Well, as the old Chinese curse goes, we sure are living in interesting times. Watching the evening news is like riding a roller coaster, making a lot of us weary and queasy and, if we’re honest, even a little scared. We could duck into our kitchens and wait out the weather but the issues at hand are so fundamental to our daily lives, so relevant to the stovetop and the pantry, that hiding out behind a new recipe or kitchen gadget is not an option.
Here in The Kitchn, the prevailing theme of our lives is food and cooking--the basic, earthy pleasures of the hearth. It sounds homey and simple and on a certain level it is. But, as the Buddhists say, if you pick up a speck of dust, the whole world follows with it. In other words, everything co-arrises and is connected.
So if you are interested in eating, then you are interested, at least to some degree, in eating well. If you are concerned about eating well, then it follows that you are concerned about where your food comes from, how it got to you, who grew it and how. If you are concerned about that, then the health and well-being of the farmer, farm workers, and the soil are also crucial. And so on. Nothing can be separated out from the concerns of the dinner table. This is why food is such a compelling topic for so many of us.
A few months ago, about 50,000 people gathered in San Francisco for Slow Food Nation. On the surface, the event looked rather prosaic: lots of privileged folk running around eating organic delicacies and preaching to the choir. But there were some hard core discussion panels going on behind the scenes in the Food for Thought forums where real issues and, most importantly, real solutions were raised.
SFN has just released videos from the forums on their website and I urge you to watch them. In particular, and especially if your time is limited, watch the closing session with Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, Vendana Shiva, Alice Waters and other leaders of the movement. The session is in two parts and if you have to choose between the two, then watch part two, which is just under an hour. *
The final question from moderator Corby Kummer is a request for each of the panelists to ‘give us our marching orders!’ In other words, what real, down to earth actions can we take to correct our mistakes and assure that we can provide clean, safe and delicious food for everyone.
I was particularly moved by one of my heroes, Wendell Berry, who spoke very eloquently of the cooperative principal, faith, and how being a good neighbor may save us all. Putting your body and heart into action is a solution to fear and despair, and discovering what it means to be a good neighbor is a mighty fine place to start. But all of the answers from the panel can inspire and guide us, be it as simple as planting a garden or as complex as taking on agribusiness. The only question remaining is: How bad does it have to get for us to wake up and do something?
* So you don't think you can spare even an hour? Then here's a 5 minute sound-bite from Michael Pollan called Voting with Our Forks.