We are small-scale farmers who support local food, sustainable and organic growing practices, and the farm-to-consumer marketing model. We value these things because we believe they are good not only for our own health, but also for the health of our customers, our community, and the future of our species and our planet. A natural outcome of these values is the practice of cooking and eating fresh, minimally-processed, responsibly-produced food that is nourishing for the body and the soul.
When charismatic, articulate ambassadors for this kind of food do things that reach a large audience, it makes me happy. I recently came upon two posts on Chef Andrew Little's blog (thanks to Blue Heron Farm and GreenAkeys Farm blogs for pointing the way) linking to videos of excellent TED2010 talks about improving the food we eat. I found both inspiring. The information is presented in an interesting, thought-provoking way that fires me up to do something about it!
The first video is Chef Jamie Oliver speaking about overhauling the American diet. This talk gives us a chance to hear the ideas and motivation behind his project in West Virginia without the reality-TV gimmicks. The bar chart of mortality statistics is arresting; Oliver points out the irony of our obsessive fear of homicide while we are killing ourselves with food and lifestyle.
When he talked about encountering children who are the third generation to grow up without a family tradition of cooking, at first I wasn't surprised. But then I really thought about it and I was astounded by the idea. Ed and I both grew up in homes in which we sat down with our families almost every night to eat a home-cooked meal prepared by our mothers. Both of my grandmothers baked bread from scratch, cooked meat from animals they raised, and preserved home-grown produce. I can't imagine growing up not only without knowing how to cook, but also without thinking of cooking as a normal part of life. With so many Americans so far removed from preparing their own food, is it any wonder that we, as a nation, are dying of diet-related diseases?
I had another 'aha' moment when Oliver spoke about how fast food restaurants (and prepared food manufacturers and other restaurants) have "weaned us on to these hits of sugar, salt and fat, and x, y, and z". I think the term 'hit' is perfect. That is how it feels to me, now that I am aware of it. How many times have I continued eating something after I am no longer hungry, still trying to get more of that 'fix'? Our palates have been trained and our bodies and brains now expect regular doses of these concentrated flavors. With that perspective, it is easy to see why so many of us are disinclined to eat real food - it doesn't push those buttons with the intensity and immediacy of food-like substances which have been designed to do just that. Though these ideas have been well-discussed in the past (Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma come to mind), I was glad to be reminded again of the challenges which have been built into our culture's food landscape.
Oliver concludes with his wish as winner of the 2010 TEDPrize: "I wish for everyone to help create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again, and empower people everywhere to fight obesity." He already has a great start on this with his Ministry of Food program in England. It sounds great to me! Let's cook!
I'll get to the second video, Chef Dan Barber talking about sustainable food production, in another post.