Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Politics of Eating

One of my oft-quoted reads has been M.F.K. Fisher's "The Art of Eating," a compilation of essays she wrote on food long before the word "foodie" was in our vernacular. It has much to say about the art of eating, as well as the philosophy, psychology, anthropology, romance and sometimes just the plain fun of eating. I don't remember her saying anything about the Politics of Eating, however.

Food corporations existed when she was writing about food, of course, but I don't think corporatism itself was as diabolical. It certainly hadn't taken over the world yet. But now, in the 21st century, way too much of what and how we eat is being determined by these corporations, and the governments they own.

I've been thinking about all of this a lot.

I am enjoying my life immensely after having dropped out. I look back at my on-air days on mainstream media and shudder at how controlled (bought?) I was by The Powers That Be, which in my case were the sponsors and shareholders.

A colleague and I used to laugh about what whores we were because we could not turn down lucrative work. Another colleague looked down on us for our "extra-curricular" activities selling our voice (and later, mug) for use in Big Time National Media Ads. He pretended to have some sort of journalistic integrity for not appearing in ads (though when he re-married someone who thought it was a good idea, his voice and face were all over the airwaves selling someone's something.) But I always thought we were all whores. C and I just managed to get the bigger bucks when the getting was good.

Now, I feel I am finally independent. My own boss. Happy in my autonomy. I jealously guard it, too. But you have to make a major effort to protect your independence.

Since Prop 37 (GMO Labeling) got voted out last November, I have been extra vigilant about what I shop and how I eat. I feel like I am making a political statement every time I buy food, choose my restaurants, grow and prep my food. Every bite is a bite out of Big Ag's coffers, no?

I both envy and despise those who can live in the fog. Trust governments. Trust Big Biz. Trust. Period. Shouldn't it be that way? Shouldn't we all be looking out for one another's welfare? Shouldn't we all care about each other?

We should, but we don't. So, when you are a minority, everything you do -- even your existence -- becomes political.

I learned that from a lesbian couple in Tokyo. If you are a heterosexual person, you never think that romance could be political. Who you love is who you love, right? But once outside the borders...... everything gets politicized.

You don't have to march in the streets or wave picket signs. You don't have to buy ad space in the New York Times. Just going about your non-mainstream business is political.

How am I doing so far? Glad you asked, because I am keeping a tally. Well, sort of, anyway.

Where I Failed

Let's get that out of the way first.

On the way back to the ranch, we stopped in Oxnard for gas. Big Dog hates to "waste" time (even for basics like eating and peeing -- good thing I am built like a camel) so I didn't make a fuss when he pulled into Burger King. We are both creeped out by fast food, but there is a toilet (yay!) and food (well.....) I think we both had "fish burgers." I tried not to think about what was in mine.

Big Dog has a sweet tooth. Pre-made, packaged sweets are filled with crap like high fructose corn syrup so although I am not a sweet person, I make batches of cookies or bars or pies or cakes on a regular basic. The problem is... I bought a bag of Nestle's White Chocolate Chips. It uses real sugar, I think (or is it from GM sugarbeets?) but there it is on the ingredient list: soy lecithin. OMG! Totally GMO!

We also had several nights where friends (all Red Blooded Meat Eating Gun Toting American Males) came for dinner, bringing with them tons of raw meat which Big Dog grilled. I had a sausage (ugh) and some chicken, a few bites of rib eye. I KNOW the sausage (which came out of a plastic package) was disgusting and filled with not only GMO products but chemicals, carcinogens et cetera. I can't say anything about the chicken or the beef but they were from supermarkets and warehouse stores.

The Easy Part

I was surprised at how easy it was to find organic and non-GMO options. I suppose if you relied on packaged (factory-made) items, it will be harder, but I never trusted all those ingredients that sound like they belong in a lab rather than in my body anyway.

See the Non-GMO logo next to Flag.
One of the biggest supermarket tofu brands, House, has a non-GMO project seal!! And it's not even their organic brand!! Hurray for House! (And, for now, boo for Kikkoman USA. I wrote to them last year about their soy sauce and they wrote back to tell me that their "conventional soy was made with beans from two Midwest suppliers who do not certify their beans to be non-GMO," although in a lab analysis of 3 different batches of soy sauce made at their Wisconsin plant, "there was no genetically modified DNA detected." Now, if only they could follow House's example...)

 And I was happy to see that organic bulk items -- cornmeal, soybeans, rice, flour -- are not terribly expensive. Once it gets weighed and packaged by someone else, the price goes up. If it's processed further, price goes up again. So if you are on a budget, it makes sense to invest in a slow cooker and cook your own dried beans rather than buying a can of cooked beans, for example.

"Natural food stores are too expensive," Big Dog keeps saying, but I was able to get organic soybeans for $1.89/lb and organic cornmeal for $1.29/lb. Soy and corn being the biggest GMO culprits that we need to be careful with, it was definitely worth it.

The Fun Part

Bright orange fungus!
Being back on the ranch is the Fun Part. There is still a lot of stuff growing. Some of the apple trees still had apples and we got about 5 gallons of the best of them. There are also the mushrooms. It drives me crazy that I don't know more about them -- some of them look downright tasty.

It's great fun foraging, and I think growing your own food is the ultimate political act when it comes to Food Independence. Though I am still way behind the curve, I love to peruse the seed catalogs that have been coming in, dreaming about my Future Bounty.

A new kind of mushroom. Looks yum.

Volunteer chard everywhere.
For now, I am happy with my brussel sprouts, salad greens, leafy greens, carrots, onions, greenhouse peppers... And what I don't grow, I can find at one of the many local farmer's markets.

Edible weeds!
Lecture over. Time to chow down!

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