today’s installment is brought to you by the letter F.

for “food” you silly readers!

and for “freedom”. and for “funderstanding”. (which technically is not a word, but perhaps it should be…)

it should also be dedicated to mike adams, the health ranger- for his continued insights and passionate dedication to raising awareness about food/safety issues.

and last- but certainly never least- to *h and my wonderful family and all of the super fantastic folks who supported me as i made my own discoveries about food politics and food freedom.

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the 3rd area where i find people have lost their confidence in their abilities is food-related. people used to go out to the garden and into the larder and choose their next meal. perhaps they ground some grain or uncovered some treasures in the root cellar or traded what they had for what their neighbor had.

even if i have an overly idealized version of this (yes, i am aware that people eventually moved into cities), for many years after people left the farms, they still retained their farm knowledge of what food was supposed to be. they kept an intimate understanding, probably in their very cells, of what food was and what it did. the average city housewife might not know how to recognize medicinal herbs growing in the wild, but she darn sure knew how to choose the right cut of meat from the butcher who came to her door. she knew the right ratio of fat to meat and the right amount of marbling and the right color, texture, and smell.  ditto extensive knowledge for the baked goods from the door-to-door peddler. moreso from the egg vendor and the milkman and the vegetable seller.

back then, an egg was an egg. no chickens were raised on chemicals in cramped cages and forced to overproduce less nutritious eggs.

back then, beef was beef. some may have been a slightly better cut or quality, but none came from hormoned/steroided/antibiotic-filled animals who spent their miserable lives eating food that was never designed for them so they could be quickly fattened and quickly killed to make room for the next batch.

a carrot was a carrot, and allowing for differences in soil nutrients, a carrot was still pretty much a carrot. it was not “color-enhanced” or preserved or canned in sodium broth.  veggies and fruits had colors from actual nutrients and although the variety may have been poor by today’s standards, the array of healthy goodness was much broader.

fast forward to today.

an apple could be any number of things. its color may be true to the fruit or not. a brightly colored fruit does not necessarily indicate a more nutrient-dense product. the shiny coating is wax and not robust good health. oh well. at least they look good in the grocery store displays.

we can buy all of the 4 or 5 or 6 varieties of potatoes we know of and we can buy them pretty much anywhere all year around. in fact, these tasty selections have been tastefully selected from the possible hundreds of varieties and bred almost to exclusion, so that if a disease would strike them, it would be bye-bye potatoes for the consumers. except that some of them have been genetically modified to be disease-resistent, so at least the chemical manufacturers feel much safer.

and speaking of genetic tinkering, let’s visit our poor afflicted tomato. it may be part trout or part goat or part e-coli induced something or other. we will probably never know the actual composition of that tomato, and unless you are buying directly from a farmer with some integrity, that’s exactly how the tomato producer (notice i do not say “grower”) wants it to be. the good news is that it is shelf stable for the weeks and weeks from when it is picked hard and green and then gassed almost to death and then trucked a zillion miles to wherever you buy it off the shelf, now red and shiny. and even though it happens time after time after time, we are still surprised every time we bite into that mealy tasteless mush that we call refer to as “tomato”.  there is still that poignant tinge of regret every time that we allow ourselves to believe that the tomato we buy will taste like the tomato we imagine. but we keep believing…

and this, folks, is just stuff that is straight fruit or vegetable. this is not stuff in cans and packages and boxes and freezer bags. this is not fast food or cafeteria food or mystery food stuff that passes for food.

you need a background in chemistry and genetics and biology and advertising and marketing and probably a hundred other things to even begin to hope to understand food labels.

when i read “high fructose corn syrup” and my mind reads “corn something…” i am hopelessly unable to buy healthy food for my family.

when i read “no artificial ingredients” and i don’t stop to realize that bug’s blood is natural and pig snouts are natural and chicken toes are natural, i buy lots of sickening junk for my family that a normal and sane person wouldn’t.

if i go out of my way to buy products with “real fruit!” or “wholesome ingredients!” or that are “heart healthy!” i am letting some advertising exec. determine what fuels my family. and i can almost promise you that if they are touting it, it’s because they are covering up something else or skewing the information.

so, it is with good reason that folks have lost their confidence in food. they don’t know how to grow it. they may not have space for it (insert load throat clearing noise here). they can’t understand the labels. and guess what? farmers markets and CSAs and food co-ops are crazy expensive!

yep. in 2011/almost 2012 it is a luxury to afford good food.

i know that every so often some mainsteam news organization trots out a puff piece about how it really isn’t more expensive to eat healthy. but anyone who shops for real food for real families knows that’s b.s.

i could feed my families a big pot of heart healthy fiber filled nutritious beans and still have enough left over for some organic apples. but they won’t eat the beans and an apple doesn’t fill a belly. trust me on both counts.

when i can buy ramen noodles 10 packs for a dollar or rice noodles for $3 for 8 ounces, guess what’s gonna be on the menu?

no, you can’t put a price on your family’s good health.

but you also can’t pay the mortgage with lentils.

if you are aware enough to know what you don’t know, what are you to do? the obvious answer is to take on more responsibility for your own food sources. plant a few tomato plants, even if they live on the bathroom counter. find a friend with some apple trees in her backyard and offer to bake her a few pies if she’ll give you a few bushels of apples. do some internet research and be creative.

i don’t have the answers. i know that folks in cities don’t exactly have neighbors with fruit trees. i know that even with 100 tomato plants, i still won’t have as much as my family needs for several months, let alone a year.

but, i will know what’s in those tomatoes and that’s a start.

i will keep reading mike adams and books and articles and blogs that get recommended to me.

i will know at least some of what i don’t know and maybe try to sneak some of those beans into mexican food or soups that stretch the budget and free up some cash to start a new garden.

we, being groovy seattle-ites now, are probably getting some chickens soon.

i watched a great video about living simply. the guy said one thing that really stood out to me:

no blame, no shame.

and that’s where we need to start.

so, do what you can, when you can.

try not to sweat the rest of it too hard for now.

be a little wiser and a little craftier.

and maybe soon you will have food confidence and food freedom.

good luck on the journey!