Thursday, February 25, 2010

I Know These Things Are True-ish

A conversation between the author Jonathan Safran Foer and his grandmother, a Polish Jew, about surviving WWII:

"The worst it got was near the end. A lot of people died right at the end, and I didn't know if I could make it another day. A farmer, a Russian, God bless him, he saw my condition, and he went into his house and came out with a piece of meat for me."

"He saved your life."

"I didn't eat it."

"You didn't eat it?"

"It was pork. I wouldn't eat pork."


"What do you mean why?"

"What, because it wasn't kosher?"

"Of course."

"But not even to save your life?"

"If nothing matters, there's nothing to save." 

One of the things I’m really trying to do is to understand, to define actually, my food belief system. I have many thoughts about food ethics, but when it comes to how I purchase and eat food, there lies that ever-present gap between theory and practice. Don’t get me wrong, I have a practically non-existent will, but the fact that I don’t really know what I believe in when it comes to food makes it hard to act in accordance with my beliefs.

I know that organic is good, but local is better.  The organic vs. local debate is one that has caused me much confusion, but as Michael Pollan has pointed out, and I paraphrase, when Coca-Cola decides to make Organic Coke, and they will, it won’t make high fructose corn syrup any better for you. Organic growing is definitely better for consumers and for the planet, but unfortunately it is often used as a quick-and-easy marketing ploy to increase market share and does not in any way account for other manufacturing processes that continue to harm the planet and our health.

I can see, though through a very thick fog, that there are people behind every food item I purchase. There are stockholders who want my money to fuel their own personal agendas, there are entrepreneurs who want my money to build their dreams upon, there are farmers who want my money to keep food on their own tables, and there are illegal workers who want my money in order to survive just one more day. No matter where I buy my food, it comes from these people. They are involved in every red pepper, can of soup, carton of milk, and filet of meat I purchase.

And of course, as an omnivore, there are the animals. I know from reading, but not from experiencing, that 99% of animals that become our food are tortured. Not just through selective breeding and confinement but physically tortured, for fun, by the workers who tend to them. I know that the meat that comes from these animals is processed so poorly that it is full of bacteria, waste, and disease. Just because it doesn’t make us sick every time we eat it, does not make it good for us. These facts make meat less appetizing, for sure, but I have not yet stopped eating it.

More importantly, I understand that these small bits of knowledge do not a belief system make. I know these things, but do I really understand, in a big picture kind of way, what these things mean?

1 comment:

  1. if there is one thing i know for certain it is that beliefs must begin with knowledge. lack of knowledge cannot create beliefs, only dogma. knowing how food becomes food is the first step towards a fuller understanding of the entire system of society and leads inevitably to actions that are more profound than simple consumerism. keep up the good work and don't be afraid of how deep the rabbit hole gets! GOOD ESSAY!