Saturday, September 5, 2009

New Foods

So, tonight, I enjoyed "lamb bacon" at the National with Eric McDonald of UGA's School of Environment and Design, before taking in Food, Inc. at Cine (I saw it again, I am such a dork--and this time I took NOTES = super dork). While savoring the impossible scrumptiousness of (already amazingly delicious) pastured lamb turned into salted, smoked, crispy, juicy, fatty heaven, we discussed the idea of a comprehensive lists of foods, so that we can check off edibles when we eat them (like birders do when they see birds that are new to them) and so we can add novel items like lamb bacon to the list when we find them. I suggested that the possible combinations of foods are probably infinite (limited only by our ability to imagine those combinations), so you couldn't really have a comprehensive list, like lists of species, which are allegedly (at least on the scale of a human lifetime) finite.

Let's put Amy-the-arguer in cold storage for a second, and talk for awhile about what would be on that list. High fructose corn syrup? Mechanically separated chicken? Xylitol? The more I think about this, the more I warm up to the idea. It would be a great exercise for us all to examine the ingredients of our diet and be shocked to find that it distills into a rather short list of hyper-processed ingredients that have their origin in corn, wheat and soybeans. (The birding equivalent would be seeing a few variants on crows, starlings and vultures every time you went birding. This revolting scenario is more likely than you imagine if we keep up the status quo in our food system). The production of these commodities destroys our bodies, our environment, our communities and our democracy. This is an empirically proven and validated fact. (See the movie, do some reading and talk to people if you disagree. Then we'll talk.) There is no more important struggle on this earth than to free ourselves from this illusion of choice and freedom, and to put some checks and balances on the control of agricultural transnationals over our food system.

I go out on a limb, and argue for a global movement against transnationals, because today, in India, farmers (some of whom are poorer than the poorest person you can imagine--think about it for awhile...start with no toilets and go from there) take to the streets in peaceful protest for the resurrection of the Doha Round of the WTO. They just want another chance to farm on a fairer playing field. They just want to turn the blood, sweat and tears they put into growing food into enough money to feed their families. In India, almost 50% of all children suffer from such severe malnutrition that their growth is stunted. This is directly related to the fact that US farmers get paid to grow commodities below the cost of production. (As the step-daughter of such a farmer, I can say that I never ever worried about my next meal and I definitely had a toilet). The chance for Indian (or Sudanese or Laotian) kids to have some good eats like the rest of us, is not gonna happen until we start asking Congress to stop spending our precious tax dollars on growing the corn, wheat and soybeans that poison us and the ecology of our country. Our money that we trust our government with, goes directly (IN CASH!) to farmers so that they can buy patented seed and grow the next crop of genetically mofidifed commodities, some portion of which will be sold (or dumped) on international markets, and which will undermine some of the poorest people in the world who have ALREADY invested time, money and energy into growing crops that are now virtually worthless. No wonder they drink pesticides. I would too. In return, we in the "developed" world (with our well developed asses) deal with diseases like diabetes because carrots and broccoli are more expensive than Big Macs. That is CRAZY! Do something about this!

After watching Food, Inc. again, I am absolutely galvanized in my opposition to the incredibly stupid waste of our resources on the production of corn, wheat and soybeans. We are so duped into thinking that our trips to the grocery store allow us to participate in some kind of choice about our diet that we don't think to look any further for our food than that oasis of inefficiency, creative destruction and death. Call me a liberal, and a communist and a tree-hugger, and a feminist and a fascist and then sue me for veggie-libel, but dammit, figure out what is in your diet, understand what your food choices contribute to, (and, yes, spend some time dealing with feeling really bad about it) and then go find and buy and eat some food that didn't hurt somebody, something or someplace already. Enjoy that meal. And do it again.

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