A little light reading ..........

I've been asked to give a presentation on the economic impact of local foods. It sounds soooo easy. Talk a little petroleum consumption, the BTU's spent getting an apple here, the cost of chemicals and genetics to get a strawberry that will survive a 2000 mile trek and the loss of flavor in that tomato on your sandwich.

But it so much more.

Food has deep social connotations. I remember horrible "graham cracker crust, DreamWhip, instant pudding and gelatin desserts" that my mother would make for community showers. They were the in-food, hottest recipes around. Better eating through chemistry??? What was in that stuff??? Processed foods were the way of the future. Making food from scratch wasn't as "progressive". I remember stating that "when I get married, I want plain old-fashioned strawberry shortcake". Didn't happen.

Food evokes great emotion. I went to a church youth party where the menu was hot dogs and baked beans. I, to this day, hate baked beans! I could not participate in the games until I ate the baked beans. I cried. For years ... I would not eat a legume. No pinto beans, no kidney beans, no split pea and definitely, nothing with the name lentils. Oooooh.

Now, I love them.

But I never thought food as a political agenda. I'm discovering that I was wrong.

My background is in home economics. Loved 4-H .... could knit and cook with the best of them! And food, food production and food processing has always been important to me. I toured large food processors as Monfort Meats and SaraLee foods. I watched Heinz make catsup from tomatoes that were grown less than 10 miles from the plant. And I saw the artisan cheese makers craft fine blue cheese in Nauvoo -- more than 40 years ago.

Somewhere ....... in the last 20 years ..... food changed. And we changed with it.

I did my first home-preservation demo, freezing green beans, in 1974. I remember the botulism outbreak in home-canned tomatoes. That stopped a lot of people from canning their own tomatoes ....... even though, that outbreak was far more isolated than the spinach e-coli outbreak a couple of years ago.

I can talk Buy Fresh, Buy Local. And I try hard to walk the walk. I have this 100-mile circle that I really try to buy my food within. But I love Greek olives and artichokes and great olive oil and bananas. Ain't gonna happen in Iowa!!!! Even peaches, cherries and blueberries can be difficult. We can raise the nice little white peaches ........ they are good. But not like a juicy large freestone peach from Michigan!

So now -- I'm reading and studying. And I'm sure I'll have a lot more to say on the subject. My stack of books is growing........ I'll re-visit my dog-eared copy of Fast Food Nation and try not to highlight every line of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. And I'm slowly digesting Food, Inc. And I am certain I will become intimate with Micheal Pollan's books.

But the more I read .... the more disturbing I find the facts. And the more questions I have. Including ......... how do I inspire change??



melanie said…
I like to think of any important behavior like an umbrella - you live the ideal, and carry it above you like an umbrella. Anyone is free to come under and share the "relief" and they may just be inspired to put up their own umbrella. Regardless, you just keep on looking for others who carry the same umbrella, and the closer you get to each other and link up, the more area you can "shade" and cover with your like ideals. Remember - there will always be a few who don't have enough sense to come in out of the rain, but you can't be responsible for them - just keep on keepin' on....
girlwithasword said…
Just by thinking about it, talking about it, reading it, exploring what it means to YOU.

Just exactly what you're doing now, in other words.... :)

AND, I wish you could be here. I bought a bucket of The. MOST. AMAZING. Iowa-grown blueberries this Saturday. These suckers were HUGE. I mean, like small plums. No joke. (Bluegate Jill will back me up here). The more people buy local, the more choices we have.....so, yay us!
clink said…
You got that one right, Maggie!! I remember going to market 20 years ago and the tomato of choice was a Big Boy. Now the variety is amazing.

I'm doing an interview today for our local cable access station on local food options. Should be fun!
Deborah said…
Oh, the subject that is near and dear to my heart! I finally got around to reviewing Michael Pollan's last two books on my blog last week. I am now listening to "Botany of Desire" on CD, since I don't have time to read this time of year. But I totally remember that Dream Whip dessert. Ugh! And my mother would buy Cheez Whiz for my baked potatoes. She wanted to be modern and was the queen of convenience foods. It's sad that many people today think that homemade means starting with a can of Campbell's soup or a cake mix.

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