The Politics of Food

About as apolitical as a subject can get: What did you have for dinner?


What you had for dinner is helping to determine not only your future health in basic direct and indirect ways but also the future economy of your country and the world and the environment that we all live in. You may have noticed a new icon to the left above my rather meager list of links. It is a link to a site called the Meatrix. Be warned – you won’t enjoy it as much if you don’t have the ability to watch Flash movies. This one site is a first step in education but there are many more.

I first got interested in these issues when I was only 14 years old. I was reading ‘Small Is Beautiful,” by E. F. Schumacher and had been helping my Dad grow vegetables in his organic allotment garden. I had also recently read parts of ‘Silent Spring’ and suddenly all these ideas crystallized in my head. It was one of the days I think back to as a day I started to grow up (some would be surprised that the process has started…)

I went on to read another book that is in contrast almost unknown and certainly out of print. More my kind of book, too, a recipe book called ‘Future Food’ by Colin Tudge. While far less political, this book makes the assumption that in the future in order to feed everyone we will have to eat far less meat. Not no meat, but far less meat. Some other assumptions are also made and the book then sets out to provide a global collection of recipes that anticipate our food needs in the future, mostly based on recipes from the past. The level of long term thought in what is essentially just a cookbook really impressed me as a teenager. Still does. I keep the book on the important cookbook shelf at home even though I almost never use it.

To turn this all to more practical use, I will discuss our dinner tonight. The main part is an old standby, mentioned before and cooked often at our house. We call it garlic pasta. Others might call it orzo con aglio et olio. Basically pasta with olive oil, garlic chili flakes and salt. Then a bunch of yellow chard supplied by the unsurpassed and truly wonderful Terra Firma Farms as part of our weekly box of organic produce. Finally some Tilapia (a kind of fish) sauteed in olive oil and then coated in a sauce made of lemon juice and a little Chinese black bean and garlic sauce. What is political in this meal? Well, first the choice of fish rather than meat – my daughter remains true to her vegetarian plus fish principles and fish is more sustainable than meat. That brings us to political point part two. Tilapia is a freshwater fish that is very easy and sustainably farmed throughout South America and China. It is also tasty and cheap. To drive the political points home. Unlike most people in America we did not eat a prepackaged meal. We minimized the mass-produced agribusiness part of our meal as much as possible (pasta from a large Italian conglomerate could be improved upon).

I urge you all to think about these issues and act on them. You will be a better person for it. Healthier, wealthier (good eating saves money), more considered, more considerate and you will have made a small step toward change.

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