The following post is an entry in the first challenge of Project Food Blog. My profile can be viewed here.
There have been moments recently in which I have found myself in a position to define myself, namely in the realm of food, and it has been simultaneously challenging and focus-sharpening. Difficult because I am not concise and I often contradict myself, but centering in that I have now had a chance to think a little more carefully about where I stand on the issue of food politics.
To wit: I have obsessed and run these things over in my head until I felt I could finally state my case.
Two weeks ago, while standing in line at Athens Locally Grown to pick up my market order, a young journalism student from The Red and Black approached me to ask some questions for an article she was writing on local food. If you know me well at all, then it should come as no surprise that I stared at her like a deer in the headlights and began to panic. I am socially challenged on a good day, and that fact, coupled with the knowledge that she would ask me questions like, "Why do you think it is important to buy locally-grown food," and knowing full well that I would be unable to express myself succinctly without writing my thoughts down first, were enough to put me in full freeze mode.
She took pity on me, in her blessed innocent inexperience, and said shyly, "You can say 'no' if you want," and I, with immense relief, finally exhaled and thanked her and sent her on her way.
This is Exhibit One on why I write rather than speak publicly.
It was on the drive home from the market that day, that I began to give more thought to my personal reasons for eating locally. A few years ago, my premise was entirely different from where I stand currently, and much resembled the tenets set out by Michael Pollan in The Omnivore's Dilemma and by Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, books that influenced me greatly in the decisions I now make regarding the food I purchase.
Like many others, I was disillusioned with industrialized agriculture, and by the environmental and public health effects of the mainstream food market, but was overwhelmed by the ethical decisions I seemed to face in every single food purchase from that point of awakening. Thankfully, my feelings have clarified a bit over time to where I am now able to state my case with a single bullet point.
My goal, in food purchasing, in gardening, in cooking, and in writing about food, is to educate my children on where food really comes from, and to instill a sense of pleasure in real food.
Vegetables do not come from Wal-Mart. Cakes and brownies do not come out a box with a picture of the finished product on the front. Beans and fruit and soups do not come out of cans, and salsa does not come from a bottle. Cookie dough is not unwrapped.
"Eggs" that can be purchased as a liquid in a cardboard milk carton are inessential. Chickens running around on a small farm, pecking and scratching at the ground, are not.
Milk comes from a cow, and butter, yogurt and cheese are made from milk. Flour is made from wheat, and that flour is used to make bread, brownies, cakes, and cookies. Farms are beautiful places, and farmers are some of the most intelligent and interesting people I have met.
Children should know the pleasure and the joy of going to the farm to pick up a box of vegetables and to pet the llamas and smell the flowers while we are there.
Children, I maintain, should know what a butternut squash looks like, should know the joy of eating blueberries straight from the bush, and should know that if mama has butter and flour and sugar on the counter, then something good is about to happen in the kitchen.
When Grandma brings us a bag of cucumbers from her garden, we can make our own pickles.
We can go into the front yard and pick blackberries in the morning, and have homemade jam by lunchtime.
I want my children to know that one goes to the store to buy ingredients, not meals. Dinner does not come from a box.
I want everyone to know this, and this is why I blog.