Eating with the fullest pleasure - pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance - is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and our gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend. When I think of the meaning of food, I always remember these lines by the poet William Carlos Williams, which seem to me to be merely honest:
There is nothing to eat,
seek it where you will,
but the body of the Lord.
The blessed plants
and the sea, yield it
to the imagination
(from "The Pleasures of Eating,"
pp.145-152 . San Francisco: North Point Press, 1990.)
This can serve as a prologue to the first of what I expect to be a long series of occasional posts on food.
I taught environmental studies for a number of years, I first read and took to heart (for the most part) the ideas of Wendell Berry in the 1970's, studied for years at two land-grant agricultural universities, am married to an organic gardener with a degree in agronomy, and we have grown a good deal of our own food for many years - so I can claim to know something about the industrialization of food and its consequences. I wasn't too enthusiastic about seeing the documentary FOOD, Inc, expecting to find it a boring repetition of things I used to teach my students about. I was completely wrong. This film is beautifully produced, engrossing, informative and, for those who have little or no knowledge of the state of the food industry in America, utterly horrifying. If I were still teaching, it would be required for all my students - in any subject. Many people are now aware of the multiple crises linked in one way or another to the way we produce our food, but this film has a powerful impact and I can't recommend it too highly even to those who think they know the issues. If you eat any food that you have not grown or raised yourself, or that was not produced by someone you know (and that includes, I think, almost everyone) then you must see this film. Even if you do produce everything you eat, you should see it because it will explain to you many of the reasons the society around you is collapsing. It can be seen online, right now, on PBS here. Please, watch it, so that you can have a chance to eat "with full pleasure - pleasure that does not depend on ignorance."
Coincidentally, I heard on Deutsche Welle Radio today a nice story about Growing Power, a US organization devoted to local agriculture (Living Planet podcast here). Also a piece on the seed bank in Svalbard here.