The value of a life is in how much of it is given away.-Andy Stanley (not in mindless consumption-me)
It seems everyone is chasing something. The next promotion, health, fame, the Jones…the list goes on and on. We are encouraged in our pursuits by the ubiquity of information, facts, lies, opinions, statistics and filtered photos of other people’s’ lives. We can always be working on something or many, many somethings. We can be in the moment and planning for the future while we try to be everything to everyone. Stressed about it? Just take another class, go shopping, learn meditation, do some yoga, chew ginger and embrace stress as your friend. There are 1,000 ways to be a better you, just look it up. You know, in your free time.
In this age of instant information about everything you could ever find interesting, almost no one seems content.
Most of us are trying to fill a void we have a hard time identifying.
We have to stop chasing and start connecting.
We have replaced our connections with a shallow rat race and it is no wonder so many of us are miserable.
Life is relational and we have tried to shirk our relationship to the world around us.
The modern condition is one of terminal detachment.
Maybe, just maybe, we need to get back to the fundamentals of life, even get good at those. (The Jones’ don’t have that and that is why they keep going into debt buying stuff.)
We don’t know our food, we don’t know our water and we trust someone else is taking care of all of it.
Our very culture no longer understands the basics of life, leaving us detached from our very sustenance.
We eat things we can’t explain, or identify, blindly, without understanding the very real effect our food choices have on the world and the people in it, not to mention our own bodies and those of our loved ones.
My wake up call was the realization that although I worked with food along almost every step of the supply chain, I knew nothing about it. I could rattle off the latest BS about nutrition recommendations but didn’t fundamentally understand the act of eating. There was no real cognizance.
Do you know what I found when I developed a real understanding of food? I could appreciate food in a way that all the fine dining of my past never facilitated.
Being aware and making better decisions makes me feel connected to a part of life I didn’t even know I missed.
And I am not alone.
Looking at the Standard American Diet (SAD) leaves no doubt that we have shirked any meaningful connection to or understanding of what we put in our mouths.
What is the problem with this robotic consumption of garbage?
Let’s just touch on some of the basics.
Our health is declining.
We are getting sicker in the US and most indicators predict declining life expectancies. Dying sicker and younger is not progress but it is a result of what we do to ourselves and diet is primary. The decline in children’s health is most alarming. Adult Onset Diabetes is now called Type II Diabetes and it is predicted 1 in 3 caucasian kids and 1 in 2 minority kids are going to have it in the next generation.
Our healthcare system cannot be fixed until we fix the SAD.
We have an untenable healthcare system, for both staff and patients, primarily as a result of our denial that we can be no healthier than the food we eat. It is overwhelmed and the books won’t balance as long as we are trapped in disease care without meaningfully addressing the culturally driven lifestyle choices that are causing most of it. We feel better telling ourselves that it is genetics. Apparently, we would rather think our genetics are getting worse than to admit that epigenetics are the prime factor in our health.
Our complete ignorance of the sources of our food perpetuates slavery.
There are millions of slaves in the world today and most of us think we aren’t to blame. Sex workers are not the only humans trafficked. In fact, when we do things like buy shrimp from Thailand, we are supporting slavery. Don’t eat seafood? How about the cocoa beans in your chocolate?
Labor practices matter, too.
Even those who aren’t slaves are subject to working conditions you’d never allow your own loved ones to endure. Toxic sprays are applied over the tops of field workers in some countries. In other areas, children who are technically employed are still beaten if they don’t work hard enough. And don’t think bad things only happen in other countries. Illegal workers have been left sick and even dead in fields in order to keep the harvest moving and pesticide poisoning is a common problem in parts of the US.
It tastes awful but we have trained ourselves to believe it is good.
Most Americans have never even tasted real Parmigiano-Reggiano. It is hard to find a sushi place where you are getting the fish you ordered. Why is this? We don’t know anything about food and wouldn’t know the real thing if it bit us. Veggies bred to withstand long distance shipping and CAFO meat are our normal and we don’t even complain because we are ignorant of quality. If you really want to know about this, read Larry Olmsted’s Real Food/Fake Food.
Our diets have been socially engineered by industry and its lapdog, government.
That good old, independent, American spirit is almost absent from the consumer in this country. There are still agricultural entrepreneurs who try to stand as independently as possible in the mess that has become American ag but consumers are another story. They have an alarming trust of government and industry that can only be explained by a complete ignorance of the role the two bed buddies play in our food system. Here is a tip: you, not industry and not government, are the only one fighting for your health and well being. They will always choose the dollar in the short term over your long term. The influence of industry on every food related agency from the FDA to the USDA to the CDC is staggering and well documented, despite the revenge exacted on whistle blowers.
We are dumping our excess on the poor and crushing their local agriculture and economies.
This practice of food aid instead of agricultural assistance perpetuates the cycle of poverty and hunger. What does this have to do with what you eat? When you participate in the SAD you are supporting the subsidized commodity crop system that is the impetus for this dumping program. Ellen Gustafson does a great job exploring this in We the Eaters.
Industrial ag is hell on the environment.
Those millions of monocropped acres in what we used to refer to as the “breadbasket” are not only hard on your body, they are not good for the soil or the water running off of them.
Food waste in this country is staggering.
At roughly 40%, food waste is an ethical and moral issue unto itself and our flippant attitude about cheap, aesthetically identical foods just perpetuates it, as does our support of subsidized and overproduced commodities.
This is all only possible because we spend billions and billions a year on food-like products without paying any attention.
Every one of us is a part of this system and every purchase is a vote for what you want perpetuated.
What is the answer? What reconnects us to our food in a meaningful way?
The answer is simple but not easy: know your food.
Start by finding out about your favorite foods. Look them up. Find out where they originate and what is considered the gold standard. Just dive in. Read a book. Look up the ingredients on a label. Ask someone further down the road to mentor you.
Cook from scratch.
Understand what you are putting in your mouth. Where was it produced? By whom?
Food with integrity tastes better and satisfies something in us that needs connection to life’s fundamentals.
Why is understanding food so satisfying?
Getting to know your food is time well invested in yourself, your loved ones and the world but it is even more than that.
Knowing everything it takes to create a quality tomato, glass of wine or loaf of bread gives us badly needed perspective. Perspective is what is missing in a debt ridden, consumption driven, shallow and overly busy culture.
By being an informed, ethical eater you take care of yourself, those around you and everyone in the supply chain.
Happy eating, Katy