Four Ways to Tell That Our Eating Culture Is Broken.
Ever since humans have walked on this earth, food and eating culture have played a significant role in defining who we are. Eating culture encompasses (but is not limited to) the passing on of recipes through generations, the nourishment we provide intellectually, emotionally, and physiologically when we teach our children and families to cook, and the intimacy we experience when we sit down to a meal together to relax, share our thoughts, and enjoy each other’s company.
I believe our eating culture is broken, and while there is finally a positive backlash of individuals who are interested in fixing it, we still have a long way to go. Consider the following as proof of the disconnect that exists between our society and food:
There’s a Pill for That: Have you seen the sickening Prilosec commercials with Larry the Cable Guy? What’s the message there – ‘ignore your body when it protests all the fatty, high-calorie junk you want to put into it. Instead, take a pill to silence the symptoms of a potentially serious condition, and keep eatin’, pardner!’ Why would you not feed your body healthy food, and listen to it when it’s trying to tell you something?
No One Knows How to Cook Anymore: I’m not sure when or how people got so busy or fascinated with convenience foods that they forgot to teach their children how to cook, but now those children are adults, and predictably – they have no idea how to steam vegetables, never mind plan a balanced meal. They’re probably too busy, anyhow (see below):
The Family Meal Has Died: I blame ‘The Culture of Busyness’ for this one. The Culture of Busy these days is like a badge of honor. If you’re not ‘crazy busy’, it’s implied that you must be a slacker, or a loser, or not successful in some way. Even children are scheduled and structured with a day full of school, then activities right after. I see plenty of families who have no time for a dinner at an actual table, opting instead for the back seat of the car (and usually a drive-through menu), or working adults who are ‘too busy to take a lunch’. This seems like self-imposed busyness that has bumped eating and being social off the map. Shouldn’t cooking and eating, and the associated talking and enjoyment, sharing and togetherness, take some priority?
We’ve Strayed Too Far From the Farm: Our food supply is rife with processed convenience foods that are full of sugar and salt. Food companies are capitalizing on the fact that ‘natural’ has no specific definition, and selling nutritionally void foods that may be making us sick. Junk foods that are low-fat or fat-free, or hiding behind their health halo labels of organic or ‘natural’, continue to fool people who somehow fail to understand that organic, natural cookies are still cookies.
What ever happened to eating real food, made with as few ingredients as possible? What is so scary about whole foods like beef and butter and beautiful freshly baked bread? I find 100 calorie Snack Packs of anything scarier than those foods. Trying diet after diet is futile. Just. Eat. Real. Food.
I think the reversal of this disconnect is possible, but it would take a society that believes in cooking classes at school, and a return to understanding the value of real food vs. the relative convenience of junk. A respect for ourselves and our children that surpasses our desire to be busy, and a willingness to prioritize, not undervalue, downtime to cook, to share, and to eat.