I just got back from seeing "Food, Inc." with my sons at our church.
It's been on PBS all week, but I couldn't watch all of it. Its really hard for me to watch it, because it really speaks to me, and I was so affected by the issues it discusses over 20 years ago that I became a vegetarian for 15 years.
It saddens me to see the warnings of 20 years ago become today's realities. I feel somehow responsible, because it is my generation that created this mess, trying to feed the world, and eradicate hunger, and now we have a whole new mess on our hands because with the power to feed the world, also came corruption on the back of greed.
I now feel that becoming a vegetarian was wimping out. It is too passive of an action and doesn't really address the original problems. Vegetarian eating is healthier and helps with meditation, but it isn't an answer to anything.
In movies and television I saw as a kid, people used to make fun of farmers who moved to the city. They were portrayed as gullible and clueless, and became targets of scams. I think that they had the most honorable work -- feeding the rest of us. They should be our heroes.
The way farming is done now is very different and it has lost all its honor. It has become a black box that no one looks inside of.
I had already read two of Michael Pollen's books. I know what he is saying, but watching it on the screen was difficult. This is how black boxes work. We put things that are hard to look at inside the box. Out of sight, out of mind.
The end of the movie lists things anyone can do to make a different world for the future. I have been doing some of them:
The first thing was to have my sons watch Food, Inc. and discuss it with them. I explained that the movie was what guided how I have been shopping for the last few years, so they know why I do what I am doing.
This week I doubled the size of my small urban vegetable garden. I follow organic gardening practices I learned many years ago, but never had any place to garden. I have the tiniest urban lot, but I find that to be no excuse anymore.
A few years back, we were at the Milwaukee Zoo at the farming exhibit. The master gardeners had a very small plot of land next to the barn which was filled with every kind of vegetable possible. It was such an efficient use of the small amount of space that I could see that it was probably going to produce enough to feed an entire family. I don't have much of a green thumb. It's more Chartruse, but if they can do it, I can learn.
Two years ago I began to purchase all of my food organic, and as much of it locally grown as possible. Its more expensive, but if I cook from scratch, the food is much better and the expense is less.
I cook my own food, and we have meals together as a family. I love this part. I started out in college thinking I would never learn to cook because it wasn't that important of a skill. Now I have watched a few thousand cooking shows and I love cooking. Its a very sensual and purposeful thing to do. Cooking for people you care about is a great way to love them.
By cooking more, I can buy what is fresh, looks good and is in season, instead of relying on whatever is "on sale and stale."
The kids and I visit farms.
We go to the Farmer's Markets in the area.
I read labels. We sometimes buy organic meats, free-range, local products.
I am mostly a Pescatarian now, after being an ovo-lacto vegetarian for 12 years, a vegan for one year, and a macrobiotic for one year. I do eat some meat. The word that best describes my eating style is "flexitarian" something I adopted as a label after finding that going back to eating a lot of meat made me feel somewhat sick.
Flexitarian is nice for all those times when people make fun of the various labels that people use to describe how they eat. It isn't about having rigid rules that you follow to somehow save the world or yourself. Eating is mostly a cultural thing. It affects your social life most of all, secondly your health, and then the health and lives of all those who are affected by what you choose to eat.