I hear there’s a party going on in here. I’m not sure which bar I should hit first, the wine or the wheatgrass… My globetrotting wife Kris is in South Carolina for the weekend - in the middle of an all day yoga class as we speak - so I thought I’d kick things off with our little book club.
For anyone just dropping by, we’ve begun reading Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food.
First off, I love Pollan’s writing. He has such a talent for digesting (pardon the pun) our familiar world and reflecting it back to us with a fresh, clear perspective. You see connections where you hadn’t before, and learn that there are deliberate forces, often political, influencing parts of our lives that we assumed were the domain of chance.
We live in a strange time, food-wise. As our world shrinks, our food options grow larger. Consider the produce section at your mega-grocery: it’s brimming with exotic choices our parents and grandparents never even heard of, let alone had access to. And this bounty is available season after season, all year around. We take this so for granted that we need a leap of imagination to realize just how novel and unnatural this is. As they say, “it’s always summer somewhere.” This, of course, brings up a variety of related issues: the connection between chow transport and global warming; the reliance on preservatives and GMO for longer shelf-life, to name a few.
Pollan talks about how much our diets have changed over the past few generations – for good and bad. He describes his Grandmother’s diet in the 1940’s, his Mom’s in the 1960’s, and now his. We all know our family stories – who, when, where - but do you know your food story?
My Mom grew up during the 1930’s and 40’s. Her relationship to food was probably typical of an upper-middle class American family at the time. (Hi Mom. I know you’re out there but either too shy to comment or can’t figure out how to sign in. Or both.) When she was a kid, it was a special occasion to have citrus fruit, for example. At Christmas they’d get a bag of oranges - all the way from a place called Florida!!
Back then dinner was a sit-down family affair, and she continued this tradition when I was growing up. We had a big old farm bell in our suburban front yard. You could hear it all the way to the edge of my known world, and when it rang, you’d better haul your ass home to dinner. Of course my brother, sister, and I tended to resent this tribal obligation. While many of our friends were free to wander home whenever they pleased and forage for leftovers or TV dinners, we were stuck in Family Land, talking, laughing, and passing around hot casseroles. In hindsight, from the perspective of nutrition, some of the food was unhealthy. But the meal - the overall experience - was infinitely nourishing.
As Pollan writes in the intro: “We forget that historically, people have eaten for a great many reasons other than biological necessity. Food is also about pleasure, about community, about family and spirituality, about our relationship to the natural world, and about expressing our identity.”
We know instinctively that food and community are inseparable, but we struggle so hard in this drive-thru age. Incredible advances have been made in nutrition – not all old habits are good just because they’re old - and I for one am happy for the variety today. But with 1 in 6 Americans eating lunch in the car, how do we change the system and reclaim a holistic definition of EAT?
What was a meal for you growing up? Talk to your families – hopefully you’re lucky enough to have a few generations still hanging around – find out what they ate. And how they ate. And why. What about your distant ancestors? What is your Gastro-Geneology?
Would love to hear your thoughts on In Defense of Food.
PS - thanks Dhrumil for a great blog!
Bookworm Posse: "In Defense of Food" pt. 1
Saturday, February 9, 2008
Posted by cancer cowgirl xo at 3:46 PM