Monday, February 27, 2012

Our Relationship with Food

In general, I would like to say that this is something that has been beating at the back of my mind for quite some time. So, in light of today’s Occupy Food Supply movement I thought I would contribute some thoughts. I have always struggled to gain the upper hand in my relationship with food. It’s a perplexing situation, and in this commercialized capitalist age it is an absolutely daunting truth to dig into, research, and wrap your mind around. In an obese America we also have to contend with food addictions and the food advertising goals to brand children by age two and have them hooked for life to a High Fructose Corn Syrup existence supplemented by MSG laden side dishes and hormone rBGH ridden meats all washed down with a gluten heavy prestige. Fast food and pre-prepared meals packed with preservatives and additives are sold to us on the basis of convenience, not to mention they are more affordable than the healthier alternatives that cost more than money, they also cost time, and to some – time is very precious.

It was this last thought about the time is takes to prepare healthy meals and pack healthy lunches for my next day at work that really got the wheels turning inside of the ole noggin. I suppose I should start by saying that more than trying to lose weight, I am trying to change my lifestyle in regard to food. I’ve been seeing an acupuncturist for the better part of a year now and we have really been able to identify some of my body’s issues, and it always relates to what I am putting into my system. The realization I have come to is that: the way you feel has everything to do with what you put into your body. So, even though it is breaking the bank, and even though there are days when swinging by a drive-thru would be a hell of a lot easier then going home and baking fish and vegetables in EVOO and balsamic vinegar – the end result is what is finally starting to direct my decision making. And really, it all comes down to mastering my impulses and my perspective.

I have found that the relationship I am building with food is very complex and deep and personal. My relationship with food is evolving, and I feel like this needs to happen with more people. Due to my want of being healthy, and recognizing that what I put in my body has everything to do with how I feel – I have begun to read labels and research everything from whether Organic Agave Nectar is actually a healthier alternative to neuro-toxin laced sweetners to more simple things like the super anti-oxidant power of the blueberry. I decided to pick up some organic happy grass fed cow steaks to see if there really is a difference in how it tastes compared to run of the mill wrapped in cellophane and on-sale beef. There is a difference; not only in taste, but also in my body.

Americans have a removed reality when it comes to their food. There is no greater removal from food reality than when you buy meat. How many children know that the white blood stained Styrofoam with cellophane wrapped pieces of beef are actually moo cows? This separation is supposed to exist because it makes us think less about how that meat comes into such a neatly bound package that we can wrap in a layer of non-decomposable plastic, shove in our carts and saunter to the register to wrap it in another layer of non-decomposable plastic to take home, freeze, and pull out for when we’re ready to cheers beers over the grill and not think even more about the factory farmed cow and its food servitude to consumerist culture’s ignorant man. What kind of psychological repression do you think is involved in that routine? And most of us do it multiple times a week! Perhaps it isn’t our fault, we have been raised this way, the McDonald’s smiling arch has been a constant in our lives, Toucan Sam has been a pal since we were toddling, we’ve been told to trust FDA standards even though they insist on using rGBH in animals while other countries have banned it all together and they won’t allow Walnut makers to put on their labels that they are a health snack alternative offering Omega 3 fatty acids which support healthy bodily function, for reasons that probably go no further than the political contributions of Frito-Lay aka Pepsi Co. Despite all of this - we still consume. We consume to survive. But there is a better way. A more educated way that is more expensive, more time consuming, but wholly more physically, psychologically, and spiritually fulfilling.

Just examine your relationship with your favorite grocery store, and anyone who has read Don DeLillo’s “White Noise” knows exactly what I am talking about. There is a muddle of foodstuffs, other things, physical infrastructure, the rushed immediacy of the swarming public groping for what they know will work quickly, darting through clinically sterile aisles, absently present as they frenetically makes moves to consume beneath the incessant fluorescent buzz. Is it a wholly consumerist experience? Is it religious? Is it philosophical? Is it mundane and repetitive or filled with choice-making anxiety? Allen Ginsberg in “Supermarket in California” tells of his homoerotic experience with Walt Whitman as he grocery shops – there are any number of ways that we relate to the food that we buy and the box in which we enter to buy it by following arrows, appealing labels, the loudest sales sold by vibrant colors, ultimately facing the near immobilizing choice of choosing one brand over another. I think it’s important to find a grocery store or market that speaks to your relationship with food and caters to what you are entering the store to purchase for the well being of your body, for your healthy survival. 

I once went to a Buddhist temple, and have been on several meditation retreats where the act of eating is something done with complete mindfulness and often in silence. Taking slow and deliberate bites to taste the all good for you food and feel it nourish your body. I’ve tried to bring that into my grocery shopping and food preparation experience. Instead of regarding it as a time consuming occurrence that is keeping me from doing something else I need to be doing, I have tried to slow it down and be present with my food, changing my perspective so that now making salads for work is something I am working toward enjoying as I wash and chop vegetables. I shop at places now that offer the variety I am seeking: less preservatives, more organic – and I try to keep it fresh. It almost is a mindful religious experience, minus all the rigamaroo attached to religion. This is the stuff that sustains us! So my advice to the world is to take time and get to know food, yourself, the traps, your weaknesses, cooking techniques that don’t diminish nutritional value, etc. It’s worth the time and it’s worth the money. 

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