Food, Glorious Food…Not…..

This is a different post, based on some of the reading I have been doing. It started with Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, all about where our food is coming from. I’ve started looking at farmer’s markets to get truly fresh produce. What convinced me that we all could be eating so much better were two incidents in orchards. One years ago at a Maryland roadside stand, where the peach was the best ever, and the juice just dripped down my face and hands as I devoured the fruit. The second this summer at a farmer’s market, where I ate a tomato – and was stunned at how good it tasted – NOTHING like what I would buy in the grocery store.

Pollan was very detailed as he described the typical meal from the grocery store, and how so much of what we eat is as a result of a corn derivative, that really isn’t helping our family farms. His second “meal” looks closely at the organic farms, and it is an eye-opener. The amount of science a farmer has to know to create a working, sustainable farm is nothing short of staggering. Having this information makes you look at the grocery store in a very different light, wondering about our role in the “food chain” that we are accustomed to now.

I have been wanting to buy Barbara Kingsolver’s new book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about a year of living off the land. Since I have become very interested in what I am eating, and where it comes from, this seemed like a good choice. I love Kingsolver and was sad to see her leave Tucson. But I certainly understand the reasons – Tucson is not a sustainable city…we’re at the end of the water line from the Colorado River, all our food is imported, except for the few farmer’s markets springing up, and there’s no manufacturing or basic farming left (cotton isn’t edible, last I checked.)

I love Kingsolver’s work. I first read Small Wonders, a series of environmental essays that really pinpoint what we are losing in our natural world. From there I read High Tide in Tucson, essays particular to Southern Arizona. I cannot go down to Bisbee and Sierra Vista without looking at the San Pedro River, dry now, but a few years ago was still flowing well. We are losing our riparian areas here in Arizona at a very rapid rate.

Back to Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. While Kingsolver travels some of the same roads as Pollan, she delves more into agribusiness and corporate control of what we eat, what we plant, and what we buy for seeds. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. Corporate greed is driving the food business, to the extent that farmers are being sued if seeds developed by Monsanto and carrying their patented genes land on the farmers’ fields and germinate. (The Strange Case of Percy Schmeiser, p.50) I had to reread that section to be sure I understood it completely.

“Garden seed inventories show that while about 5000 nonhybrid vegetable varieties were available from catalogs in 1981, the number in 1998 was down to 600.” (p.52) And I’m only through 6 chapters, so I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about this. For someone who studied history and political science, I am amazed that I continue to be as naive as I am sometimes.

In the meantime, if you’re interested, here’s a couple of sites from Kingsolver’s book: Biotech Info, Organic Consumer’s Association

Kingsolver’s works are beautifully written. Each of them can be found by clicking on the Amazon button on the right. Enjoy her beautiful words and her heartfelt messages in her essays, as well as the underlying themes in her fiction. She’s worth rereading lots of times.

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