"We had it tested and it was so full of steroids that we never could have given it to athletes. They all would have tested positive." ~~ Frank Puleo, a caterer working for the united States Olympic Committee, after testing a 14-inch chicken breast purchased at a supermarket in Beijing, host of this years' summer OlympicsAs shocking as the toxicity of Beijing poultry is, do we really know what's in our food these days? In the rush to conform do we sacrifice years of good health - even life - by eating dangerous food products which our great great grandmothers would not even recognize as food? Do we have the respect we should for the cycle of life, the importance of food - whole food - and the soils from which they are born? What roles do corporations and governments play in determining what's on the shelves of our grocery stores and what's in the stuff that is placed there? Who's minding the store? Who's minding our choices? Who cares?
Way too big a topic to cover in a simple blog post. But I am thinking about certain aspects of food and eating and health and choices. Many options remain available, if only we snoop around a bit. I believe there is a better way to approach the fueling of our bodies. I believe it can be done with panache or simplicity or both. I believe it can take a prominent place in the fabric of our daily lives, to our betterment. And I think it's about time.
Michael Pollan writes in his book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto: "For most people for most of history, gathering and preparing food has been an occupation at the very heart of daily life. Traditionally people have allocated a far greater proportion of their income to food - as they still do in several of the countries where people eat better than we do and as a consequence are healthier than we are. Here, then, is one way in which we would do well to go a little native: backward, or perhaps it is forward, to a time and place where the gathering and preparing and enjoying of food were closer to the center of a well-lived life."
"Compared to the 9.9 percent of their income Americans spend on food, the Italians spend 14.9 percent, the French 14.9 percent, and the Spanish 17.1 percent." ~~In Defense of Food, by Michael PollanPollan continues, "In order to eat well we need to invest more time, effort, and resources in providing for our sustenance, to dust off a word, than most of us do today. A hallmark of the Western diet is food that is fast, cheap, and easy. Americans spend less than 10 percent of their income on food; they also spend less than a half hour a day preparing meals and little more than an hour enjoying them."
"In 1995 Americans spent twenty-seven minutes preparing meals and four minutes cleaning up after them; in 1965 the figure was forty-four minutes of preparation and twenty-one minutes of cleanup...all of which suggests a trend toward prepackaged meals."~~David M. Cutler, Journal of Economic PerspectivesPollan again: "Medicine is learning how to keep alive the people whom the Western diet is making sick. Doctors have gotten really good at keeping people with heart disease alive, and now they're hard at work on obesity and diabetes. Much more so than the human body, capitalism is marvelously adaptive, able to turn the problems it creates into new business opportunities; diet pills, heart bypass operations, insulin pumps, bariatric surgery. But though fast food [here again, food that is fast, cheap, and easy] may be good business for the health care industry, the cost to society - an estimated $250 billion a year in diet-related health care costs and rising rapidly - cannot be sustained indefinitely. An American born in 2000 has a 1 in 3 chance of developing diabetes in his lifetime...A diagnosis of diabetes subtracts roughly twelve years from one's life and living with the condition incurs medical costs of $13,000 a year (compared with $2,500 for someone without diabetes.)...Diabetes is well on its way to becoming normalized in the West - recognized as a whole new demographic and so a major marketing opportunity. Apparently it is easier, or at least a lot more profitable, to change a disease of civilization into a lifestyle than it is to change the way that civilization eats."
We have the choice to educate ourselves about our food supply and eating customs. We have the choice to take our health seriously, taking the matter into our own hands, to stop trusting those who profit off our ignorance.
Ultimately, I suppose, it comes down to what truly matters to us, for that is where choices are born.
I relish life. I really do. I enjoy finding full-flavored whole foods in my garden or community. I love to savor the sight and smell of each piece when I unload it from my shopping bag. Then, to cook it up with love for my family and friends, to present beautiful, life-sustaining foods, to savor the deliciousness of the meal along with the joy and laughter from those whose knees tuck under my table, whose hands are poised to participate in the mystery, knowing that I have done no harm, but provided goodness. Such is near the 'center of a well-lived life'.