Does anyone else think that Americans don’t know how to eat anymore? It certainly seems that way from the glut of books, food gurus, and diet programs that exist to tell us how to eat. Do we really need to be told what to eat, what not to eat, when to stop eating, whether it’s better to eat organic or things that were grown with toxic chemicals, how to tell if something even has any nutritional value at all?
C’mon. We KNOW how to eat. Okay, I’ll have to admit that’s hard to believe when you look around and see the industrially-raised, genetically-modified, chemically-enhanced, preservatived to within an inch of its life, sugar and fat-infused stuff that America claims to run on.
Maybe what I should say is that once upon a time, we knew how to eat. You ate what you could grow fairly easily and naturally wherever you happened to live. You ate what you could raise and butcher. You ate what you could catch and clean. If you were lucky, you traded with others who lived nearby – some of what you raised and preserved for some of what they killed and dried. Very few people ate to excess because very few people had an endless supply of food.
But that’s all changed. Now we seem to think it’s our god-given right to eat pineapple in the dead of a Minnesota winter, strawberries all year ’round in New England, (endless!) shrimp even if we live nowhere near the ocean. And then we wonder why these things have no taste. Or why we are changing the climate, burning holes in the ozone layer, deforesting the planet, and killing the oceans in order to make sure we have all these things whenever and wherever we want them. Or we wonder why we have to drive to the gym to run on a motorized treadmill to keep our hearts healthy or why we have an epidemic of type-2 diabetes and an emerging epidemic of childhood obesity.
It’s really no wonder. It’s because we don’t have to work for our food anymore. And because half the stuff that’s packaged and sold to us as food has no nutritional value whatsoever (and leaves us hungrier and craving more) and because somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten that we are meant to eat to live NOT live to eat. (And we’ve definitely lost all concept of portion control.)
Michael Pollan suggests that we don’t eat anything that our great-grandparents wouldn’t recognize as food. Sounds simple enough. I’d also like to see more of us get more of our food the way our great-grandparents did as well – by growing it, storing it away ourselves, cooking things from locally-made scratch and bartering and sharing with neighbors. I know, I know … there goes Eve sounding all hippie-granola. But there really is nothing quite like knowing where your food comes from, supporting your farming/cheese making/beer brewing neighbors, and getting your hands into the dirt and your own food as well. (Just please, wash them in between!) It’s healthier for the planet and healthier for you, too. And it really is how much of the rest of the world eats.
Good eating and good living!
~Deb Eve (who today is wearing her HeadStart Health & Nutrition Manager’s hat)