Now, that doesn’t sound exactly earth-shaking, does it? But it’s a genuinely revolutionary thing to do, and the times, they are a’changin’.
Let’s look at the all-too-typical American diet of prepared foods and fast-food takeout.
To begin with, there’s the uncommon but disturbing finding of traces of fecal matter or other dangerous materials in fast food hamburger. It’s rare, but it’s a byproduct of the inhumane and dangerous conditions in the slaughterhouses that supply hamburger to the big chains. Several of them are famous for hiring undocumented immigrants for poverty wages with no benefits, then cheating them, and dumping them without a dime when they are injured cutting up meat with razor-sharp knives at breakneck speed.
To begin with, there’s the disturbing finding of
traces of fecal matter in hamburger.
But fecal matter is just a symptom of dysfunction in the food production system. Worse is the condition of the animals as they arrive to be killed, after spending time in horrible feed lots with tens of thousands of other doomed creatures. The big one on I-5 in southern California gags travelers for miles. They have been fed low-level antibiotics from birth, which makes them gain weight faster (and makes one wonder what effect that has on the humans who eat them). Their flesh is permeated with these unnatural antibiotics, but that may not be the worst of it. They have spent the entirety of their short lives eating corn (which is itself unnatural for cattle) that has absorbed the annual billion pounds of pesticides put on crops, and many tons of herbicides. This includes the dangerous chemicals sold by Monsanto (my nomination for the most evil corporation in the world today) to treat their Franken-crops.
It’s not just the fast food burgers. All factory farm products contain these dangerous chemicals.
Our farming becomes more dangerous and unsustainable by the day. Perhaps it was Wendell Berry who wrote about a rural church he saw. Originally built on a flat farm field, the church is now elevated some fifteen feet above the surrounding fields because of the ongoing erosion of land due to bad farming practices over the past 150 years. Topsoil in many places has been reduced from 5-15 feet to just a few inches, and aquifers have been permanently drained to irrigate corn for cattle, turning the region into desert to service the anti-food factories that cattle are. (As Frances Moore Lappé pointed out, cattle consume eight times as much food as they produce.)
That’s only the beginning. What happens when factory-farmed products are made into the stuff that shows up in boxes on supermarket shelving and freezers. Leaving aside the sawdust-flavored pallid pink tomatoes that are designed so they can be handled like baseballs and shipped thousands of miles, virtually all such food is compromised when compared to fresh food. Moreover, all of it is “improved” with chemical flavor enhancers, preservatives, and unhealthy levels of things like salt to make up for it. It’s pretty much like the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which dictates a loss of energy with every change of form. The more you process food, the more nutrition is lost.
It’s worth mentioning too that there is absolutely no good reason to drink colas or other sweet drinks. This multi-billion dollar global industry provides nothing nutritional at all. On the contrary, it has been responsible for everything from really bad teeth to diabetes, and in at least one case a woman died from drinking gallons of the stuff.
All factory food is compromised
when compared to fresh food.
These foods are not “improved” at all. They are degraded. I propose an equation: the nutritional value of corporate foods equals fresh organic foods minus profit. Seen in this light, organic foods are well worth their higher cost even before we account for the poisons in factory food.
And here’s yet another factor we are only beginning to understand: the human gut microbiome. We have devoted the better part of a hundred years to killing off the natural zoo of creatures in and on our bodies for the sake of “better health”. Turns out we should not have been quite so hasty. “Some of My Best Friends Are Bacteria”, by food writer Michael Pollan, provides a first look for many of us at what we know about the subject. (Despite the rather disgusting illustrations, it’s not about eating with dirty hands.) We could summarize what we know so far by saying that our understanding of the human gut microbiome is still primitive, and our current practices have in some cases been counterproductive.
Oy vey! What to do.
It’s really very simple. Buy real food from the people who grow it. Organic is good, but much that appears in farmers markets is grown without unnecessary nasty chemicals anyway, although the farmer hasn’t gone to the trouble of applying for certification. In many cities, you can subscribe to a periodic delivery of very fine local organic produce to your home. At the very least, minimize your use of processed foods made from crops drenched in poisonous chemicals, produced by giant corporations whose profit is enhanced by minimizing the nutritional value of what they sell.
Motto: Never buy food from someone who gets an annual bonus.
Buy real food from the people who grow it.
Even better, grow and cook your own.
And never buy food from someone
who gets an annual bonus.
Even better, grow your own. Not everyone has the right setup to do this and not everyone has enough time, although most could grow something, but for those who do, every homegrown veggie you put on your table instead of something in a box from the supermarket is a small step toward better wellbeing. But if you live in the inner city, please spring for having your soil tested for lead (from the days of leaded gasoline; testing might be free) and other nasties left over from when your lot might have been a dumping ground.
The third thing is to cook it yourself. Many, if not most, people lament their lack of time, and they have a point. Who wants to chop veggies after a grueling day at work? But cooking a fresh veggie is usually not all that hard. Rinse green beans, snap off the stems, and put them in a steamer. Scrub a few carrots and cook them in a little water with a bit of (real) butter. Corn on the cob can be nuked in the husk (4 min. per ear) then the big ends cut off, and then squeezed out minus silk, ready to eat, nothing else necessary. And of course many fruits are simplicity itself, and are wonderful desserts, perhaps with a dash of yogurt and chopped nuts.
You can make a big pot of something that will last for several meals—a ground turkey chili, a hearty soup, a slow-cooked beans and chicken dish, veggie stew, and many others. If you did that every weekend, and froze some of it, you would soon have a steady supply of DIY ready-made meals. If you are typically busy, a few such tricks can improve your food a lot. And subvert the dominant paradigm in the process. Look around; it’s working so well that the food factory people are trying to find ways to claim that they were organic all along, and their manufactured stuff is actually good for you. Commercial villains—think oil companies—spend millions claiming they actually help the aborigines they are killing, and the land they have poisoned or destroyed is actually improved.
The nutrition they remove pays for executive bonuses.
So, you can be more subversive than you might have thought. Buy real food, from those who grow it. Cook it yourself. You are doing your part to foil the corporate powers that devote themselves to providing you with ever-cheaper and depleted food. The nutrition they remove pays for executive bonuses.