Life feeds on life. Everything that we consume has lived, has grown from a tiny seed or egg, and it deserves the right to be nurtured by its mothers milk, sit in a field soaking up the sun, breathing the air – whether it be the tomato, capsicum and rice we had for lunch or the all-beef pattie on a sesame-seed bun, something has given it’s life for us to live. I don’t want to upset anyone, I don’t want you to stop eating because ‘you’re killing an innocent lettuce’. For me, I want to know that the food that I’m eating has enjoyed its own life, has had the opportunity to sit, rooted in that field, roll in the mud, or feel the tickle of insect feet across its skin.
It is this sort of respect for food and its own history that I believe we need to teach our children. Our food deserves this sort of reverence because it is what makes us live. There is not much we really need to survive – clean water, shelter, oxygen, food. We take it all for granted, but it’s good to stop and think about it. Stop everything, sit down and really taste your food.
It’s important to understand the processes it takes to make our food. The more complex that process is the further away from nature it is. It becomes less real, less truthful and usually less healthy for us. We all love the taste because it’s usually fatty, sugary and salty – it makes sense, back when food was scarce – of course we would want to eat the food with lots of calories – it’s efficient! But we don’t have a cold, harsh winter ahead of us - just more comfort food.
This is not to say we can’t enjoy these foods we all love (you only have to look around this blog to know how much we love our evil-goodness foods!), we simply need an understanding how much to eat and of how they got to our plates. Take the example of a loaf of bread. There are an inordinate amount of steps involved. This is just what I’m aware of that goes into making a humble loaf of bread:
Wheat must be grown from seed, watered, fertilized, harvested, then the manufacturer will thresh the wheat, separate the wheat from the chaff, grind the wheat into flour then separate the wholegrain particles from the white flour, package it up, transport it then store it. Water and salt have to be sourced and transported, imported. If milk is in the recipe, they have to rear the cow from a calf, give feed, water, shelter and healthcare to the animal, milk the cow, homogenize, pasteurize, package and transport the milk. Then the yeast must be collected and grown, dried and stored. Then we get to making the bread. The manufacturer will mix the ingredients, leaven the dough, knead it, first proving, punching down, second proving, baking, slicing, packaging (design of packaging, manufacture of packaging, transport), transportation to shop, placement in shop, then you will pick it up from the shelf, pay for it, take it home, toast it and put some butter and jam (that process can be found here) on top.
Phew! I’m certain I have missed out some major steps in the process there, but it just goes to show just how much happens, and how many people are involved to create such ’simple’ products that we may not even care about much when all we want to do is eat breakfast and get to work.
I believe an awareness of what food is, where it comes from and why we eat it is what will save society from this tragic obesity epidemic we are experiencing. And I don’t talk about this without experience. Last year after having my daughter I was larger that I wanted to be (in the overweight category according to the Body Mass Index) and decided to do something about it. I didn’t go on a ‘diet’, I simply became mindful of what is good to eat and what I was eating everyday. And the more I thought about food the more I enjoyed the flavour of good food and the more weight I lost.
Below is a video of Jamie Oliver giving a speech at a conference. He is inspirational, but sometimes he sounds like one lonely voice yelling over a very crowded dining hall. We’re here too Jamie!