I am a massive fan of essayist and modern-day agrarian Wendell Berry. And in one of my favorite essays, “The Pleasures of Eating,” he notes that eating is an agricultural act. He advises city folk who ask what they can do to act on this truth: “Eat responsibly.”
In a progression of seven things that articulate more about this responsibility, he goes from advising people to “Participate in food production to the extent that they can” (even if that means simply growing some herbs on your windowsill) to “preparing your own food” to learning more about the origins of where your food comes from.
Berry posits that we cede freedom if our food and its sources are controlled by someone else, a pretty hefty declaration. But if you think of it, what would you do if a major drought or disease killed off most of what you put on your plate? Do you know other places to get your food besides a grocery store? Do you know how to garden so you can produce some of the food yourself? Could you replace the bulk of your diet while meeting your nutritional needs? In a biting observation, Wendell Berry notes:
True. However, if you look at some of the novelty products in the dairy aisle, the food industrialists come pretty close.
Climate change and the high attrition of our seed diversity make me think that questioning how responsibly we eat is worth asking proactively rather than dealing with a food crisis after it hits.
While I consider myself a responsible eater, I would like to know what I would do if my food were in short supply.
Essays like this one make me evaluate my eating choices. I am proud that I eat primarily whole or lightly processed foods. For example, I eat a lot of fresh and frozen veggies, lightly processed dairy products, almonds, dried fruits, and soups and sauces my spouse makes from primarily whole foods. My garden provides a decent amount of the food I eat in the late spring to early autumn. I have a freezer, which sometimes contains a fair amount of preserved food from my garden. Kudos on that front.
That said, I have to admit that I am not free. I could be better at preserving food for consumption in the winter. I have yet to teach myself or seek training on how to can or ferment. And I don’t have a dehydrator, which would be a terrific addition to my kitchen. If I belonged to a CSA (i.e., community-supported agriculture), I could preserve more for the winter months. And I could frequent farmers markets much more than I do now.
I advise you to read Berry’s essay and then do a self-assessment.
Comments are welcome.