Friday, October 17, 2008

Connecting with our food

I don't know how it is in the rest of the world at the moment, but here in Canada, we are stumbling and lurching and sometimes dying over continuing compromises to our (factory) food sources, recently we had a listeria outbreak linked to Maple Leaf Foods resulting in many deaths - still uncounted as autopsies need finalizations. The latest occurrence is in North Bay, in a well-known hamburger fast food chain: Harveys is now implicated in a fresh outbreak of e-coli.

The lingering horror of an e-coli outbreak due to a contaminated municipal water supply in Walkerton, Ontario is still with us, years later. I read in today's paper that the health effects - raised blood pressure, damaged kidneys - are still present in those who suffered from the bacterium. 7 people died and over 2500 were made ill in this small town, 8 years ago. And continued suffering is inevitable.

As we turn our very lives over to agri-business, the Cargills, Maple Leaf Foods, privateer water suppliers, et al, more and more of these types of outbreaks will be visited upon unsuspecting and trusting citizens.

I have read both of Michael Pollan's books:
The Omnivore's Dilemma

in which he explores the ubiqitous presence of corn in nearly all of our entire food supply and the near elimination of the independent farmer, all in highly readable form.


In Defense of Food

Here, he examines how very far removed from real food we have become and recommends how to shop (only buy products that are displayed on the outside walls of the supermarket, for one!). I don't think I'll ever forget the chapter on mushrooms. It has stayed with me.

Michael feels very strongly about what we are doing to our very lives by blindly eating the frankenfood on offer in most of our grocery stores today and has written a wonderful open letter, published in The New York Times, to the president-elect of the U.S. full of suggestions as to how we can reverse the harmful mismanagement of our precious food resources and put measures in place that restore us to healthful and mindful eating.

The key to a healthy outlook of course is in the very fuel we put in our bodies. The old maxim of garbage in and garbage out has never been more manifested than in what we eat. It affects our very souls.

I manage to buy at Farmers' Markets when I can or at the side of the road here. There is nothing more positive than connecting to the grower of your food or the catcher of your fish. Apart from doing it all yourself, of course.

How on earth did we all get to this fast-food, highly processed, Macfood world of ours?

Like Morgan Spurlock, we are all what we eat, unthinking robots, exactly where BigFoodCorp wants us.


  1. Worrying, isn't it, WWW! Over time (if man survives) it's bound to affect evolution in some way, I suppose. Diet is said to be an important factor in how creatures evolve.

    As well as pleasing BigFoodCorp it almost certainly pleases BigPharma and BigInsurance!

  2. I think in Australia here we are very lucky in the sense that we can find fresh fruits, vegetables of all kind (although I am having trouble finding fresh garlic that doesn't come from China).
    Also if you want to go eat out the choices are limitless Thai, Indian, Malasian, Italian, did I say Indian, African, Lebanese, Middle Eastern, French, Japanese etc. (I don't count Chinese because of MSG issues) Because there is such a big variety, although there are fast food chains people do have healthier options.
    The one thing that upsets me though the parents taking their kids to McDonalds for important events like kids' birthdays. The message to the child there is terribly wrong.
    What was it about the mushrooms in Pollan's book? We are planning to grow our own mushrooms this year.

  3. Despite all the politicians advocating healthier food, and the supermarkets claiming their food's getting healthier, there's still mountains of the same old processed, synthetic, heart-rotting food for sale and still plenty of people buying the stuff. Perhaps the only way to bring about healthy eating would be to abolish supermarkets altogether.

    Personally I eat masses of fruit and veg, plus dates, nuts and other proper food. I can't say junk food never passes my lips, but hopefully the rest of my diet neutralises it.

  4. @T:
    I don't know how we ever got to this point, it truly baffles me. Maybe consumerism, picking up the pace of life, microwaves, too much responsibility, blinded by our desire for 'better'? 'Better' what, exactly?
    Yes we have vast varieties of foods here but some are of the 3000 mile caesar salad variety, great distances travelled even when they are organic (me:organic aragula the other day: source Chile) It boggles the mind.
    Pollan sources wild mushrooms in the book and cites them of being of the feminine side of life, thriving under Luna the moon goddess, their threads magically weaving across the earth, connected to each other.
    it is the processed food that is so damaging to all of us. Fresh is where it's at, even though we're not perfect every day, as long as we try to eat healthfully of nature's true bounty and feel connected to it. Mindful eating.

