Why Do I Always Talk About Food?

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.

Food Matters

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.”

fast foodPhoto CC || http://www.flickr.com/photos/nexus_icon

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.

veggies1Photo CC || http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevendepolo

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!)

7 Responses to Why Do I Always Talk About Food?
  1. brad
    June 18, 2011 | 12:56 am

    i like food too. I try to eat some every day.

    turns out that good, clean food is what turned us into (sub)urban-homesteading folk. we needed to go organic due to some health stuff, and after we did that we realized it was too expensive, which lead to garden, sprouts, kimchi, kefir, edible weeds, etc and etc.

    i was talking to a co-worker today who said he and his wife just started an organic garden, but he’s not fully into that whole sustainability thing.

    i explained that growing organic tomatoes is really the gateway drug of urban homesteading, and that’s why everyone should try it.

    great article – thanks

    • Jess
      June 18, 2011 | 9:47 am

      Thanks so much for the comment! I totally agree that tomatoes are the gateway drug. Last year, my tomatoes were one of the only things I did right and it was enough to make me know I needed to do more. I would love to someday get to have chickens, but right now it makes more sense to get our eggs from a farm.

      I think it’s really interesting that food is where so many people start being aware of the sustainability thing. But it makes total sense to me.

      Do you have any tips on moving into the world of edible weeds? We just did a major fruit tree project and I’m hoping to start slowly adding edible forest garden-type bits and pieces to that area. As I’m been reading, it seems like some of that is a movement towards edible “weeds.”

  2. brad
    June 18, 2011 | 11:10 am

    I think the edible weed things is really localized to your climate zone. Also some of the plants look a little different from region to region so you should google for a local source.

    This link about the Edible Weeds of LA was a really good source for me and has a ton of other good links on it.


    We’re much further north in the south bay (zone 8a maybe?) but I have found a lot of the same plants here in my yard.

    Google your “[largest local city] edible weeds forage wild medicinal plants” and you’ll get some great places to start researching. Obviously you want the ‘local’ angle so that they grow ‘like weeds’ – hard to kill, need little water, pest resistant, etc.

    Sow Thistle and Dandelion seem to do well everywhere and I think you can eat all of it, and/or use roots for tea, stuff like that. Pretty pricey to buy Dandelion leaves at Whole Foods, pretty cheap to grow in your yard. When we were learning about Sow Thistle and Dandelion we found out that they were imported here by European settlers as garden vegetables.

    I just wonder if they’re healthy, nutritious, need little water, hard to kill and pest resistant, why wouldn’t we start to use them for food again?

    Here are some other links in a blog I posted.


    • Jess
      June 21, 2011 | 1:29 pm

      Thanks for the links! It looks like sow thistle could totally work here, and I know dandelion does. I read an interesting article about dandelions the other day, and how it was actually very recently that we were using them as food. It makes so much sense to learn to do that again.

      I don’t know if chickweed does well where you are, but another to add to your list in case it does. It’s delicious and grows, well… like a weed here!

      • Noëlle
        July 2, 2011 | 11:31 am

        Random chime-in: Erik’s Opa swore by dandelion tea. Next time we all get together, he’ll have to tell you more about him – I didn’t get to meet him, but he was a truly fascinating guy. And you have totally sparked my curiosity about these little greens :) .

        Check out this link: http://www.wildmanstevebrill.com/Plants.Folder/Dandelion.html

        The site is… very mint green. But it’s got a nice overview of dandelions. And an arrest story haha :)

  3. Clare Delaney
    June 20, 2011 | 8:10 pm

    Hi Jess,

    I enjoyed your article!

    I look at my world from the environmental, sustainability standpoint, and tend to focus more on actions – simple, easy actions – that we can all do to reduce our footprint.

    You make a compelling argument for food as a part of that strategy.

    Thanks for a well-thought-out post!

    Eco-Friendly Food Storage Products

    • Jess
      June 21, 2011 | 1:31 pm

      Thanks for your comment. I too try to find the simple, easy things we can do to reduce our footprint. There are so many little things that take hardly any effort at all. Food has definitely been the most self-rewarding change I’ve made.

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