It is never just about food

I may end up regretting this. After all, Seattle is a pretty organic, locavore, foodie, green sustainable culture sort of place.  And perhaps, I should establish my credentials by saying up front – we’ve been an organic, sustainable, grow it and preserve it, co-op purchasing family for over 30 years.  But — I’m getting a bit fed up. Fed up with the all or nothing attitudes of so many in both the locavore and the agribusiness communities.

My frustration started when I read The Town That Food Saved: How One Community Found Vitality in Local Food by Ben Hewitt.  It’s a good book, engaging and well written with lots of personal connection between the author and his subject.  But it really started me thinking in ways that Hewitt perhaps didn’t intend.  If this small town in Vermont is the model for the future of sustainable food cultivation, as Hewitt implies, then all the folk in New York, LA, Minneapolis, Atlanta — well you get my drift — all those folk are out of luck. Cities as we know them can’t exist in the world that Hewitt is describing.  How can you possibly grow enough food to feed the population of New York within 100 miles of that city? What do you do in the depths of winter?  And if we think about LA, San Diego, Denver — how do you grow enough food to feed those places in climates that already unable to supply the water needs of their populations? I don’t have the answers but it seemed to me that the folks Hewitt interviewed didn’t even ask the questions. 

And then I checked out Just Food by James E. McWilliams. Oh boy.  Now I have even more questions. And while McWilliams suggests some answers they aren’t easy answers.  I was particularly stimulated and excited by McWilliams’ desire to “..reframe the debate about sustainable food production in a way that opens it up and encourages us to seek less ideologically crafted alternatives…”  Now in addition to the questions above I’m thinking about the impact of organic meat production and consumption and what are the judicious uses of technology. 

I think I’m  starting to move beyond the “bumper sticker” approach to food production.  But in case my brain wasn’t stretching far enough already, I’ve recently checked out two books on greening the kitchen that have very different suggestions for achieving that goal.

The Conscious Kitchen: The New Way to Buy and Cook Food — to Protect the Earth, Improve Your Health, and Eat Deliciously by Alexandra Zissu. 

Cooking Green –  Reducing your Carbon Footprint in the Kitchen: The New Green Basics Way  by Kate Heyhoe.

One thought on “It is never just about food”

  1. Excellent to raise these points, I was thinking about this very issue reading accounts of Seattle’s expansion of the number of chickens that a householder in the city could maintain. In the ‘old days’ when all food was local, people sat through the winter without fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, even fresh eggs. Look at a historical cookbook like Fannie Farmer to see how winter meals looked–celery and olives were the main vegetables for a company dinner!
    Thanks, Heather, for the provocative post.

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