A Lot on Our Plates

These days, across the media and social media, there are many conflicting reports and opinions on what we should be eating. I’ve been taking it all in, and I think how we should be eating is where we should concentrate our efforts. I follow accounts with many different viewpoints and lifestyles: hunters, vegan chefs, restaurateurs, family farmers, bakers, LCHF dieters, and food tourists. Since most of my posts are of my food, I like to see what other people are cooking/eating for inspiration. It’s exciting and fun. But lately I’ve observed that there is a vicious war going on between different groups people who identify strongly with their diet. No doubt they know who they are. It makes me sad to see people fighting about food when we all need it, love it, and have tangible, productive change within our reach if we’d only give it the time.

Let’s face it – we have problems as a species. Our food system is broken and many of the biggest problems that plague us as humans are those of our own doing: crises which came about due to our choices and actions about food. Between overpopulation, world hunger, animal welfare, human health, societal sustainability, financial impacts, and environmental effects, there’s quite literally a lot on our plates – and although these issues are everyone’s concern, there’s so much hateful back-and-forth going on that sometimes I think we’re being distracted from the real problems that are in our power to fix.

I propose that we stop dividing over our differences and starting uniting over what we can agree on when it comes to our food system. Something we can all agree on, and rally together over, is the fact that we must care about where our food comes from, regardless of what we eat or how we align ourselves. Declaring oneself a vegetarian, vegan, carnivore, omnivore, pescetarian or anything else does not, in itself, mean anything if one remains ignorant and uncaring about food provenance. Anyone who eats anything should be educated as much as possible on the practices that produce their food and its implications on the people, places, and living things involved in that system. Too many people fail to see the big picture, because the truth can hurt and it can be ugly.

People have to find out (because they won’t be easily told) that cheap meat is often borne of the worst conditions. They have a right to know that countless animals die every year because of agriculture – including crop production.  They should know that human and animal cruelty abounds in factory farms. They should know that many foods, even “health foods,” come to us at terrible costs, expending our natural resources and perpetuating poverty. Some products come from slave labor, and many store-bought ingredients travel thousands of miles through many industrial, commercial, even corporate hoops to get to your plate while your local farmer struggles to get by.

But instead of telling people they should eat this or that for their body, or even for the planet, I think we should be reaching out to all the people who have no connection whatsoever to their food, whose need to eat to survive is entangled in the sticky consumer-product relationship. This is where it all comes from. Our society is teaching us to mindlessly consume – not to eat. To eat would mean to participate in greater extent; not just to enjoy, but to care. That’s why we never say “let’s go out to consume!” You go out to eat. You “make something to eat,” and go “get something to eat,” not “something to consume.” Friends and families eat together; they don’t consume together (well in this country, it seems, they do – more and more). And for those who think income is a deciding factor – “peasant” food is some of the best food, and many an unforgettable feast has been crafted from the humblest ingredients. Eating with consciousness and pleasure is everyone’s right.

Telling people to eat more or less of something, even if it’s for the best of reasons, does not always work. Rather than splitting into bitter camps (when we all have the same aims), rather than telling someone they shouldn’t eat meat or that they should, that they should eat more plants or less carbs, let’s highlight what they are eating and what relationship they have with it. People are going to eat what they’re going to eat; that’s human nature. But by shedding light on the reality of what is going on, here and now, we are in fact empowering them to do their own homework and make their own choices.

People don’t like to be preached to or told what to do, particularly with food – but maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t mind being shown what they are doing and if it can be done in a better way. I do believe that if we try, if we guide our efforts more toward positive results than profit, we can save the world with food. We’d better – because if we don’t, how we’re eating will be how the world ends.

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