Saturday, April 26, 2014

Eating Well


Grasshoppers, Anyone?: Cooper writes: The point of the recipes in The Insect Cookbook is primarily to encourage an image of insect-eating very different from that of emaciated Africans stuffing live termites into their hungry mouths. While some of the recipes from Thailand, Mexico and elsewhere are exotic, those created by the Dutch chefs are variations on familiar Western dishes–insect burgers, 'Buglava' (baklava with mealworms), and wild mushroom risotto (with added grasshoppers). These dishes are designed for the conservative eater open to a bit of novelty.
Photo: © Corbis
Source: TLS

An article, by David E. Cooper, in The Times Literary Supplement looks at our changing eating habits, in particular what we eat and why; this comes about in light of what scientists say, and generally agree on, are agriculturally sustainable farming practices for the betterment of our planet's inhabitants.

Cooper, an emeritus professor of philosophy at Durham University, writes ("Entomophagism for all'; April 2014) about the shift in thinking, from the earth as man's domain to the earth as both earning and necessitating respect and protection from harm, as one would accord a good provider:
This consensus is sympathetically presented in The Politics of the Pantry, by Michael Mikulak, a young Canadian social scientist and small-scale farmer. While practices of animal husbandry are not his central concern, the book gives clear expression to what, for the “alternative food movement” that the author defends, these should be. His main concern is nothing less than “the survival of humanity”, which is at imminent risk, he maintains, under modern capitalism. A profit-driven “economic turn”, whereby nature is valued only as a resource, creates an “environmental crisis” – water shortages, falling crop yields, global warming – that no amount of “techno-utopian” fixing can resolve.
The solution, rather, is to abandon the current system of “industrial food” production in favour of an alternative food culture capable of “creating an exuberance and excess that feeds everyone”. Embraced in this alternative culture are Slow Food philosophy, the Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement in the United States, “locavorism”, farmers’ markets, kitchen gardening, practical education in “food skills”, and the eating of animals that have been “ethically raised”. “Utopian pastoral” as this culture may sound, it serves to inspire a radical “politics of the pantry” that engenders “trust, solidarity and pleasure” among those striving to create a “better world”.
Mikulak records that he was once a vegetarian but decided to “go beyond” this. For him, as for other enthusiasts of Slow Food and locavorism, dining on ethically raised pigs and chickens is not only a gastronomic treat, but a principled rejection of vegetarianism. Since they are discounted by the mass food industry, vegetarians allegedly have no influence on its methods of production. Indeed, by consuming processed food that has travelled long distances, they are complicit, Mikulak argues, in the very “agricultural-industrial complex” that he denounces. Moreover, with artificial fertilizers eschewed, animals destined for the table are essential to the whole “ecosystem” of the farm.
Certainly, these animals deserve “sympathy and respect”, but this is precisely what they get from followers of the alternative food movement. Unlike people who consume anonymous lumps of meat from the supermarket, Mikulak’s cohort “celebrate” the “animality” of a local pig or chicken, in all its “fleshly presence”, when cutting it up, wasting none of it, and sharing it with friends at the table. Vegetarians, it is hinted, are guilty of a surly refusal to accept both “the generosity of life” and the close communion with “earth, family and community” that – to judge from Mikulak’s “visceral experience” with goose sausages and pig’s jowl – only a sharing in the preparation and eating of meat can provide.
“How do we get from here to there?”, Mikulak asks more than once, alert to the problem of how the message of locavorism and Slow Food–perceived by some as an “elitist dinner club for lefties”–could be embraced on the demotic scale needed to transform the global food system. Doomsday scenarios of food running out have become too familiar to have an effect, as have nightmarish exposés of factory farms. This is one reason Mikulak emphasizes the alternative food movement’s credentials as an “alternative hedonism”. The carrot of convivial gastronomic pleasure is more persuasive than the stick of food scarcity.
I was not aware of the term "locavorism" until now; the idea that it is always preferable to buy locally. This idea, no doubt, has its merits if you live in a region like California, Florida, or central America, but it has its limitations in places like New York City, London or Toronto, where I reside, particularly if you like tropical fruits or vegetables. But I understand the sentiment behind locavorism, favouring the locally grown—the term local having differing meanings for different individuals.

As to what it, eating healthy food, means today, many persons are already part of the "alternative food movement" without consciously aware they are part of it. They are doing this without the need to politicize food and its production; many are buying from local markets, and are trying to buy the best-quality fruits, vegetables and meat they can afford. Many have small-scale organic gardens where they grow fruits and vegetables in accordance to restrictions like how much space they have, and how long is their growing season—this includes balcony-sized gardens.

For years, people have been duly informed on the dangers of consuming too many pesticides, too many antibiotics, too many GMos, and too many unknown and untested biological agents that have been introduced into our food supply, or food chain, as it is also called, chiefly because farmers consider it both productive and profitable. Most individuals and families can do only so much, since most of us live in urban areas; we thus depend greatly on farmers for most of our foods, and thus trust them to ensure that the food that we eat is at least safe, if not healthy and nutritious.

You can read more of this article at [TLS]