Thursday, January 23, 2014

Eating Responsibly

My grandchildren love to cook in their pretend kitchen. Their fresh produce boasts vibrant colors and shiny finishes. I was struck at how much that pretend food resembles much of what we find in the gleaming produce aisles of the supermarket.

Is this stylized version of food what folks want to eat?
Wendell Berry shares the following observation in his essay "The Pleasures of Eating."
"... food wears as much makeup as the actors. If one gained one's whole knowledge of food from these advertisements (as some presumably do), one would not know that the various edibles were ever living creatures, or that they all come from the soil, or that they were produced by work. The passive American consumer, sitting down to a meal of prepared or fast food, confronts a platter covered with inert, anonymous substances that have been processed, dyed, breaded, sauced, gravied, ground, pulped, strained, blended, prettified and sanitized beyond resemblance to any part of any creature that ever lived. The products of nature and agriculture have been made, to all appearances, the products of industry. "
Berry contends that eating is an agricultural act.
"Most eaters ... think of food as an agricultural product but do not think of themselves as participants in agriculture. They think of themselves as consumers. If they think beyond that, they recognize that they are passive consumers. They buy what they want – or what they have been persuaded to want – within the limits of what they can get. They pay, mostly without protest, what they are charged. And they mostly ignore certain critical questions about the quality and the cost of what they are sold. how fresh is it? How pure or clean is it, how free of dangerous chemicals? How far was it transported and what did transportation add to the cost? How much did manufacturing or packaging or advertising add to the cost? When the food product has been manufactured or processed or precooked, how has that affected its quality of price or nutritional value."
These questions are some of what I'm thinking about on this cold January afternoon as the snow swirls around the high tunnel, drifting in the fields and coating trees in the orchard with white.

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