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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Real Food?

What's this all about? What do I mean when I say "real food"? Why would I start another blog?

I was at BadSeed Farmer's Market visiting with Paul and Judy Miller of PJ's Emporium Inc. (they grow oyster and shitake mushrooms and raise free-range organic brown eggs), and I was asking about their chickens. I commented, "Oh, so you have real chickens." Judy, understandably, looked confused. I went on to explain that from my point-of-view, commercially-raised chickens are not "real" chickens. Real chickens prance around a farmyard and pick at insects, grains, and foodstuffs from the ground. They cluck. They have (to some extent) personalities.

It's the difference between this:
And this:

Hopefully, you can see what I mean when I say "real chickens."

Human beings cannot survive without eating food. Sadly, we have not yet evolved to be as plants are,  with the ability to photosynthesize and obtain energy directly from the sun. We must eat fruits, plants, and animals. There's no way around that. I tell my students, "If it doesn't look like a fruit, plant, or animal, then it is NOT REAL FOOD."

Real food does not come in a box or a bag or a bottle.

Real food comes from the ground, from a tree, from a living and breathing organism.

Real food does not need to be processed. Real food needs to be prepared. That means you clean it, you cook it, you eat it. Sometimes it means you have to crack a shell or two - like on nuts and eggs. It's not rocket science! Real food is easy. Tasty, too, when you know how to cook.

I stopped for a snack from the gas station, and I was trying to find something that had ingredients that I knew what they were without a lot of thought. I found three things there that qualified: kettle cooked potato chips (potatoes, oil, salt), fresh fruit, and milk. That's all I found. Everything else I looked at was full of mystery ingredients: disodium inosinate, sodium orthophosphate, monosodium glutamate (MSG), disodium guanylate. Huh? That seems like a lot of sodium - but it's not salt (NaCl). Whatever is in those products is not real food.

Not only is that stuff not real food, I don't know where it comes from or how it's made. The best meals of my life were eaten as I sat at the rickety formica table on my Great-Aunt Olive's farm in southern Indiana - where each vegetable came out of her garden, and the meat came from my Great-Uncle Charles' farm. Yes, I had known Fric and Frac when they were but young calves; I'd even fed them a bottle of milk or two. We had some delicious steaks and pot roasts as a result of those two heifers. I know exactly from where that food came. I know who picked the vegetables. I know who slaughtered the cows. I know how my food was prepared, and who cooked it. It was REAL FOOD.

With many people's minds on the seemingly endless stream of petroleum pouring into the world's waters, people are starting to talk about the environment. Many experts say it is too late.

The use of pesticides and herbicides is rampant in commercial agriculture. We've developed a dependence on monoculture, rather than diversity in our food crops. In fact, it is almost impossible to buy seed corn without having to purchase GM corn that can only be grown in conjunction with the use of pesticides! When you take a look at how pervasive the use of corn is in modern foodstuffs, that should be somewhat alarming. GM corn is not real food.

I am on a mission. I want to eventually wean myself off of any and all processed "food" - which,  frankly, isn't food. Food has flavor that's not added or enhanced by chemicals. Food provides nutrition and not just empty calories. Food has enzymes which help us digest, nourishes us, and (surprisingly) makes us perform better. I want to know where every morsel of food that goes into my body comes from.

I have dreams of an all-organic farm community, where life revolves around the seasons and weather. Where we eat often and well, and delight in sharing the gifts of the earth's bounty with others. I have visions of an organic restaurant/café where the patrons regularly boast, "That's the best food I've ever eaten!" I will simply smile and say, "Of course it is. It's real food."

Some people might call me crazy, impractical, or quixotic. Maybe I am.

But I'm not wrong. Our future as a species hinges on our relationship to food. Until we've mastered that pesky photosynthesis issue - we should focus our energies on eating more real food - putting the power back in our hands, and returning to the origin of all we are.