Thursday, February 5, 2009

For love of food

A few months ago, I read The Omnivore's Dilemma. I'd enjoyed Pollan's Botany of Desire when I'd stumbled across it years back, even bought copies for a few friends who appreciated the rare blend of gardening, anthropology, and great storytelling. I was completely unprepared for the way this more recent book would change my life.

I couldn't stop thinking about it: I can honestly say that the book kept me up at night. I couldn't stop talking about it: friends, family, neighbors, students, my doctor, people standing with me waiting for the bus who were probably expecting small talk about the weather (poor souls). My parents just wanted a quiet Thanksgiving ("Enough with 'the way you spend your food dollars amounts to nothing less than a political act,' just pass the mashed potatoes!") so I did my best to muffle my outcries. Most people probably don't think about food as much as I do, I'll admit that. But the book had opened a veritable can of worms. I have always sought out fresh produce, but only more recently began to consider the implications of what it means to buy local, to weigh in the economic and environmental and nutritional benefits of supporting food systems that are seasonal and sustainable. I started buying my produce, eggs, and dairy almost exclusively at farmers markets. I started reading other books on food policy and local agriculture. There's a lot out there. I wanted to learn more.

I've been heartened by the existence of of a relatively small but growing and increasingly more visible community of people who are making choices to support small, local, sustainable farms and celebrating a return to slow food. I've been taking more time to talk with people, ask questions, learn about where my food comes from. I'm finding that the more people I engage in these conversations, the more we all begin to think about how even on our small, individual scale our food choices matter. I'll pass the mashed potatoes... in a minute.

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