Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hungry? (tastes like chicken)

I have something of a strained relationship with food right now (I don’t even want to get into my relationship with exercise). I like to eat, and these days it is showing. That is something I have dealt with in the past, and I am hoping to deal with it now too. But that’s only a tip of an iceberg. It turns out that we all have a problem with food, almost all of us have a problem with cars and energy usage and an ever increasing number of us have a problem with the internet/electronic media. All those problems have a common origin, too. It is technology, or really, science. Behind that, there is the excess many of us are prone to.

Our mutual problem with food has to do with what is presented to us. For a long time a big worry was getting enough calories to eat. Of course, that was largely pre-twentieth century for a great majority of Americans. There is still, certainly, hunger in America, but now there is also an obesity epidemic. Right here I will pause and say you should watch the documentary “Food, Inc”. A great deal of what I am saying is based on that, and the book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollan (who also appears in Food, Inc). You may be aware that a great deal of our beef comes from factory farms (really, all of it unless you try very hard). You may be aware that cattle on factory farms are fed corn these days, a food they are not evolutionarily set up to digest (they can digest grass), so they are given antibiotics to prevent infections. That is part of the problem, by the way, with super bugs that resist ordinary antibiotics. You may be aware that corn is grown now, along with soybeans, year after year with large subsidies on giant farms to the exclusion of other crops, and with large dosages of petroleum based fertilizer. I could go on, but at some point the question should arise, why would you buy a pound of hamburger at the Iggle, or eat a McDonald’s hamburger?

The answer, of course, is because they taste good. Corporations have gotten good at making food taste good, with fat and salt and high fructose corn syrup. They’ve gotten good at marketing it, they gotten good at making the unhealthy things the easiest to put on the table, or even just eat on the go. Corporations have learned to turn on our taste receptors, so we want to keep eating.

And yes, there is self discipline involved, but man, it has gotten hard to resist. As Shakespeare should have said, “Eaten not wisely but too well”. This is my personal trial, but also our political trial. The USDA is complicit in this problem, as is Congress. We need to say or do something.

There was an article (which I still have not taken the time to read) last weekend or the weekend before in the NYTimes about how all this information we are taking in is zapping our attention spans. There is also the problem of America’s love affair with cars, and our apparent belief that is we can travel at 70 or 80 miles per hour on the highway to from place to place, one of our fundamental rights is being violated and we are living in a fascist state. Plus we need to drive there in a virtual tank. Many of us also like to live in bigger and bigger houses, with more and more toys. We like larger and larger multi-story foyers with huge chandeliers with a dozen or more light bulbs incredibly hard to heat) in McManisons with a dozen or more bedrooms. We basically entered a new phase of excess during the Bush administration, and are still sitting there. Not that we weren’t (like all humans) an excessive people before, we’ve just kicked it up a notch.

A fair amount of this is driven by technology and science. The corporations develop new crops and find new ways to do things with corn through research, cars and SUV’s have gotten faster without sacrificing fuel efficiency through technology, and technology of course drive the internet.

Technology and science may help save us. Solar and wind power, biofuels and hybrid technology, they will advance as the technology is advanced. But that technology is not the most popular with people who have money. And the technology that would help us with our food issues is either low tech or perhaps even retro (read the Omnivore’s Dilemma). What we need is a dose of uncommon sense, for people to pay attention and realize what is happening around them. They need to pay attention to excess. Not just in politics but in society (which, at the end of the day, is actually political too). This is why I keep thinking about being vegetarian.

I would eat meat if it had been fed what it is evolutionarily predisposed to eat. I am afraid I am an omnivore, I don’t accept the animal rights thing, although I would not want to allow an animal to be caused unnecessary pain any more than I would want to allow a person to be tortured. But grass fed beef, free range-ish chicken, wild caught fish, etc, all are probably healthy in moderation and fine with me to eat. Of course, you have only the packager’s word on what your food ate, even if you go to a farm. But that is true when your doctor tells you something, or your mechanic tells you what they fixed. We’re used to that by now.

On the other hand, the East End Food Coop has frozen goat meat for sale, from an organic farm. Goat? Seriously? Goat? I would have no idea what to do with it.


Vannevar said...

I've had goat meat. A few years ago I went twice in quick succession to a tremendous local restaurant that's known for (among other things) being the only place that has fresh goat on hand.

The first time I had my fav dish there, Paella Vallencia. Wonderful. The second time I thought, Why Not? and I tried the goat.

Let me tell you: there's a reason Giant Iggle isn't selling goat. Ugh.

EdHeath said...

Mallorca? I have yet to go there.

But consciously I didn't mention goat as a restaurant food. I have had few occasions to eat it (I believe it has been on some Middle Eastern restaurant menus, but it has been years since I have to Kahlil's, where I think I remember seeing it. I suppose I could cut up goat meat into cubes and shish kabob it, but I wouldn't know the right sorts of spices.

I suspect it would be a very healthy sort of meat, which would likely mean it would not have that delightful heavy fat that makes some meat taste so good. Grumble.