I’ve been working on reordering some of my categories this week, sort of a “spring cleaning” for the blog moment. (My office got it too – no more iguanas hiding in piles, maybe?) In the process, I discovered that I write about food. A ton. More, probably, than I write about any one other thing.
Instantly I jumped on myself, “You should write about food less. I bet people are getting bored about reading about food.” But I’m working on cultivating this radical self-kindness habit right now. It’s not going super-amazingly, but I’m working on it anyways. So instead of continuing to jump down my own throat, I thought about why so many of my posts seem to end up being about food. I came up with a few good reasons.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – food really matters. In terms of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it’s right there on the first level. (Some other things that start with F and aren’t on the first level: Furbies, felt, Facebook, forensic science.) If things melted down, we’d be okay without Facebook. We wouldn’t be okay without food.
From a societal standpoint, this means we need to figure out food production and food safety. Of course, these aren’t necessarily easy issues. But as the human population continues to increase, these issues are becoming more and more urgent. In the wake of natural disasters, social or political upheaval, and economic difficulty food (and access to fresh water – big one!) is paramount. Many other things can fall by the wayside, but we need to get food right.
Food = Health
Disease – food. Obesity, diabetes, cancer. Hormonal imbalances, thyroid, early puberty. Behavioral issues and developmental disabilities. It seems like every week new studies are being released that show that what we eat (and how much of it) is the root of many of our “modern epidemics.”
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And who would be surprised? Why wouldn’t our diseases be a reflection of what we’re eating? While my husband was deployed, I mixed motor oil in with the gasoline in our weed eater. (I totally thought it was the same thing as whatever you’re supposed to put in there.) That… did not go so well. That kind of substitution doesn’t go so well for our bodies either. We’re made to run on salads, not soda.
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How can we think what we choose to put in our bodies won’t have a cost? Personal, social, economic…cost.
Food = The Environment
In addition to affecting our health, food is one of the major ways in which we are connected to the health of the planet. The more people there are, the more apparent this connection is becoming, as we are stretching the natural systems that we depend on to their limits. If we (humans as a species) are going to make it, we need to find a way to produce our food that sustains and renews the world we all share.
Food is also a metric for where things stand. When we moved into our house, we had a gorgeous tree called a madrona tree. They’re fairly common up here. Unfortunately, our madrona was in the process of dying as we were moving in. We eventually had to call someone to remove it so it wouldn’t end up falling on our house. When the tree guy came to remove it, he told me that the madronas are sensitive trees. They are the first to succumb to environmental pressure, and are a canary in a coal mine for the ecosystem. He’s been taking out a lot of dead madronas lately. But most people don’t notice that these trees are slowly dying.
Food, however, is a metric we could notice, if the feedback loops were corrected so that price accurately reflected the state of supply. If a can of tuna were more expensive now that we’ve decimated the tuna populations. People can be responsive, but we have to be attuned to the metric and the metric has to be working.
Food = Your Life
All this being said, it’s ok if a) this is all too overwhelming or b) you’re left not really caring that much about the big picture issues. For me, the me reasons actually ended up mattering more.
Initially I changed the way I eat to reduce packaging and tread more lightly on the planet. But I don’t honestly know if I would have kept it up just for those reasons. I don’t know because what I discovered was that changing the way I eat changed my life.
It’s like every teacher who ever told me “You get out what you put in” while I rolled my eyes at them held a reunion in my kitchen just to make their point. With your body, you get out what you put in. It needs fuel – good, clean, whole, healthy fuel – to get you through the day and keep you going. And the difference between okay or just getting by and being truly nourished by your food was bigger than I ever imagined it could be.
Food connects you with community, with your family, with your body, with the planet, with your life. This, I think, is why I really write so much about food.
Food matters. (And, bonus, you get to eat it!)