Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Food Politics

Recently I've been listening to The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, which, despite making me never want to eat corn again, has been a fascinating book.  I am far from finished, but early going has had me thinking about what I eat.  All the time.  Every meal. 

Truth is, I've been thinking about what I eat (all the time, every meal) since about August when Jane and I bought our pig at auction.  Where did this food come from?  If I'm eating meat, what conditions did this animal live under?  If I'm eating a fruit or vegetable, how much of it is synthetic?  And since reading The Omnivore's much of it was produced from fossil fuels?

Ultimately - Is this food good for me?

Not "safe to eat", which has taken on a very immediate "Will I spend the rest of the day in the bathroom" meaning, but rather - is this sustenance going to screw up my building blocks?  In the transmission of carbon to energy fundamental to my continuing to live and breath, am I doing it right?

All of these questions involve the (often unintentional) reliance on the United States government.  The bland, sanitized, yellow and white packaging of our meats at the super-market communicates so much about our ambivalence and so little about its origin.  I don't even need to raise the specter of the humane treatment of animals to suggest that this is problematic.  What about the tens of thousands of processed foods that we consider edible for no other reason than their existence on a market shelf?  "If that was poisonous, I would not be permitted to eat it."

Many of these concerns have spurned on the "locavore" trend, of which my wife and I have participated, but I'm not sure that's sustainable.  The food demands of our expanding population were the impetus of warehoused cattle and mutant tomatoes, coming of age after a period in which meat was a rarity, not a staple.  Our 21st Century living drives us towards mass market, cheap, food that comes to our big box food markets - no questions asked.

Not so long ago, I had a friend over for dinner and we talked about the surplus of Western Culture.  He mentioned that super-markets are not universal and that all of this choice comes with consequences.  "Somewhere else, someone is going hungry."  He didn't mean in Detroit or the Mississippi Delta (although that is certainly true).  He meant in countries that were food starved due to inadequate resources to support reliable agriculture.  We needn't feel guilty about that, but we should be aware; conscientious about our place in the world.

I don't have a conclusion today - more questions than answers, really.  I just think it is interesting that we spend so much time treating politics as some external talking point when we are quite literally consuming it each and every day.  How did "that" get on your plate?  More importantly - what is it?

And ultimately - Is this food good for me?

That's all for today.  Have a great Wednesday doing what you love!

(Addendum: If you want a great resource for knowing more about where your food comes from and "locavore" living - check out Annie Rie's blog)