Really Good Reading Material

Thanks to Kate, the Accidental Hedonist, I was guided to read the web-version of the recent issue of The Nation, a very well-written leftist political journal, which is all about food.

After checking out the link and getting caught up in reading the various articles therein, I wanted to give a little taste of it to my readers and urge them to have a look as well.

The issue opens with a few words from Alice Waters, the Berkley chef who has been at the forefront of the movement to change the way America eats for decades. In “Slow Food Nation,” she speaks eloquently about how we need to change from being a fast food nation into a people caught up in the joys of slow food, not only for our pleasure, but for the health and wellbeing of our bodies, our children, our environment and our nation.

Next up is a forum entitled, “One Thing To Do About Food,” edited by Alice Waters, that asks a disparate group of thinkers, writers, activists and farmers (Eric Schlosser, Marion Nestle, Michael Pollan, Wendell Berry, Troy Duster, Elizabeth Ransom, Winona LaDuke, Peter Singer, Dr. Vandana Shiva, Carlo Petrini, Eliot Coleman & Jim Hightower) to answer the question, “How do we fix our dysfunctional relationship with food? What one thing do you recommend we do to change the course of our diet and destiny?”

By far the best, probably most eye-opening pieces in the issue are “Hard Labor,” by Felicia Mello, which takes a long, critical look at the state of laborors on industrial organic farms and finds that their plight is often -worse- than on conventional industrial farms, and Eric Schlosser’s “Hog Hell,” which examines the mistreatment of workers in a hog slaughtering facility in North Carolina. These two hard-hitting articles open readers’ eyes to the fact that our industrialized food system, whether it is organic or not, is not only unsustainable from an ecological standpoint, and is hell on animals, but also contributes mightily to the mistreatment of human workers.That really gives us something to think about when we eat–do we care more for the environment or the comfort of animals or the health of our own children than we do about the health and well-being of the people who bring us our food?

This issue of The Nation is well worth reading and I urge everyone who reads here, lurks here, or just checks out my recipes to take a look at what these writers have to say on the issue of food. Because, as I have said from the beginning of this blog, food is more than what keeps our bodies going–it sustains our minds, souls and civilization as well. And how we think about food, and how we consume it has a larger impact on our world than most of us realize.


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  1. I couldn’t help but notice the date on The Nation articles. Is this theme:
    (a) What The Nation thinks we need to think about on the 5th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks?
    (b) A conscious refusal to buck conventional publishing wisdom by talking about something other than what many other publications will be talking about?
    (c) A symptom of forgetfulness?
    (d) Choose your own.

    Comment by Reader John — September 3, 2006 #

  2. John–I suspect that the assertion that it is a symptom of forgetfulness is unlikely to downright silly. No one is going to forget the attacks of 9/11. No one who was alive when they happened, at least. Certainly not when our government goes out of its way to link all sorts of things to that date that had little to do with it, like say, the war in Iraq. Not when every media outlet, including Oliver Stone’s motion picture, talks about it or refers to it incessently.

    I think you are closer to the mark on a and b, however–I think that the headline, “Wake Up America! Pay Attention to What You Eat!” is a big clue that could lead one to think that maybe The Nation wants us to think about this issue instead of dwelling only on 9/11.

    (One thing they do not mention is the idea of food security and terrorism in our food supply–with the unsustainable, centralized food system we have now, even the Department of Homeland Security has run scenarios that point to the fact that we are extremely vulerable to terrorist attacks on our food supply. Me–I would have mentioned it–and they may well do so in an article that I haven’t yet read, but me–yeah, I would have mentioned it.)

    I do think it is an effort to buck conventional media wisdom and talk about something other than what everyone expects them to talk about, and I do think that they are saying, “Okay, terrorism–yeah, we hear about that all the damned time–here is something else to think about that is just as important–and maybe, just maybe–is even more important on a day to day basis.”

    Comment by Barbara — September 3, 2006 #

  3. Thanks for this Barbara – it looks like an interesting and thought-provoking read. Now to try a find a copy up here in Canada, which might be difficult.

    Comment by Sheryl — September 4, 2006 #

  4. It’s an excellent issue. The organic farm article is particularly disturbing. While there’s a limit to the amount of thought one can put into one’s everyday activities, it’s certainly disconcerting that the focus on the health of the food is masking a lack of focus on the health of the people that produce it.

    We’re quite fortunate here in Tel Aviv, as we personally know our farmers. The Chubeza farm ( is about an hour drive from our house, and we’ve been there to visit and help out. The farm is run by some idealistic and enthusiastic folks, who treat the people who work with them fairly and nicely; we were able to meet the workers and talk to them. And, not only can they afford what they eat – the small field yields so much, that they eat a lot of excellent vegetables for free. The field serves about 200 households in the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv areas, including many of my friends (blogging is good advertisement, hurrah!), and we’re all very pleased with our farmers.

    Another issue we manage to avoid this way is the debate over the location of food production. In Israel, debates over fields and orchards are a political matter, and many people avoid buying produce which is grown by settlers in the territories; however, these days, many settlers evacuated from the Gaza strip have lost their businesses in the territories, and are seeking employment elsewhere.

    I wish everyone on the planet knew who their farmers were. It’s so nice to get a box of produce when you can imagine the genuine – not advertised and made over – smile of your personal farmer, and know he or she have grown your food with love and care for themselves and for you.

    Comment by Hadar — September 4, 2006 #

  5. Sheryl–for now, read the online version!

    Hadar–I am very lucky to know my farmers here, too. The CSA we buy from is great–the workers are well-paid, the farmers diversify into new crops all the time, and they just get better and better with their service.

    But nothing is as great as seeing them every week at the market, saying hi, and getting smiles and hugs along with the box of vegetables. You cannot beat that, not with all the advertising budget in the world!

    Comment by Barbara — September 4, 2006 #

  6. Absolutely!
    On the other hand, getting the delivery box is like getting a big box of surprise toys every week.

    Comment by Hadar — September 5, 2006 #

  7. I could not agree more with you. Today I heard on the radio that there are more overweight people in the world than underweight. Food for thought indeed.

    Comment by Isis — September 5, 2006 #

  8. Hey Barbara thanks for the posting and all the interesting comments!

    If interested Organically Speaking a Seattle-base website has released a conversation with Michael Pollan podcast (audio conversation). Interesting tidbits on farmers markets, CSAs, and more!

    Some Podcast Show Note Questions:

    Q) Why the price difference between conventional food and organic and how do we go about bringing down organic food prices?

    Q) How can small local organic farmers remain local in a capitalistic system?

    Q) What is the “Food Web” you briefly touch on in your book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals.

    All the best,

    Holistic Conversations for a Sustainable World

    Comment by Ricardo Rabago — September 7, 2006 #

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