Is Information Power?

Faster, fatter, bigger, cheaper that’s the American way and it’s slowly killing us all . . .

I have always believed that information is power. That education and being an educated consumer were key factors to living and living well. I am an omnivore and ‘real’ food enthusiast who holistically believes that as long as one is informed and responsible in the acquisition, selection, preparation, and consumption of their food, doing so with balance and moderation – eat what you want. And I do.

I seriously LOVE pork! It is by far my favorite meat and makes the list of my three “all time favorite foods” (rice and PBJ being the other two). And the mere thought of life without bacon brings heartfelt tears to my eyes and when you add in pork chops I start to hyperventilate. However, I recently watched the film Food, Inc. and ever since I have been struggling with the reality that, “I, in large part, have no idea where my food comes from.” And this is scary.

For those of you who have not seen this film, allow me a moment to summarize. Kenner’s film provides a look at the industrial food system from seed to supermarket, often exposing the horror that is our food production system. The film left me haunted. I mean, if is no wonder that obesity and poverty go hand-in-hand in this country. When you realize that the ‘dollar menu’ offers the ‘better value’ for your family’s meal choice than anything at the supermarket, and the majority of our food is laced with high fructose corn syrup and countless other corn and soybean products, all of which in high doses have been linked to other health problems, it greatly explains why as a nation we are in peril.

And when I say, ‘This is scary,’ I couldn’t be more serious. I spend far more time than most, at least most of the people that I know, acquiring and preparing ‘whole foods’. I have built a career on my love of food and yet the majority of the stuff that lines the shelves in our local markets can’t in good conscience be called food. It’s edible and in large part contains a lot of the things we need daily to sustain our bodies but once you stop to consider how far that box of cereal or can of chili has come from the kernels of corn, soybeans, legumes or cattle that initially sparked the idea, it gets harder and harder to swallow. Further, begging questions start haunting you like: “What are ‘real people’: everyday working people, supposed to do to secure real food?” “Where do you start?” “Who is to blame, really?” And more importantly, “Is there a way out?”

This is the real issue. As a nation, we have allowed food to become merchandise. We source it like t-shirts and jeans, picking our produce from photos on the internet, and getting our meat, fish and poultry overnight expresses via Fed-Ex. Like Prada and Gucci, we’ve created categories for food and have latched on to buzz words like organic and free-range without any investigation as to what they actually mean. Organic frozen foods and organic TV dinners; chicken nuggets and breakfast pockets – is this really the agricultural evolution we were looking for?

Yes, we are a consumer nation, a superpower. We love money and the stuff money buys. It is why we live here and why others come here: opportunity abound. But where is the responsibility that comes with that power? Where is the collective consciousness and universal accountability that supports the basic social premise that we are our brother and sisters keepers’? Shouldn’t communal cooperation trump greed?

Now understand I too sit on the fence. There is a great complexity here. On the one hand, it is no secret that the governmental regulations that initiates, maintains and supports the corporate monopoly that dictates the quality and availability of the food in this nation is the same system of government that allocates income subsidies for people struggling to make ends meet; thus, making the need for cheap food a necessity.

But on the other hand, the incestuous tenets that created this anal probe do provide jobs in multiple industries. Commodity foods are extremely convenient – we all use them in some way for something. McDonald’s is more famous than Michael Jackson and is there anything more American than a hot dog. So when I ask, “who is to blame, really?” The answer is , “We all are.”

I remember when (and yes I know I am dating myself) the drive-thru window didn’t exist, at least not in my neighborhood. When there were no microwaves, CD players, email or cell-phones. In fact, there was rotary dial with no call waiting and all TVs weren’t in color nor did they have remote controls. And during that time – the old days – there was always a garden in my backyard.

My grandmother, aunt and uncles always maintained a small vegetable garden. There were tomatoes, cabbage, collards, a big ole fig tree, green beans and squash. And when my grandmother went to visit her sisters in their various southern homes, she would always bring back jars of canned peaches, and the most amazing sausages. And when she served them on Saturday mornings with hot baked biscuits and ‘Alaga Syrup’ that coupled with School House Rock, made life great!

I remember the garden vividly and how we all had random chores at various points to ensure its upkeep. The Italian neighbors up the street had their own gardens and would often swap escarole for collard greens. Eggplant and grapes were for the taking. But there are no gardens in that neighborhood anymore. My brother built a gazebo over ours; the other new neighbor cemented over his for a patio and the third uses theirs for extra parking.

So yes, we are all to blame. We all play our role. I, for one, cannot imagine a road trip without McDonald’s and Hardees or a cookout without a burger, a hot dog and beer. But if our entire food system is damaged, where is one to begin? And more importantly, why bother?

Good question. Why bother? Well, primarily, because feeling good just feels good. And while it can take time and effort, sourcing good, wholesome, whole foods and grains is important. I know from firsthand experience that it is worth the work and investigation and the result is ultimately a gain. But I am still struggling with the information. Our food system needs an overhaul and we all have to contribute. Ugh, there is so much to do . . . And the inability to do a push-up, four months later, isn’t aiding my sense of empowerment!

But I continue on my quest for healthy alternatives as I practice my lunges, squats, leg lifts and press.

FYI : We’ve put the push-up monster on temporary hold . . . why can’t I do this???

0 Responses to “Is Information Power?”

  • No Comments

Leave a Reply