Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken is an amazing book about the millions of organizations around the world that deal with critical issues of hunger, poverty, social justice, warfare, climate change and economic crisis. The first post in this series introduced the book and spoke of the connection between ecology and human rights.
This post focuses on the food that we eat, and how the growing and consuming of this food is an integral part of our social fabric. That's how we survived early on, and why it's part of our culture.
Food has always been at the heart of cultural identity. The loss of its traditional foods is just as devastating to a culture as the loss of its language. We can engage in the virtual world of iPod music and TV drama, but there is no virtual world of taste. It is in our mouth, and every day our mouth connects us to place.
Of the three physical things we need to survive, food – water – air, it's safe to say that food is what connects us most to the earth and to each other. Timed to the cycle of the four seasons, the plants and animals that ultimately end up at our table use the water and air, along with soil and sun, to provide us with all the nutrients we need to survive, and do so while also offering us an incredible range of colors, scents, flavors and textures.
But food represents so much more than just the end result. Throughout the growing season we are made aware of the fact that we're on a living planet and enacting the magical interplay between man and nature. The process of eating, which begins in the garden or at the market, provides us with a painter's palate with which to create a nourishing meal that is both personal when prepared and communal when served.
In Support of Slow Food
Mr. Hawkin uses the Slow Food organization to illustrate what many feel is a need to reclaim the essential history and richness of our food. Founded by Carlo Petrini in Orveieto, Italy in back 1986, Slow Food (alimento lento) has since grown into a movement that is 85,000 strong with over 1,000 chapters, known as convivium. From the Slow Food website:
Slow Food is good, clean and fair food. We believe that the food we eat should taste good; that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.
Check out the Slow Food Manifesto, a passionate call to enjoy the benefits of slow food, despite the fact that we've adopted a fast life. And if the passion strikes, you can even start your own chapter.
The sad reality is that since World War II we have seen a steady decline in small farms, fresh foods and home cooking. Our hectic lives make frozen, pre-cooked and fast foods tempting. And while that choice may save us a few minutes of time, it also breaks the bond we once had with the earth and, to some extent, each other.
Slow food supports the re-creation of networks of traditional food producers with customers to that both may thrive. It is about conserving the heritage of the exquisite variety of tastes humankind has created, which means organizing farmers markets and ensuring both that varieties of fruits and vegetables and rare breeds of animals do not become extinct, and that the people who are artisans of food are supported and can pass on their craft to future generations.
To those who argue that gastronomy is a privilege of the affluent and hardly a suitable environmental cause, (Carlo) Patrini replies that food lovers who are not environmentalists are naive, and an ecologist who does not take time to savor his food and culture leads a deprived life.
Are you making the effort to reconnect with food and friends?