It was a cold and blustery windy day. The first day of spring had sprung, and Easter had hitherto blossomed. On this windswept afternoon, I did something I seldom do, I committed to sitting down for two hours to watch a moving picture: a movie as my grandparents deemed it, otherwise known as a film. This movie by Michael Moore is his newest and shines a bright spotlight on what life is like in countries that don’t spend an inordinate amount of money on their military. Instead, the wealth of these nations is dedicated to social services, human decency, and happiness, the fair distribution of wealth and of course good food.
If I were Queen of the world, I would make this film mandatory viewing for every US citizen. It’s time we took a hard look at the sustainability of our culture, our society, and especially our relationship with food.
“Where to Invade Next” is provocative, hilarious and hopeful. It presents a pageant of glaring differences between the US and many other countries. In it, you learn that many European countries mandate four to six weeks of paid time off every year and have thirty-hour work weeks, all while maintaining soaring GDP’s. They believe rest and relaxation is healthy and productive. In Germany, it’s actually illegal for a supervisor to email an employee who is on vacation or enjoying the weekend. Imagine inbox freedom!
Health care, child care, elder care: all paid for with taxes. These nations take care of their elders their mothers, the wayward ones… no punishment, solitary confinement, institutional brutality, only assistance, learning and forgiveness. The college student receives free tuition; “student debt” is an unrecognizable slogan.
Where the film hit home for me was the manner in which these countries embrace and honor food: the recognition that food represents the most profound intersection between our environment and our humanity. It is at once a basic need, a path to our ancestors, a rejuvenation of body, and a communion of kindred spirits. Eat healthy, eat local, with reverence and attention. In many societies, everyone has the right to access and enjoy good honest food.
All over the French countryside children are fed three-course meals of gourmet faire during their school lunch. Savoring good food is actually part of the educational experience. They are taught well and allowed to be children. They are fed well, and they learn the intricacies of etiquette, the joy of serving others, the art of cooking local recipes. Real Food is an integral part of French curriculum!
I realize that across this good country we are largely a nation bent on the pursuit of cheap food. The endless chase of the 99-cent nonsense on a bun, the quest for the 39-cent sugary soda, has taken us to a very shoddy place indeed.
I believe it is time for a gastronomic shift in the US. We must begin with our very own relationship with food. We start by honoring the soil on which it is grown and those who harvest and prepare it. We become willing to pay more for a meal raised without harmful chemicals, antibiotics, confined animal operations, and cheap labor. We want our food labeled, so we know what it is that we dine on.
We understand that with every bite we must consider the plantation worker who harvests the banana, the young woman who prepares the egg-white- turkey-bacon sandwich, the family who toils over endless rows of strawberry mounds. The fowl and bovine that lived and died for the sandwich—all must be considered as we partake.
It is a profound realization that everything we eat intersects with and impacts the environment, our society and our health.
This week I will be attending The True Cost of American Food conference in San Francisco. I hope to learn more about the external costs associated with food and how those hidden costs are actually very expensive. I want to learn how the economics of our present industrial food system is distorted and results in dishonest food pricing. I want to make the case for organic food and farming so that more people are willing to pay for the true cost of good food, straight up front.
I am ready to learn more and make the case of why food matters!