Saturday, November 21, 2009
Think Before You Eat
You haven’t heard from me for a while because I’ve been deeply immersed in the complicated world of food distribution and how to change the food system. Through making videos for a non-profit organization called Red Tomato that helps family farms get their produce to market, I've been spending a lot of time these days thinking about what we eat.
One of the impressive things that I’ve learned is that we have incredible power as consumers. I’ve heard produce supervisors at big grocery chains say that the reason they carry more local and organic food is because people like you and me prefer to buy it. They aren’t concerned with whether it’s healthier or better for the environment, they’re looking at their profits. In the last ten years, there’s been a growing awareness about the problems with what we eat and how we eat it. Filling ourselves with processed food, as well as whole foods that are full of pesticides and antibiotics, has any number of scary effects on our bodies. People are gradually beginning to wise up to what we're being sold and demand something better.
When I moved here five years ago, one of my neighbors used to make no bones about it that she thought that I was an elite food snob, being extravagant and downright crazy to buy organic whole foods. The other day, she stopped me to say that since her mom and nephew were put on a gluten-free diet to try to solve their health problems, they have felt great and stopped taking all the medication they had previously been given. She told me that she’s sorry she thought I was nuts for being so particular about what I fed my family and has really begun to buy different types of food when she shops.
As I started my shopping for our Thanksgiving dinner this year, I noticed a change in what was piled up at the ends of the aisles in the grocery store. I found cans of organic pumpkin on sale. I saw more free range turkeys next to the hormone and antibiotic filled ones. I began to really think about what some of the great, sentimental recipes that I cook each Thanksgiving contain that might be harmful. I realized that I could substitute other healthier ingredients and not lose the taste or the tradition that everyone at my table loves.
So, there is something that we can do every day to improve the food system and our own well-being. We can think before we eat. We can buy items in the store that aren’t shipped across the country or from overseas and eat food that is grown in season and locally. We can choose what is grown without chemicals and hormones and antibiotics. We can look on the labels to see if there is MSG hidden in our cans of soup or trans fats in our bakery goods. We can make healthier choices. It might taste different, but it also tastes better. There’s incredible flavor and real enjoyment in every bite.
“Eating with the fullest pleasure - pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance - is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend. “
If you'd like to see the video that we just finished for Red Tomato, please go to blip.tv and enter The Red Tomato Story in the search box. It should get you there.