I became acquainted with the concept of food as a political issue 20 years ago when I purchased a magazine called Slow Food. Its philosophy: We envision a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them, good for those who grow it and good for the planet. At the time it was a revolutionary and challenging idea, but for more than two decades now I have intellectualized and politicized most everything I put in my mouth. I consider where it came from, how it got to me, how it was grown and by whom, how it lived and died, and what waste it will produce. I have experienced guilt, confusion, self-righteousness, and occasionally the sublime, all in regard to food.
The fact that this is old concern does not comfort me—food entered the political arena when it became a commodity. The first written language was invented in Sumer (present day Iraq) third millennium B.C.E. to help keep track of accounts, including the grain stores in the warehouses, ancient Rome’s demagogues whipped the proletariat into riotous frenzies with the threat of inflated wheat prices, and more recently, the WTO undermines good environmental and health policies to profit multinational companies. These days, unless I raised it myself, the revolutionary idea just makes me sad, because I know we absolutely have the ability feed the world nourishing food. But we continue to sacrifice the well being of our fellow species, man and the planet, and we have yet to wrest this basic necessity from the grip of dangerous profit mongers.
It is encouraging that in the US there is a bounty of organic foods available. I have only seen an organic product for sale in Mexico once, though much is produced here for export. Unfortunately, because of the higher production costs for organics, they are more expensive than less healthful choices. This can make buying quality food cost prohibitive for many. I certainly never saw any one whip out their food stamps in Whole Foods when I was living in Chicago, and I know that I found it irresistible to not buy the buy one get one free, factory farmed rib eyes or jalapeño jack at Jewel on occasion. Continue reading