How I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways: an Ode to Food

This post is long overdue.

Hello. My name is Kayla, and I’m a foodie. My love of food is not limited to gastronomical delights; it is not restricted to the boundaries and limitations of my senses. It is visceral – instinctual – and I’ve felt for some time now that it is also my future. Although I don’t know exactly how, it is in some way intertwined with my divine purpose.

It wasn’t always this way. I was a horribly picky eater as a child. I liked fried chicken, mac and cheese, and steak smothered in gravy and served over rice. Rice and gravy, a staple of any proper Cajun childhood, was my favorite. I also loved chocolate pop tarts. While it pains me to no end to have to admit it to you – I still love them. I once threw a tantrum in the dining room of Le Pavillon, a very elegant New Orleans hotel, demanding I be served fried chicken (sorry Mom). Actually now that I think about it my finickiness was really just an expression of my food and I’s deep and unyielding relationship. Even though today I eat pretty much any food nature can provide, and I’m willing to try pretty much any cultural delicacy I might be so blessed to encounter, I’ve managed to stay true to my beginnings. I am still horribly picky.

My unyielding finickiness isn’t directed toward particular foods, just a particular quality of food. These lesser gastronomical offerings, in my humble foodie opinion, are hardly food at all.

I don’t know when I started trying new things, venturing boldly into the vegetable world. I’m not sure when I got so brave or when I discovered that mushrooms are awesome. At some point I started trying new things, things I’d previously rejected. At some point something shifted and a whole new world became available for me to delight in. I’ve been passionately delighting ever since. My love isn’t limited to the plate. I was always drawn to the kitchen, even in those days of limited repertoire. The mac and cheese had to made, and I was going to know how to make it perfectly. That is, with a slight bit more milk that the box called for. I’ve even tried parlaying a couple of businesses out of my cooking skills, none of which to my dismay, did I find the least bit satisfying. So today, I eat and I cook and share the experience with my friends and my family every chance I get.

Recently another shift has occurred. My love for food is now, I am discovering, extending beyond the plate and the pot. My beloved and eternally generous love is in crisis. Someone has to defend it. Farmers, once a respected and honored lot, have largely disappeared. They are being replaced by food conglomerates, some of whom (like Monsanto) began their work developing chemical agents of war (like Agent Orange). They’ve been deceiving us ever since. They are nothing if not consistent. Monsanto has become the biggest target in the war to take back our food, but they aren’t the only enemy. You may (or may not) know that 80% of processed foods in your local supermarket contain ingredients which are genetically engineered, and these genetically engineered food-like commodities require heavier and heavier doses of pesticides and rapidly deplete the soil of the nutrients it is naturally designed to generate and regenerate. You might know that the majority of processed foods (fast food, food in boxes, but also the meat, dairy and eggs you consume) are largely made of corn and soy and other ingredients which are derived from the broken down components of corn and soy, and that that corn and soy in more instances than not is genetically engineered, or modified. If you’ve never heard of GMOs, you’d be well served to look it up. Since GMOs were approved our national instances of allergies, heart disease, cancer and diabetes, as well as autism and learning disabilities in children have all skyrocketed. Foods – plants and animals – grown in diverse ecosystems have proven themselves to be safe, nutritious and even medicinal. You might be surprised to learn that Monsanto  (who, by the way, not only sells the genetically engineered crops in your food, but also sells the pesticides they rely on – Roundup for example) and other companies are not required by the FDA to prove those organisms are safe or tell you when the food you buy contains them. You are an involuntary guinea pig.

You might not know the biological propensities, preferences and ecological benefits of pigs, cows and chickens. If did you  you might be horrified if you knew exactly how they are raised for our consumption in Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), the environmental consequences of these practices, or that they are mostly fed GM (genetically modified) grains and corn. You might be surprised that no one has to tell you that most cattle, swine and chickens consumed in the United States never actually see grass much less a pasture. I’m not a vegetarian, but I love my food.

My food, whether it be animal, vegetable or mineral, deserves an existence worthy of being lived, whether or not I choose to consume it and whether or not it is cheap to attain. My food deserves to reach its evolutionary potential without the manipulations of man for sport or for profit. My food deserves to be diverse, and rich and nutritious, cultivated and nurtured by men who respect its life giving value. My food doesn’t deserve to be perverted and molested by Monsanto or Cargill or Tyson or any other food industry conglomerate.

My food deserves to be loved and respected from cradle to grave.

Genetically Modified foods have been banned in the European Union nations, Russia, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand, and others. In the United States, when you purchase organic foods, you can be assured that your food has been grown with the highest standard of care and environmental respect recognized by the United States government, the FDA and the USDA. Which, unfortunately isn’t saying much, but it’s something. If you really want to love your food, buy local. Support local farmers and ranchers, especially those who exercise practices of environmental sustainability and ecological diversity. Go to your local Farmer’s Market, talk to your local farmers, try the food they grow and encourage them to the highest standard.  Ask your favorite restaurants to source from local growers and suppliers. Ask where your food comes from.

Advocate for your food. You are what you eat, but you are also the food your food eats.

Currently there is a petition before the FDA and a bill before Congress that would require companies to state in the ingredients list of their products which ingredients are genetically modified. The passage of HR5335, the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, would insure that you reserve the right to make an informed choice about which foods you feed yourself and your family.

You have a right to know.

Please consider taking a moment to visit the following links which provide quick and easy ways to tell the FDA and your Representative that you want to know what’s in your food:

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_24090.cfm

http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_24458.cfm

Love your food, and value its life. We have co-evolved with the foods that sustain us. If we desert them now, they will almost surely return the disfavor.