The Importance of Good Food

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by Maggie Lyon

Photo by Maggie Lyon.

I’m out of work, which for all intents and purposes isn’t that great, but it does afford me the time to read through the entirety of newspapers, magazines and the like. Pair this with the virtually unlimited number of documentaries available on Netflix and we have some serious couch enlightenment happening.

I have started to revisit an old political issue in the past few weeks: Food. Even after reading about and watching the tumult surrounding our food and water sources, I was still slightly unaffected until this afternoon, and all it took was a homemade panino.

by Maggie Lyon

 

I’M OUT OF WORK, which for all intents and purposes isn’t that great, but it does afford me the time to read through the entirety of newspapers, magazines and the like. Pair this with the virtually unlimited number of documentaries available on Netflix and we have some serious couch enlightenment happening.

I have started to revisit an old political issue in the past few weeks: Food. Even after reading about and watching the tumult surrounding our food and water sources, I was still slightly unaffected until this afternoon, and all it took was a homemade panino.

There isn’t much in the fridge these days beside some condiments and rapidly fading vegetables. Today I was trying to use some things up before their time expired: some multigrain hearth bread, mayo, garlic and parsley marinated chicken breast, thinly sliced granny smith apple, and some brie I bought with a $3.00 coupon. After preheating my Panini press, which looks like a metallic George Forman grill, I slid the sandwich under its small, tightly-packed grates. A phone call and some sips of cold coffee later, this guy was ready to come out and be sliced neatly on the bias to showcase its cross section. One bite in. That’s all it took to put all the articles, documentaries, conversations, books, interviews, and the whole war on modern, Westernized food into context. My blinded eyes began to see. Factory brie, apples from Venezuela, antibiotic-free-but-raised-on-corn-in-a-windowless-lot chicken, bread from the “hearth” of Shaw’s supermarket? Did I actually buy this crap?

Yeah, I definitely did, and it’s because I can’t go scavenging about our state to pluck these ingredients from some organic farmer’s worn gloves. And because I can’t afford to replace my Teflon equipment with beautiful cast-iron cook wear. This begs the question: What can I do?

Photo by Maggie Lyon.

Good question. Michael Pollen just came out with another set of guidelines for eating. It’s actually a series of rules and they’re not all that difficult to live by. But does it really take just one guy telling us what to do? Can’t we figure this out on our own? Alice Waters, renowned for her restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California and for her work towards slower food, has relentlessly advocated wholesome food. In a June interview with 60 Minutes, Waters preached her practiced m.o.:

“I feel that good food should be a right and not a privilege and it needs to be without pesticides and herbicides. And everybody deserves this food. And that’s not elitist.”

Many people (i.e. most of my friends and peers in the educated but low-earning demographic) find it’s increasingly difficult to eat well while keeping some of that hard earned cash in their wallets. My friends, it is possible, but there are caveats such as time. If you choose to go in this direction, you are going to need time to pursue these better food goals.

Unlike the ease of whipping in and out of a fast food stand or even a supermarket with semi-prepared items, finding quality food and then preparing it takes a considerable amount of time. Finding quality prepared foods takes a considerable amount of money. I find that people who would like to eat better become instantly overwhelmed when they try to take the plunge all at once. The trick is patience. Be realistic about your time. If you have a couple of free days a week, the integration can be pretty simple, while if you’re working a couple of jobs, the process is likely to integrate more slowly. Let it take the time it needs and you’ll get the payoff you wanted.

When I graduated from college, I decided to go make a little cash and work on a farm. What I wasn’t expecting was busting my ass for an extremely low sum. What did I really think was going to happen? I was an apprentice for Pete’s sake. But the true reward of all this labor was the bounty I was able to take home and meeting people who knew where health started. That summer was the healthiest I’ve ever been. Working in the fields, eating food I grew, and having meaningful conversations about gastronomy and nutrition filled my body and soul.

I may never get back to that place where time seemed never-ending and there was always a new weird food project I wanted to start(lacto-fermented pickles or raw herbed cream cheese, anyone?). I may not get 40 pounds of vegetables for free ever again in my life, but I know that it’s possible to be healthy, to know where your food comes from, and to making lasting changes one recipe at a time.

It may seem intimidating–it certainly is for me–but it’s worth the effort. Do it just like starting a new job: at first you don’t know it all, but little by little you figure out what works and you stick to it. Start by doing a Google search for your favorite vegetable in the area. Maybe some locally made cheese or wine. Talk with the people who sell it because food is a conversation; it’s a craft to be respected and discussed. Good food belongs to all of us.

Good web pages for good food:

Weston A. Price Foundation. Wonderful resource for articles on health and nutrition based on the findings of Weston A. Price, a dentist seeking why Westernized foods were destroying the bone structures of Americans and people living on a diets of processed foods.

The Connecticut Branch of the Northeast Organic Farmer’s Association. Full of farm resources concerning local farms, food, farming, and health lectures, and articles.

Edible Nutmeg is a wonderful (and free) quarterly publication filled with articles about local people and farms, gardening tricks and tips, recipes, and community listings for events and farmer’s markets. Edible Nutmeg is a subsidiary of Edible Communities Publications, which puts out several quarterly publications catering to the local foods of various areas.

Slow Food is an organization began in Italy and became a sensation in America as well. A wonderful publication and site devoted to eating and growing slower in the States, with an emphasis on urban home dwellers.

Yale Sustainable Food Project is an amazing grassroots branch of the university. By signing up for their mailing list you receive information on work days on the farm (if you’re interested in volunteering) and listings for food, health and farming lectures.

 

by & filed under Appetizers, Food.