just look at the meal portions at Applebee's! And they're always getting bigger.

Ever since seeing Super Size Me I have become more and more aware of how what we eat affects more than just our health (and our pocketbook). Then I saw Food Inc., and never wanted to look at a cheeseburger ever again...for the rest of my natural born life (pregnancy cravings overrode that sentiment a few times, but I blame that entirely on the hormones). My options weren't particularly appealing, either. Pay $1 for a cheeseburger, or $15 for an organic sandwich. Well, my money tree died, so either I needed to find some sort of middle ground, or we were gonna live on beans for the rest of our (very smelly) lives.

Then I became acquainted with people who grew their own food...and even raised their own animals. They weren't starving...far from it. And they weren't spending their life savings on chichi overpriced organic frozen dinners from Whole Foods. I began feeling a peculiar pulling sensation in the region of my chest, which I eventually identified as longing. I wanted what these people had. Unfortunately for me, I am not in possession of the quantity of land that would allow me to accomplish this goal in the near future.

But I can still grow things.

A book called The Bountiful Container helped me come to this realization. Apparently, you can grow most of your own produce in pots on your back (or front) porch (or in our case, a cement patio about the size of a postage stamp). I had completely planned on doing this exact thing at the beginning of this year...oh, I had plans. Then I got pregnant...and hadn't the energy nor the wherewithal. Sad story.

I definitely plan on a garden next year, which will be an adventure since the last thing I grew was a Chia Pet. Shenanigans will undoubtedly ensue.
The pleasure of eating should be an extensive pleasure, not that of the mere gourmet. People who know the garden in which their vegetables have grown and know that the garden is healthy will remember the beauty of the growing plants, perhaps in the dewy first light of morning when gardens are at their best.


  1. Amy, you would like, The Hungry Soul, by Leon Kass

  2. Iiiiinteresting....I will have to check that out. :)



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