  5. Greed, greed, greed of the corporates, coupled to the faster, more hectic lifestyles forced on us by......the corporates, coupled with the pressures of media advertising forced on us by......the corporates...

    Do you get the impression it's the fault of the corporates.....?

  6. RJA:
    And also of us, the sheeple, blindly following where they lead us.
    I am so glad to read of more and more of us waking up and just not taking it anymore!

  7. It's so easy and comfortable to be blind and eat what we want that is quick and easy and not search our conscious for the rightness of it, but to remain ignorant and stupid. It's nice to be ignorant and not make the effort not to be, because it is an effort and you can then claim not to know.

  8. I always say that 'you can't put 2-star petrol into a 4-star engine and expect to get away with it for long'

    Food is something I have always paid good money for and refuse to go cheap on. In addition the higher the vitamin content of the food you buy, the less of it you need as your body will not create an artificial hunger to keep you eating to satisfy it.'

    But I try not to be too smug just 'cos I am vegetarian. Nor is it my duty to try and say that this is the way for others to be.

    All I beg my friends to do is buy the best they can afford and try to make it as local, organic and high-quality as possibe as this will be kinder to your body, kinder to any animals you eat and kinder to the environment. If you are lucky enough to be able to grow some of your own - even better!

    That is horrific about the deaths WWW. If it happens here, they must be keeping it very quiet as you seldom hear about worse than the odd food poisoning outbreak from which people have recovered.

  9. i do really like michael pollan, even though i always get scared reading his stuff.

    the most recent e-coli outbreaks here in the states have been linked to vegetables--spinach, tomatoes and peppers.

    that's frustrating--if you can't trust the fresh veggies in the grocery store, what can you trust?

  10. @Irene:
    I can follow your thinking but there is nothing more enlightening than being aware too, right. And certainly for me, who's had BIG food issues, healthful and conscious eating has been part of my journey. Though, I hasten to add, I am far from perfect!!!
    I try and follow what you're doing. I was a vegetarian for years but went back to mainly fish about 6 years ago. My blood seems to do better on that kind of protein. I have more plans for the back meadow next year now that the potatoes did so well!!
    He is certainly waking us all up. I read about your e-coli also and even the word 'organic' has been compromised by big corp. Are there any farmer's markets where you are?

  11. When I moved to the US from Norway 4yrs ago, one of my biggest culture shocks was the food. I couldn't believe that people ate such terrible stuff. I was used to a really fresh, natural diet and have been horrified by hormones etc in milk and chemicals everywhere. Corn syrup in everything is something I'd never encountered before.
    I miss quality food more than anything. Now I bake my own bread (for a family of 5), buy organic milk for my kids and grow and can my own veggies as much as possible. When I can't, I buy from a local organic farm. It's a lot of work, but my kids have less acne than their US peers and stronger immune systems. We also use less over-the-counter medications preferring natural methods like honey and peppermint to ease our colds etc.
    I believe strongly in preventive care and think that the rubbish Americans put in their bodies that they call food, is the reason for many of their health issues.

  12. Welcome Expatkat!
    I think taking care of ourselves is a lot of work but well worth it. Like you, I avoid bigpharm at all costs and buy local produce and experimented with starting my own veggie garden this year and will expand next year.
    The American/Canadian diet is horrifying. I truly believe it serves to sedate most of the population.

  13. One of the things about being on a low salt diet, as I am, is that you do get into the habit of read the contents list on packs of manufactured food. It astonishes me how much salt is in even the things you thought wouldn't contain much - chocolate and biscuits, for example. And sugar in tinned beked beans! It shows how insidiously we become addicted without knowing. Low fat items meant for dieting regimes contain even more salt - as if to compensate for the lower calories. And food labelling isn't very consistent and it is so easy to misread them. I think I'm alright with salads though, aren't I?

  14. OF:
    I so agree - never has caveat emptor been more important. Fresh and unprocessed and you can't go wrong.
    It is the processing that is deadly.


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