i’ve been reading my way through joel salatin’s books, which i have to say has been an unadulteraterated pleasure. i think each book is going to be my favorite, and then i read the next one and like it even better.

currently i’m in the middle of folks, this ain’t normal, and i was liking it so much that i ordered a copy to own for myself (the rest i got from the library). i keep finding things that make me want to write blog posts, and i keep having dilemmas about whether i want to mark up my book with margin notes about what i want to say or whether i want to keep the book pristine and just blog as things come up.

last night i compromised and folded over the corner of a page that i wanted to remember to revisit, and here’s what it says:

“Making the kitchen the focal point of domestic camaraderie exceeds anything else. When families begin placing importance on food, they make  a political, societal statement. To actually care about food, to think about it, to see it as a conscious act is indeed a revolutionary thought in today’s world.”

this one thought embodies so many important thoughts that he discusses in the book and that i want to explore.

he talks about how there are some apartments being built now that don’t even have kitchens in them because people have no use for them. people don’t cook; they microwave. he brings the example of an art teacher who assigns her students to bring in a cooking pot from home for a drawing exercise only to find out that not a single student in the tenth grade owns a cooking pot at home. “how do you eat?” she asks. they open boxes and nuke the food. obviously… he cites examples of truckloads of sweet potatoes and squash that are fed to animals or outright thrown into landfills because they can’t even be given away at food banks because nobody will take them since nobody knows how to prepare them. he talks  about how much relationship building goes on at the family table and how much is lost when there is no family table and no family preparing of food. there is no food tradition and no handing down of food skills. otherwise competent adults don’t know how to cook a whole chicken or how to make a hamburger from scratch. left to their own devises, people have no basic survival skills in their own homes.

next, and this is really important to him, every food choice you make has a ripple effect. every dollar you spend either goes toward agribusiness and factory farms and all of their associated issues or it goes toward a small farmer who is trying to scrape by (even if that small farmer is you in your own yard). every bite you take is going to sustain one system or the other, whether you like it or not, and that does make a statement. choosing to buy and prepare your own food from scratch puts dollars and support into a system that you can know and see and access and keep honest. choosing to buy prepackaged highly processed food supports a system where the actual grower of the food receives only pennies and the big companies get most of the profits. the food provides little nutritional “bang for the buck” (a point which i hope to revisit extensively later on), and you are left with calorie-dense but vitality-empty pseudo-food. so, according to mr. salatin, if you want to see more small farmers and you want to see more sustainable farming and more responsible stewardship of land and more care taken over the way animals are treated, then you must choose your food wisely. every dollar does count, and what goes on in your kitchen and on your plate really does matter.

and that sort of segues into his next point, which is that people do a lot of mindless consuming of foodstuff without actually caring about the food. yes, they insert food into their mouths and they chew and they swallow. but they don’t really think about what they eat. and most don’t want to- for good reason. if most people (me included…) really thought about what they ate and where it came from and how it came into being it would make them sick. (side note: on lots of levels it already is making us sick; it’s just usually slow and insidious enough that we don’t notice a direct correlation…). but if people would just stop for as moment and think about what they are doing and be careful consumers they could be revolutionaries with every bite. then he said some things that blew me away. he said that every time he speaks there are people in the audience who will being up cases on the fringe where his ideas won’t work. like if he says people should get chickens to eat their food scraps someone will say, “but i live where i’m not zoned for chickens”. or if he says people should compost their table scraps, someone will say, “but i live in a high-rise apartment”. and his response is that if all the people who could actually do what he is suggesting did it, then the system would be so radically changed that the tide would be unstoppable. can you imagine what would happen if everyone who was allowed to have a few chickens in their backyard did? can you imagine how many people would have access to fresh nutritious eggs that were raised on food scraps that didn’t have to get tossed into landfills? win-win, and it does something to alleviate the horrible conditions of factory chickens in the process. his father used to say when faced with problems that in 30 minutes they could be 30 minutes closer to a solution if they would get to work on the problem instead of just complaining about it. they would have 30 minutes more insight and 30 minutes more information.

if nobody can move on a problem until everybody can, then nothing will ever get done.

so what if the people who can get a worm bin do it? and what if the people who can afford to join a CSA do it? and what if the people who can get chickens do it? (i highly recommend it, by the way!) what if you spend the next chunk of downtime searching online for local farms instead of playing online solitaire and then make a plan to go and visit when the weather gets better? or call now and chat?

how about requesting some books from your local library by michael pollan or joel salatin? watch food, inc. or king korn.

joel suggests trying one meal from scratch. he suggests doing an easy one first, like breakfast. eggs, bacon or sausage, fruit, and toast. easy. and you’ve done it. success. it will feel good and show you that you can shop and prepare food.

he also corrects a common misconception: people often say that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. he says no. if something is worth doing, it is worth failing at first. there is a learning curve. you didn’t learn to walk by getting up and just doing it, and you won’t learn to cook, or preserve, or bake, or whatever on your first try either.

but you can do this.

because real food is living food.

it’s food that grows from living soil with living nutrients from living matter. it’s part of a living food chain in a living cycle. it doesn’t come from a bottle or a box with poison symbols all over it, and it doesn’t require hazmat suits to come near, and it’s not gassed and trucked from a zillion miles away.

i want to revisit this topic soon, but i think it’s enough for now. lot’s of food for thought (pun intended).

to food, to joel salatin, and to a new normal…