Everyone seems interested in food again. Not the stuff in the bright packages; not the fried animal parts; not the quick weight loss formula with 100 times the daily requirement of all known nutrients – just plain old food. Those of us of a certain age can remember our mothers or grandmothers getting food. They would squeeze the fruit, smell the vegetables, shake the eggs, poke the meat - they were serious about food. They knew zip about nutrition but they knew that food was supposed to be fresh and whole if it was to cook well and taste right.
Then food began to disappear; it’s hard to say when. When the size of the supermarkets grew, the food got smaller; there had to be more room for food-like products. The early TV dinners and drive- in restaurants went from an occasional indulgence to a necessity and treats became dietary staples. Food was not cooked anymore; it was manufactured; it required no attention or care. It was purchased and warmed up. Real food was just another messy and inconvenient life essential that had been tidied up and made easy. But real food never went away; it just got pushed into the background.
There were always people who tried to tell us that there were troubles ahead. Some of those troubles had to with the fact that we were eating way too much of the wrong stuff. With no grandmothers telling us to eat our vegetables or depression era relatives to tell us not to waste food and eat everything on our plate, we were misbehaving. We were being told to eat to our hearts’ content but our hearts weren’t content at all. The fact is that all the fat, meat and sugar in those edibles was wearing out our hearts. There were plenty of warnings but that stuff was wickedly tasty. The fact is that our little taste buds were so overworked we were losing our taste for food. Who could resist potato chips that tasted like pork or chicken or spicy salsa? Why eat food when chemistry is so much more delightful to the palate? How is an apple going to compete with the sexy refined sugars of a Twinkie? How do you get a two-year to eat oatmeal when she just got a rush of Coco Puffs? That’s like telling a crack head to try a puff of a Menthol Kool instead of the pipe.
But…food just wouldn’t go away. There were all those disturbing pictures of people starving – what’s that all about? Every year, especially in time to spoil Christmas, pictures of tiny children in some barren wind-swept desert without enough food to live on would appear. We sent them powered milk and white rice but they still seemed to be no better off. Some people said that there was plenty of food but that we were feeding it to animals instead of humans – that didn’t go down well at all. I mean it might be okay those brown skinned folks if they want to live on beans and porridge but we know our ancestral heritage – Spam and Cheeseburgers. After all, we are the descendents of cowboys; we need our meat! In fact to keep strong and powerful we need more meat than Neolithic hunters, more meat than lions and tigers. If we don’t get our meat we might as well just go into the front yard and eat grass. And another thing - we were getting tired of people telling us what to eat. We were getting feisty.
Even the farmers were getting into the act. All these farmers complaining that they couldn’t make a living and Willie Nelson and a bunch of hippies giving rock concerts to help them pay their rent. Why didn’t they simply follow the big guys? There were plenty of corporations out there running profitable farms; they were making money; they were successful. That’s the American way; reward success. Look at all the wonderful technology. Those scientists tinkering with genes and making square tomatoes and corn that doesn’t get eaten by insects and can fuel cars too! That’s the ticket.
In 2008 food started to get restless. There were food riots in Bangladesh and Haiti because the prices of food went through the roof. In Mexico the flour to make tortillas went up by 100% that was a real wake-up call. We aren’t talking about teen-agers paying more for a burrito at Taco-Bell. This is serious; this is about corn meal the basic food of these people. It’s a serious issue and something needed to be done. We needed help here.
Some people think that companies like Monsanto can fix the problem. They want to own all the corn in the world and the soybeans too; then they can figure out who gets what. They don’t just want to grow the beans and corn and sell lots of it; they want to own it. That’s right; they want to own all the food. That’s a big dream. Just imagine owning food for both the animals and the humans - Wow. If you own food; you own the people. Food doesn’t like to be owned, it’s for everyone.
This year people other than the usual suspects have been coaxing food out of that dark and mysterious closet it has been in for years. They have been making movies, writing books, teaching people how to cook – food is becoming popular again. People are learning how to respect it, how to treat it. Yep, food is making a comeback. But we all have to pay attention since there are many who would like to keep food in the background. If people start really thinking about food things could get complicated for big business and government too.
The government will put out a cute little pyramid that shows why you should eat more grains and vegetables and yet give meat and dairy industry almost all the subsidy money. That’s why a burger costs less than a salad. They give all the excess to schools and hospitals so that sick people can stay that way and innocent little tykes can get used to eating burgers every day. The fries, pickles and catsup make up the veggies.
We need to give food a break – food is generous if we respect it and plentiful if treated well. It gives us life and it can give us health; it can feed us all right out of the ground with little fuss or be dressed up, chemically enhanced and made into lifeless junk in a plastic package. Let’s not let them disrespect food that way. Let’s help get food out of the closet and into the pantry. Lets make 2010 the beginning of a new decade for food – one of health and bounty for the whole world. It could happen you know