There are many things that are overwhelming in this world when we watch the news and can leave us feeling helpless, but we do have control over what food we put in our body, Gene Baur, President and Co-founder of Farm Sanctuary has expressed.
I thought of Gene's thoughtful words as I watched the premier episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution (airing every Tuesday at 8 PM EST time on ABC (Watch the shows online). Like his approach or not, I hope we can agree on some of his goals, including less processed, healthier foods for all groups, and better school food, including eliminating flavored milks. One parent spoke of children drinking chocolate milk and pouring chocolate milk over cereal. I, for one, use almond 'milk' on my own.
Another parent simply observed of school food what also sums up the state of our nation's food supply: It's not okay. Repeat after me America: It's not okay.
Jamie approached a local fast food restaurant operator to revamp his menu to make it healthier, and when he asked him where his meat comes from, he had no idea. He gave a vague explanation of the supplier and admitted he knew nothing about it.
Blame shifting: it's become ingrained in American consumer attitudes as part of the entitlement culture. It's not my fault how the animals are raised or the end quality, it's the producers (even though I'm contributing to the demand). Wasn't it Don Draper in Mad Men who talked about the role of advertising is to make you feel okay about your actions? Wasn't he so right? We'll justify our bad behavior right and left with any excuse we can find to help ease our conscience.
The owner also said he wouldn't make milkshakes at home for his kids with the artificial syrup he uses in the restaurant and when Jamie, who wanted him to use real fruit, asked him to treat his customers like his children, he balked. I thought of the extremely disturbing film Food Beware: The French Food Revolution about the food culture in France (the highest pesticide user in the EU) in which farmers would not eat their own food. Not good for mine, but good for others.
When a customer was asked which quality food he preferred, it was the better one. Which one he'd buy, the cheaper one. Do we spare any expense on our entertainment budget? Do we cut out cable, expensive phones (with service plans), upgrading that television? But when it comes to life's basic essential, food, we're quick to cut costs, no questions asked. I ask a question: Why?
Jamie was rightfully horrified that school meals are being microwaved in plastic. I often wonder why people are not the least bit concerned to eat pesticide laden produce and factory farmed animals on a regular basis, but they won't drink tap water. I consider this selective fear. Consider the exposure to the plastic that the bottled water sits in (for who knows how long).
Convenience foods are a major part of our food life. At work in my office in Manhattan, I see people heating up those Lean Cuisine type foods (in plastic trays) almost every day. The plastic question gives me pause. It's in everything. I don't usually heat up food in it (I put the food on a plate and cover with a paper towel), but I heated up rice from Trader Joe's to go with my steamed vegetable dumplings, and it was packaged in plastic. I won't be doing that so much anymore. I also consider plastic holds soup I get at the farmers' market, and my organic peanut butter, tofu, hummus etc. are all packaged in it.
I'll be blogging about Jamie's show, as a vehicle for dialogue and provoking thought about our food culture. I don't want to be part of a culture that feigns or embraces ignorance, or one that is controlled, and hope you don't either. I want to take ownership over my actions and the results on others. I do not expect perfect, ideal food choices out of anyone, since I don't do that myself.
When I saw reference to a "Do Nothing" congress in The New York Times, I thought how much we've become a "Do Nothing" population when taking accountability over what's going into our body (and children's bodies) and into our Earth. Let's become a "Do Something" food culture for positive change. Don't be afraid of change, especially if it means a healthier you and healthier family.
When Michael Stipe sang in R.E.M.'s "I Wanted to Be Wrong,"
"Mythology's seductive and it turned a trick on me, that I have just begun to understand.
I told you I wanted to be wrong but everyone is humming a song that I don't understand."
I thought not of any war (which is what the song is about), but of my own enlightenment path with our food culture. Moreover did I relate to these simple words he reminds me in UBerlin, "Don't forget the change will save you."
Learn more about Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.
Check out Gene Baur's book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food.