Monday, February 3, 2014

5 Food Stories I Never Want to Hear Again!

1. Ten foods to Avoid
2. Gluten Free Baguettes
3. Fat Free Whipping Cream
4. Belly Fat Sparing Meat Substitue
5. Low Carb Anything

"Good for your skin," said my Japanese friend encouragingly as she dug into a bowl of motsu, a dish made of pork guts, offal. I stared in disbelief. With nearly every dish, the connection between food and body was established during my time in Japan with quips like, "Good for your liver!" Prescriptive eating suggestions abound in other cultures except in the States where the eater is more often encouraged to avoid foods. "No fat!" "No white foods!" "No gluten!" "10 Worst Foods Ever!" It's amazing there is anything left to eat here, but then it's just the one thing. The grapefruit diet! Cabbage soup! Kale! All or nothing.

Food choices matter whether in the form of waste created or demand for a limited resource. Think of over developed chicken breasts throwing chickens off balance or overfishing shark to feed the appetite for shark fin soup.

The environment is shaped by our food choices-- hog shit geysers spewing forth at factory farms, fertilizers laying waste the water supply in an effort to squeeze ever more yield from crops, genetically modified seeds that have to be purchased every time (no seed saving), grain feed and some extra protein (sometimes parts of the same animal) for animals that for thousands of years have eaten only grass, antibiotics indiscriminately added to animal feed. The list goes on.

Food choices reflect seasons, celebrations, necessity, hunger, and even presence-- because it's there. We also choose foods because they give us a sense of power and control or prestige or because they comfort us. So often the discussion of what ails us is about avoiding foods which also avoids the conversation about what we really need to control (stress, problems, work, kids, relationships, family, etc.).

In 2007 prior to departing for Japan, laying about in the heat of the Ohio summer in my in-law's guest room feeling rootless and uncertain about the impending move, I read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. I laughed myself silly over her turkeys that could not fathom how to procreate. We have drifted so far from understanding food that even animals struggle with how to be animals without models for behavior.

I long to hear things framed positively like, "eat chocolate, it heals," or "risotto is good for stress." Instead, I'll settle for stories that encourage the consumption of the whole, real, and local food.


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