Monday, June 19, 2017

Food Activism in Challenging Times

It’s time for some seriousness, Friends,  before my next round of wonderful Summer recipes & techniques hit these pages again.

In this current frightening political climate, which seeks to have monolithic corporations run unregulated, our food supply and what is available to us is at greater risk than ever. We need to realize that actions for change are necessary. 

We can all play a part. You can make a difference by taking one step or a lot of steps.  But we all have to start somewhere.

The following are a few suggestions from my own experiences and learning over the past ten plus years of researching, cooking, growing, buying and writing about food and our practices and systems around food. 

1. Read. Stay informed - understand what terms like, organic, free range, grass fed, hormone & antibiotic free and pasture raised really mean. For example, "grass fed" is fine as long as cattle are not "finished" with grain (to make them fatter). Feeding grain makes the animal sick requiring the use of antibiotics. 100% grass fed is the standard you want.

2. Read the writings of Michael Pollan, Marion Nestle & others and watch the documentaries on food in America and eating, such as "Forks Over Knives" and "Cook", and many more. Netflix has a ton of them.  They make for good rainy day viewing and you learn something.

3. Understand the Slow Food Movement - its origins and work around the world. There were very legitimate reasons why Italy blocked McDonalds and formed a movement - which became world wide - to protect local, seasonal Real Food.

4. Learn about the symbiotic relationship among factory agriculture & the pharmaceutical companies. It is becoming clearer every day that processed, sugar laden, inhumanely raised, drug filled factory "food" is making America sick.  A "sick" population benefits big pharmaceutical companies. Millions of Americans are taking multiple medications daily that they might not need if their diet consisted of Real Food.  Others -  adults and children alike - have reactions and sometimes full blown allergies to common, every day foods for the most part because those "foods" are loaded with unnatural additives.  And realize too that much supermarket "produce" is grown using massive amounts of dangerous fertilizers and weed killers developed by Monsanto and other pharmaceutically connected corporations.

5. There's one rule that could change your life and the lives of those around you if you get them to join with you.  The rule:  Don't buy things to eat from supermarkets or chain restaurants. Supermarkets are for paper products, kitty litter, batteries and cleaning products. Chain restaurants have no useful reason to exist.

6. Shop at Farmers Markets and local Fresh Food Outlets for food. Eat local, seasonal, humanely raised food as much as possible. I certainly know that sometimes we must step outside the "Local" label.  That's OK.   But pick your spots. Go ahead and buy Italian Olive Oil. Order that fabulous Carolina Gold Rice or those Hatch Chilies. Just  do not buy Asparagus or Strawberries in a supermarket in February.

7. Grow some of your own food - even just some herbs if that's all you can do. If you can grow more, do it. The benefits are astounding on so many levels.  I truly believe it is something we all should know how to do.

8. Most importantly COOK! Cook Real Food. Cook and sit down at the table with others. Eat, talk, relax. We are one of the few cultures on earth to almost totally abandon this social practice - to our great detriment!

9. Take your lunch from home.  Use your food.  Plan menus and make shopping lists - before you go to the markets.  Take left overs for lunch.  You'd be amazed at how much money you save and how much better your lunches will be as you get used to this practice.

10. Avoid food waste. Learn to preserve food at whatever level you can. Make your own soup stocks. Freeze some seasonal food. Learn how to Pickle & Can. It's a wonderful way to have something delicious when it is out of season. Strawberries in December from your freezer, for example. Or delicious, old fashioned "barrel pickles" in your refrigerator. Compost food scraps yourself or find a local company (of which there are many) to do a weekly pick up of your compost materials.

11. Support small independent & family owned farms & producers in every way that you can. We need them! If you eat Real Food, remember, "No Farms. No Food".

12. Support Food Banks, School Breakfast & Lunch programs, and Food Trusts that focus on fresh food deserts. Do whatever you can to fight hunger in America, and to help get nutritious food to low income citizens.

13. Become familiar with regulations designed to suppress small farms & farmers markets. They are a huge threat to the factories and I suspect that we will see so called "regulations" increasing for real farms and decreasing for the factories.

14. If you are going to eat meat & poultry know how it was raised and where. Also know how it was harvested. It did not live its life in a styrofoam blister wrapped package!  Use meat and poultry as an ingredient - not a main course, as much as you can.  

15. The unhealthy food system that has been built in the US depends mightily upon an uninformed consumer. The belief in "the industry" is that all Americans care about is convenience & price. For example, ask yourself why the "steak dinner" at a chain restaurant is so cheap. Because the products used are that bad! That's why. That's it.

16. Share what you know and what you learn. Teach and support others to cook Real Food. Support legislation that will bring healthy eating back to America; this will serve to diminish "treatment" of disease and enhance health through good diets and thus,  "prevention".

Please join me in the effort to help people understand that they can cook and eat Real Food and live better, healthier, more enjoyable lives. Real Food is not a fad. It IS how we used to eat. It IS how many countries in the world still eat. The challenges are real. The time is now.

@The Philly Foodist copyright 2017