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The (Not So) Simple Choice of What To Eat

Posted Aug 23 2008 3:19pm
I've been doing quite a bit of learning lately about food. The more I learn about food, the more I realize the far-reaching implications of the seemingly simple choice of what to eat. Food is so much more than what I buy at the store and cook for dinner-- how I choose to eat is how I vote for what exists in the world.

Three books have influenced my recent thinking about food. Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma gives an in-depth picture of the detriments of modern industrial food, from GMO corn to feedlot cattle to caged hens to pesticides and even to industrial organic, and offers a creative alternative through ecological farming and being connected with our food through its life, death, and preparation. Pollen challenges us to think about what we're eating in terms of our own health, public, animal and environmental health, politics, ethics, and sustainability. In his words,
"But imagine for a moment if we once again knew, strictly as a matter of course, those few unremarkable things: What it is we're eating. Where it came from. How it found its way to our table. And what, in true accounting, it really cost."

Nina Planck, in her simple book Real Food: What to Eat and Why , shares her knowledge and experience with eating local, fresh, traditional foods. She believes rather than eating industrialized food, which threatens our health, our environment, and our connection to the pleasures of food, we should be eating "real" food (meaning old and traditional foods), including raw dairy, grass-fed meat, eco-friendly fish, ecologically grown fruits and vegetables, good fats (including olive oil, lard, butter, beef fat, and coconut oil), eggs from pastured hens, and unrefined sea salt. Her guidelines are based, in addition to her own extensive research, on the work of Weston A. Price .

The latest addition to my library, and my favorite of the three, is Full Moon Feast: Food and the Hunger for Connection , a book graciously sent to me by Chelsea Green Publishing Company . Jessica Prentice's book, I think, sums up the above perspectives and adds to them with her beautifully written thoughts about our connection to nature, seasons, and one another through food. In addition to sharing a variety of seasonal recipes, Prentice also talks about food traditions of indigenous cultures throughout the world, traditional methods of food preservation, our dependence on petroleum, and healing through community. I'll let her words describe her book:
"When we begin to heal the broken relationships in our food system, the nutrition of our food begins to improve. Animals are treated humanely when we understand that we are in relationship with them-- that they are part of a whole we, too, belong to. Once we accept that we are all connected, and that we want those connections to be strong, flexible, and resilient instead of severed, torn, or frayed, healing becomes profound and multilayered."

And all three authors LOVE Joel Salatin and his ecological farming.

Thanks to these influences, I feel more knowledgeable about what foods I want to look for. I've been asking more questions at my local butcher and egg supplier about how the animals are raised and what they are fed. I've been glad for my garden, and interested in finding local fruit this summer. I do often feel frustrated with some things I don't know how to find or afford, like good quality butter and fish. And I don't know much about eating locally/seasonally. But I also know I am on a path of learning, and I am grateful that I can learn more every day. I will keep reading books (soon I will read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle ) and thinking about how, where, why and what food to eat.

Related posts:

Life Without Groceries

Plenty: An Experiment in Eating Locally

The Future of Food
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