I’ve been interested in food ever since I became a vegetarian the summer after I graduated from college. It was my gateway drug to foodie-ism and to all things healthy and environmentally sound. The impetus was an offending pork chop that I picked up from the A&P. It was disgusting. Turned me off to meat for a good ten years, until one day I had a craving for a pan-fried steak. Wise, by then, to the ways of good food, I drove myself directly to Whole Foods and bought a delicious if pricey grass-fed, hormone free steak which I fried up in an iron skillet with fresh rosemary and olive oil. Best meal I’ve ever had. I’ve been a dedicated omnivore ever since, though my vegetarian days have left their beautiful mark. I still eat googobs of fresh farmer’s market vegetables. I load up on whole grains. I’ve taken of late to eating green leafy vegetables with every meal. And though I sometimes pick up my veggies at Trader Joe’s, life being zany the way it is, I do know that there is nothing as good as fresh produce that’s been recently picked from a tree or pulled from the ground. Meat that’s been kindly treated tastes better too, not to mention how much better it is on my conscience and my commitment to living my days on this earth as if I’m a part of everything here. For me that means being an omnivore, in nod to my place on the food chain and my Type O blood. If you believe in that sort of thing — and I’m not sure I do except for the fact that, after ten years of vegetarianism, that pan fried steak made me happy instead of sick — the Os among us are natural carnivores, which may just explain my sudden, out of nowhere craving for a Whole Foods steak. But I digress. I’m here to talk about food and what it means. Specifically, I’m interested in food policy and how we might think differently about our food.
For me, food is sustenance, and it’s pleasure and it’s a way for me to feel my deep connection to the place where I live, by which I mean the planet as well as the specific place on the planet where I live. I’m a big proponent of local food. Not only does it support farmers, who deserve our support for providing us with healthy sustenance — and because they represent a way of life that we ought preserve, but it helps reduce the portion of our carbon footprint that’s attributable to shipping our food to and fro. I’m am also a big proponent of sustainable agriculture and all manner of pesticide and hormone-free food, organic or otherwise. I’m also a big believer in cruelty-free animal husbandry; food that’s produced without genetically modified organisms (GMOs); providing people who live in poor, inner city communities with access to healthy, good quality food; farm to table eating; tail to snout eating; locavorism in all its forms; home cooking, mostly from scratch; the kitchen garden; reusable shopping totes; and anything that makes us more thoughtful about the way we eat and how it impacts the world and the people in it.
One of the great challenges facing us as we move into the future is how to reshape our food policy so that it reflects our growing awareness that we are part of the natural ecosystem and that we need healthy, sustainable food practices for our own sake and for the sake of the planet on which we depend for our sustenance. We are part of the natural ecosystem and our food policy should reflect that truth. Our food policy should also reflect our commitment to our own health and the health of all who walk this planet. It should be easy to access and identify safe, good quality food. Right now, it is hard for all of us. If we are poor, good quality natural food is often just not available where we live, and if we live on the more privileged end of the spectrum, we are hamstrung in our healthy eating efforts by the lack of GMO labeling and a general uncertainty about how to be sure that the food we’re purchasing was produced under conditions that we agree with. I believe this will change as the groundswell of support grows for the idea of food policy change.
At the forefront of this movement is one of my favorite food writers, Mark Bittman, whose writings in the New York Times on food, and on food policy & change, is some of the best I’ve seen. I also credit Tamar Adler, whose luminous book An Everlasting Meal transformed my relationship to food by teaching me how to cook economically and from scratch, using the best quality food and while juggling a busy life.
PHOTOGRAPHY via Unknown
PAULA PURYEAR is a Lawyer, Film & Television writer, HuffPoster and Founder of Revel In It Mag.