Personal Stories, Shattered Faith — April 4, 2011 at 7:41 pm

What Are We Eating?

by

I’m convinced that food connects us to a place. It’s something we do at least two or three times a day given our time and resources. Or, if you’re still in school, Taco Bell at two in the morning may or may not count. But that’s for another time.

I do know that food has recently, in the past few years, become important for me to understand. There are huge benefits in knowing where your food comes from. Not only for peace of mind, but for the sake of our food culture. Your meat should not be cheap. And while we’re on the subject, let’s talk about the fact that we eat too much of it. Well, let’s just say as Americans, we consume a lot of meat. I am not a vegetarian, vegan or pescetarian (which I just learned is a person who eats seafood, but no other animal), but I do try to keep a minimal approach at eating meat.

People often say Portland, Oregon is a foodie town. I thought I loved food until I came to live here and realized that these people really love to eat. We have an amazing climate that allows our farmers to grow beautiful ingredients. My heart beats faster knowing that Spring and Summer are coming, as are gorgeous veggies and local artisan products. Local farmers are our rock stars. Sometimes I get nervous talking to them because in my mind, they are truly doing sacred work.

Here in the Pacific Northwest food has led me to become an activist of sorts. I have my own foodie blog. I’ve spent the majority of the past year learning how to cook better…baking bread on the weekends and curing bacon in the vegetable drawer. My wife and I are learning how to choose to invest in our food. Our American mentality has convinced us that food should be as cheap as possible. It is after all, such a seemingly short-lived product, as compared to a car or a house or an RV. The reality, though, is that long after that house has returned to dirt and that car is well… still rusted metal sitting in a scrap yard, the choices that we’ve made about what to eat have shaped both our landscapes and have likely forcibly shaped the landscapes and indigenous food cultures of people around the world.

We’re lucky to have such a good food culture that provides us with the means to buy more local. If a Wal-Mart is all you have, try connecting with local farmers or co-ops. I’m sure they would love to show you their hard work, and in return, pay them for the labor it takes to raise our food sustainably and humanely.

Lastly, I want to recognize that the ability to enter a discussion about choosing what to eat is a reflection of privilege. Many do not have access to the food they need or the resources to obtain it. It is necessary to recognize that this conversation exists because we are a food culture of both excess and also nutritional lack. You don’t have to be rich or pompous to enjoy good food. We all need it, so we might as well start learning how to buy and eat better — for our sakes and for the future of our food.

9 Comments

  • These are some good thoughts. We really do need to change our mentality about food. I recently learned that as a woman, my nutritional choices can literally affect the bodies of the next two generations of my family. Maybe I can learn to realize that the extra dollars spent on local produce are well spent.

  • Josh, I am glad to see a post on this topic here! Thank you for writing. I love what you said, “Lastly, I want to recognize that the ability to enter a discussion about choosing what to eat is a reflection of privilege.”

    As I have begun to educate myself about where food comes from and make informed and responsible food choices, I have felt convicted to also contribute somehow to the people who not only cannot make these choices, but may not even have food at all. It is both socially and environmentally responsible to eat local, fair-trade, etc. and I believe this is part of our God-given responsibilities, tracing back to Eden, but I hope my ability to choose pricey organic meat does not let me forget about the hungry. So I have decided recently that as I pursue a better ethics of eating, I will also contribute to Bread for the World, a Christian organization committed to feeding both body and soul.

    On another note, if you are a self-described “foodie,” I would suggest reading “The Spirit of Food” by Leslie Leyland Fields. One of the best books I have read this year, and an awe-inspiring treatment of food and faith.

    • Hey Stephanie, thanks for the comment and book recommendation! Will definitely have to take a look at it!

  • First, howdy from the Deep South (though across the unholy border in Alabama)!

    Second, it was interesting to me that the thought of my food intake and purchase was challenged in Los Angeles, but did not take root until I moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

    In November I made a trek to Atlanta to see Mumford and Sons, and was staying with a friend who is attending seminary at Emory. We decided to check out a Mennonite Church in town, and as we were leaving, the pastor shouted at us to stop. So, we stopped, what followed changed my perception and understanding of food and has set me on a bit of a food exploration.

    The Mennonite Church we attended had two positions: Pastor and Farmer. The farmer had the sole task of utilizing the church’s 6-acres to produce locally sustainable food for the community. They ran a CSA at the church and were planning on expanding. For those of you who do not know CSA stands for community supported agriculture. It is quite similar to Co-ops.

    When I returned to Tuscaloosa I began researching the principles behind CSAs and also explored the possibility of joining one. There were 6 total farms in Alabama, and 2 happened to be local. So, my roommate and I decided to do this. We purchased one share, and bought extra “salad mix” just to see what this was all about.

    All told, he and are paying $750, and will receive a week’s worth of locally grown, completely organic food every week, starting April 12 through Thanksgiving. As a college undergrad he thought it nifty. As someone who has been challenged about ideas of the church and social justice and sustainability, I am excited about beginning relationship with a local entity that is providing nurture to the local community.

    That is probably way too long of a comment, but all that to say…I agree with where you are headed with this.

    • James! Yes, dude…CSAs are great! My wife and I try to buy a half share a week when the season comes along. It’s also fun learning to cook with what’s seasonal — which is generally that funny lookin’ yellow squash thing in your basket. It’s kind of like Christmas.

      But…with…veggies…and…sustainable practices….
      So, it’s not really like Christmas at all — but it is exciting!

  • Hi Josh- I recently read a post (http://bit.ly/hg2uim) about the top 10 ways we say we’re being eco-friendly, but may, in reality, be doing the opposite. Eating local was on the list, from what I remember because of how farmers have started growing crops in places they just weren’t meant to grow- something like oranges in Maine.

    I’m just curious how you would respond to this. Thanks!

  • Hi Josh- I recently read a post (http://bit.ly/hg2uim) about the top 10 ways we say we’re being eco-friendly, but may, in reality, be doing the opposite. Eating local was on the list, from what I remember because of how farmers have started growing crops in places they just weren’t meant to grow- something like oranges in Maine.

    I’m just curious how you would respond to this. Thanks!

    • Hi Courtney,
      I think this is when we need to realize that we can’t have it all. When we choose to eat locally and seasonally, we’re choosing a lifestyle that’s not always easy. I’m not in a place where I can say what farmers should and shouldn’t do, but they know better than we do. Obviously orange groves in Maine aren’t the solution, but we should know by now that sometimes, farmers have little say in what they actually get to grow.

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