Monday, December 17, 2007

We are what we eat

The indispensable Michael Pollan has a new book coming out, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Eating, like shopping, is a political act, with wide-ranging consequences, although I see no slackening at the trough of the fast food/garbage venues and the corn syrup tidalwave aisles in the supermarkets, even from folks who should know better. (People, suckered by the fantasies of our pseudo-democracy, keep thinking they’re going vote for change instead of making it happen themselves, I guess.) Pollan’s last book, Omnivore’s Dilemma, along with Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and the movie based on it, along with the documentaries Super Size Me and King Corn (where you'll learn how we've become the new Aztecs, a corn-based civilization)… well, the list does goes on for the indictments of an unsustainable, poisonous, and ruinous food industry. And for the defense? It’s “cheap.” American’s do pay less for food, but that’s because we don’t count the subsidies, nor the petrochemicals (and the blood, since oil is why we’re in Iraq); nor the multiple environmental costs; nor and the health tab that comes from all that fat and shit. For meat, and now even vegetables, shit’s a literal description, since feces are getting into the food chain and to your plates; the industrialists then blame you for not cooking things correctly. (The Jungle is back). And regarding the argument that people like the fat, salt, sweetner, and New Jersey "flavor" labs chemistry (declared kosher by some self-proclaimed kosher agencies, making quite a mockery of that designation) that make all that lip-smackin' garbage so yummy? Well, people like heroin, too.

Here’s Pollan’s preview of the new book. He discusses how antibiotic-resistant staph infections in the meat factories parallel the growing number of human deaths from same. MRSA now kills more people in the US than AIDS. To go into a pig farm, you have to wear a hazmat suit; although at the moment that’s not for your benefit, it’s for the pigs, who are so crowded, interbred to zero-genetic tolerance, and stuffed full of chemicals, that they are in perpetual danger of being decimated by disease. Pollan also addresses the plague that has swept through the bee colonies in the last two years. If you read this blog, you know how vital bees are to the food we eat.

Now, I do eat some meat, but I don't buy it in a supermarket/factory outlet. It's either direct from suppliers at farmer's markets or Dines Farm (who sell at the site of my CSA), or at the Park Slope Co-op. It is more expensive at the first two venues, but you don't need a lot of meat for a great dining experience. The main reason I buy meat (chicken, turkey, lamb, & pork; I lost interest in beef years ago), besides the fact that I like it, is that it's key to the survival of small farm operations, often the difference between staying in business and selling out for another fucking subdivision. Farm animals provide milk and eggs, as well as manure, while alive, and extra income when slaughtered. I think the survival of small, local, and diversified farms is tremendously important. I'm all for chickens in the city.


YourFireAnt said...

I do like your blog posts. Especially when you are passionate about something. This one was brilliant. I've read Pollan's omnivore book; now I'll have to get this one.

Thanks for writing this.


delilah said...

How about Barbra Kingsolvers new one "Animal, Vegetable Miracle"? A little bit self righteous, but interesting nontheless...