It started with a conversation about food. Which lead to a book being shared, new ideas being formed, and ended, at least for now, with a trip to a farm. Honestly, there are so many thoughts floating around at this point, I am making this a two part blog.
The conversation was with my friend Jen and centered around the subject of vegetarianism. For those of you with very strong opinions one way or the other, this is not going a blog about whether or not one should or should not eat meat. That is a highly personal choice. In the past, I have tried going without meat but I find myself hungry. Frankly, a hungry Lisa is a cranky Lisa. However, last summer, after not eating red meat for over 8 years, I ended up at the doctor because I just wasn’t feeling well and was diagnosed with an iron deficiency. That led to me making a choice between iron pills or occasionally eating red meat. I opted not to take a pill every day and to eat red meat once or twice a month. But I eat meat with both guilt and, truth be told, pleasure. While I love a good flank steak, I struggle with the way beef is produced in this country.
Jen is also someone that gets hungry without meat. But Jen took an approach that I had not considered. She looked into farms that raised animals in a manner that was closer to their natural habitats. The thought also occurred to me to say that the animals were raised in a more humane way but then I am not sure that I can use the label “humane” if the animals are ultimately going to end up on a dinner plate.
The week following our conversation, Jen brought me a book to read. The book is Omnivore’s Dilemma, written by Michael Pollan. This book has awakened something inside me. If that sounds dramatic – good. That is exactly my intent. This is a fabulously written book that follows the origins of four very different meals – a fast food meal, an organic meal, a meal from a sustainable farm and a meal that the author forages on his own.
I won’t go into the details here regarding the book. However, I will say that I learned several very interesting things. Mr. Pollan suggests that it is the mega corn producers that have steered our country into using ethanol in our gasoline, influenced cattle producers to force feed corn to animals that, by design, are herbivores, and are now trying to figure out how to off load surplus corn by reprogramming farm raised salmon to eat corn. The derivatives of corn are in nearly every sweetener in processed food and because farmers have become super efficient at raising corn, there is more corn generated from our farmers than we can possibly use.
The information on corn is but one of the revelations from the book and even though they are pretty big eye-openers for me, that’s still not the biggest idea I walked away with.
What this book brought to the forefront of my thoughts is an awakening of an idea that I have skirted around for quite some time. One of the biggest and most important concepts of yoga is learning how to be present. To me, included in that line of thought is being conscious of all my actions, including those around eating. By that, I specifically mean that this book brought to light that I need to be more conscious of what I am eating. Not in a calorie counting how-much-fat-is-there way but rather in a do-you-know-where-this-food-comes-from kind of way. Instead of operating on auto pilot and eating fast food because it is, well, fast, it is important to understand that by acting this way, I am supporting an industry that uses what is cheap and convenient for them – not necessarily what is best for me.
About 7 years ago, I lost fifty pounds. The weight gain was the result of being somewhat happily married, in and out of crappy jobs and like many others, ate what I wanted when I wanted it. A lot of times I ate just because the food was easy and not because the food was something I craved. Convenience is one of those nasty double edged swords.
In all honesty, I can’t say that I have always been an unconscious eater. Several years ago, I read a book, more like a published rant really, by Scott Trudow. That book made me think about the “stuff” that is added to processed foods and I drew a line in the sand for several food choices. As a result of that book I now only consume real butter. I only buy 100% fruit juice and in general, I do not buy anything labelled “low fat”. I also see no reason that bread should have any added high fructose corn syrup. Going to the grocery with me is an exercise in patience because, unless I am buying something I have bought before, I read every label. All that being said, after reading Omnivore’s Dilemma, my awareness has been raised to a new level. When I think about convenience, I have no choice but to consider the down-stream effects of those choices. I can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that chicken I purchase from a box store has been raised in less than ideal conditions.
Life is about trade-offs. And with those trade-offs, there are consequences. I’ll be the first to admit that I have, at least once per week, a frozen pizza for dinner and it is on a rare occassion that I eat anything green. In the past, I have often associated consequences as being a “bad” thing resulting from some sort of behavior of an individual. But I see now that I need to broaden my view of consequences. Only by being more aware of of the origins of the meal I eat, can I be more present. So what’s a girl to do? How about a visit to Inspiration Plantation? Read more in part two coming soon.