I had a blood orange today, and it was clamant to be eaten. It is the closet Maine comes in winter to anything exotic. Blood-red slices of the tart and sweet. And it was organic.
Now you can roll your eyes at the organic movement, but if you choose not to eat organic, then my only chunter to you is what will your children and your children’s children eat when the earth is robed of its essential nutrients by over-farming and the effluence from corporate agribusinesses have made the rivers sludge and the air a miasma of pollutants?
Maybe choosing organic makes me a Pangloss, or perhaps I’m just concerned about how my food comes to me. As a personal code of gastronomy, I don’t like the idea of other people handling what I eat, so from that point of view, I find it hard to imagine the food I eat getting sprayed with pesticides and herbicides. And similar to the person who mistrusts too much government in their daily lives, I’m chary of modern farming techniques that are unconcerned about our wellbeing and more guided by greed and profits. Food is not only what fires this mass of flesh, sets the kinetic relationship between cell and body and life, but it is also our daily, or should be, connection to life other than our own. What we eat is a reminder that we are reliant on the natural world for the life-sustaining foods we ingest.
The poet Wallace Stevens considered poetry to be “the bread of faithful speech.” I take this to mean that poetry offers good nutrients, is nourishing, and fulfills us.
Food should do the same. Let’s keep it simplistic. Let’s not complicate a basic necessity for the results of mass-produced food that feeds us but does not nourish us both bodily and spiritually. Because food does much more than keep us healthy and alive, it has aroma and taste and texture and flavor, qualities that enhance any meal and ourselves in the feasting.
And I’m not advocating that we all take up shovels and dig our own garden plots, although that isn’t such a bad idea — if Einstein could revolutionize the way in which we appreciate the world with his general theory of relativity, then a small vegetable patch in the garden could equally have cosmic effects. What I’m dishing up, (pun intended) is a rethinking of this firm belief that food must come our way altered. Why? Solely to meet an overwhelming demand? The only way that can be accomplished, states one jaundiced view, is to produce on a great scale and plaster in chemicals to ensure that the crops survive. And it’s all at our, the consumers, expense.
Why we as a society allow our food to be manipulated is the de rigueur question we should all be asking ourselves. Would we stand for such manipulation of our children in the classroom if, say, a teacher started to extol the virtues of racism? We wouldn’t. And, obviously, there’s a big leap between a racist teacher and a farmer who sprays his crops so he can in turn feed his family. The farmer has a legit reason to do it. But where the differences diverge the similarities converge, like light being able to be both particles and waves. The convergence is that both stem from a manipulation. We are manipulated by big agri-businesses.We are also manipulated by the organic movement. The difference, however, is that the organic movement cares for our wellbeing, it wants us to eat and be merry. And I can’t think of a more humanistic approach to food than that.