I’ve read quite a few things about the local food movement but hadn’t gotten around to reading Gary Paul Nabhan’s Coming Home to Eat until this week. This is one of the books that kicked off the “local foods” movement and got people thinking beyond organic. I mean, organic is great but does it really “save” anything if the organic food is traveling 2000 miles to get to your plate?
Maybe you’ve come across (or remember) that phrase that feminists used in the 1960s to describe their conversation about women, domesticity, and politics: THE HOME IS POLITICAL.
Well, the same can be said of food. EVERYTHING YOU PUT IN YOUR MOUTH IS POLITICAL.
I love it when my students tell me that they can’t participate (or write a paper) about a political topic because they aren’t political. I suppose they mean that they don’t know anything about politics, don’t keep up with politics, and maybe not even vote.
I find this laughable because every time they open their mouths to eat or drink, they are making a political choice. Our current food system is highly politicized–controlled by a handful of large corporations who have invested heavily in the politicians in office. They own large parts of the government, continuing to control a food system upon which the majority of the population has become dependent.
But what if you want to break out? Break away from the industrialized food system? That, certainly, is a political decision, as well as one based on choices of health, finances, or morals.
Nabhan argues that you can break out–but it isn’t easy. Packaged, processed foods are so easy and ubiquitous. If you want to do this, you are going to be labeled a weirdo and made to feel bad. But stick with it. While you are enjoying good health and more money in your pocket, your name-calling friends will be waiting in line at the doctor’s office.
“What if each of us, day by day, fully fathomed where our food comes from, historically, ecologically, geographically, genetically? What would it be like if each of us recognized all the other lives connected to our own through the simple act of eating? What if we understood which other specifies were regenerated, and which were contaminated or destroyed by what we choose to eat, by our care or by our carelessness? The way we garden, gather, fish, or forage can be a communion, or it can become an ecological calamity. The more we understand where our food comes from, the greater the change there is that we can save the living riches of the natural world.” pg. 163.
As a side note: Nabhan wrote this while living in the southwest and he’d scavenge for wild foods frequently. In particular, he talks about Mesquite bean flour and prickly pear. I wish he’d gone into more detail here–descriptions for how and when to harvest and how to process. He talks about doing it but provides no directions or instructions. So I’ll be digging deeper into this because we specialize in Mesquite and prickly pear cactus on our farm right now. Not because we’ve chosen to but because that’s what nature has given us. If you are processing either of these right now, get in touch–I’d love to know how you are doing this!