Blessed Unrest – Insight #2

by Mark Lovett on January 16, 2009

Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken is an amazing book about the millions of organizations around the world that deal with critical issues of hunger, poverty, social justice, warfare, climate change and economic crisis.  The first post in this series introduced the book and spoke of the connection between ecology and human rights.

This post focuses on the food that we eat, and how the growing and consuming of this food is an integral part of our social fabric. That’s how we survived early on, and why it’s part of our culture.

Blessed Unrest by Paul Hawken

Food has always been at the heart of cultural identity.  The loss of its traditional foods is just as devastating to a culture as the loss of its language.

We can engage in the virtual world of iPod music and TV drama, but there is no virtual world of taste.  It is in our mouth, and every day our mouth connects us to place.

Of the three physical things we need to survive, food – water – air, it’s safe to say that food is what connects us most to the earth and to each other.  Timed to the cycle of the four seasons, the plants and animals that ultimately end up at our table use the water and air, along with soil and sun, to provide us with all the nutrients we need to survive, and do so while also offering us an incredible range of colors, scents, flavors and textures.

But food represents so much more than just the end result.  Throughout the growing season we are made aware of the fact that we’re on a living planet and enacting the magical interplay between man and nature.  The process of eating, which begins in the garden or at the market, provides us with a painter’s palate with which to create a nourishing meal that is both personal when prepared and communal when served.

In Support of Slow Food

Mr. Hawkin uses the Slow Food organization to illustrate what many feel is a need to reclaim the essential history and richness of our food.  Founded by Carlo Petrini in Orveieto, Italy in back 1986, Slow Food (alimento lento) has since grown into a movement that is 85,000 strong with over 1,000 chapters, known as convivium.  From the Slow Food website:

Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people’s dwindling interest in the food they eat, where it comes from, how it tastes and how our food choices affect the rest of the world.

Slow Food is good, clean and fair food. We believe that the food we eat should taste good; that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.

Check out the Slow Food Manifesto, a passionate call to enjoy the benefits of slow food, despite the fact that we’ve adopted a fast life.  And if the passion strikes, you can even start your own chapter.

The sad reality is that since World War II we have seen a steady decline in small farms, fresh foods and home cooking.  Our hectic lives make frozen, pre-cooked and fast foods tempting.  And while that choice may save us a few minutes of time, it also breaks the bond we once had with the earth and, to some extent, each other.

Slow food supports the re-creation of networks of traditional food producers with customers to that both may thrive.  It is about conserving the heritage of the exquisite variety of tastes humankind has created, which means organizing farmers markets and ensuring both that varieties of fruits and vegetables and rare breeds of animals do not become extinct, and that the people who are artisans of food are supported and can pass on their craft to future generations.

To those who argue that gastronomy is a privilege of the affluent and hardly a suitable environmental cause, (Carlo) Patrini replies that food lovers who are not environmentalists are naive, and an ecologist who does not take time to savor his food and culture leads a deprived life.

Are you making the effort to reconnect with food and friends?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Katie January 27, 2009 at 6:11 am

Looks like something I have to add to my reading list as well! It’s amazing what passes off as “food” these days. I love dining in Europe because they take the time to really prepare and enjoy food. It’s always a community affair starting at the local market to the very end…fresh prepared food ready to eat and surrounded by family and friends. We’ve really turned in to a fast food society. Whatever happened to community meals?

Reply

Katie January 26, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Looks like something I have to add to my reading list as well! It’s amazing what passes off as “food” these days. I love dining in Europe because they take the time to really prepare and enjoy food. It’s always a community affair starting at the local market to the very end…fresh prepared food ready to eat and surrounded by family and friends. We’ve really turned in to a fast food society. Whatever happened to community meals?

Reply

Global Patriot January 22, 2009 at 10:46 am

Beth, you’re changes in lifestyle set an example for all to follow – get closer to the earth and consume natural food instead of processed.

Robin, that must have been an amazing experience, like the world’s biggest farmers market!

Jeremy, I think I’m in the middle on the “virtual taste” reference. While we can’t actually taste online (even by licking our monitors :-) you’re spot on in stating that writing about food and wine provides the mental stimulation which encourages people to go out and experience what is being written about – same as with restaurant reviews. A good writer can do wonders in promoting a return to healthier and more social eating & drinking.

Reply

GlobalPatriot January 22, 2009 at 6:46 pm

Beth, you’re changes in lifestyle set an example for all to follow – get closer to the earth and consume natural food instead of processed.

Robin, that must have been an amazing experience, like the world’s biggest farmers market!

Jeremy, I think I’m in the middle on the “virtual taste” reference. While we can’t actually taste online (even by licking our monitors :-) you’re spot on in stating that writing about food and wine provides the mental stimulation which encourages people to go out and experience what is being written about – same as with restaurant reviews. A good writer can do wonders in promoting a return to healthier and more social eating & drinking.

Reply

Jeremy Parzen January 22, 2009 at 6:54 am

This is a great post and Blessed Unrest just got added to my reading list. I love and entirely agree with the first paragraph in the passage quoted above. I disagree, however, with the thought that there is no virtual world of taste: more than ever before, food and wine blogging opens up a vicarious world of sensation. In many ways, the blogosphere is helping to preserve indigenous culinary traditions by documenting them and exposing readers to worlds they would otherwise never know. No one would ever write a book like Moby Dick again (one of my favorite novels of all time; think of each chapter like a blog post!). They don’t need to: we have the blogosphere! Seriously, thanks for bringing this book to my attention. I wouldn’t have known about it if not for being a reader of your blog… ;-)

Reply

Jeremy Parzen January 22, 2009 at 2:54 pm

This is a great post and Blessed Unrest just got added to my reading list. I love and entirely agree with the first paragraph in the passage quoted above. I disagree, however, with the thought that there is no virtual world of taste: more than ever before, food and wine blogging opens up a vicarious world of sensation. In many ways, the blogosphere is helping to preserve indigenous culinary traditions by documenting them and exposing readers to worlds they would otherwise never know. No one would ever write a book like Moby Dick again (one of my favorite novels of all time; think of each chapter like a blog post!). They don’t need to: we have the blogosphere! Seriously, thanks for bringing this book to my attention. I wouldn’t have known about it if not for being a reader of your blog… ;-)

Reply

robin stark January 19, 2009 at 11:48 am

Two years ago I went to Turin for the International Slow Food festival. Imagine two huge convention halls full of beekeepers, cheesemakers, vintners and chocolatiers, all following organic principals. The food was out of this world, but even better was meeting hundreds of like-minded food artisans.

Reply

robin stark January 19, 2009 at 7:48 pm

Two years ago I went to Turin for the International Slow Food festival. Imagine two huge convention halls full of beekeepers, cheesemakers, vintners and chocolatiers, all following organic principals. The food was out of this world, but even better was meeting hundreds of like-minded food artisans.

Reply

Beth from Avenue Z January 16, 2009 at 10:28 am

In the past 18 months, I’ve adopted the slow food lifestyle. I eat apples instead of apple danishes. I eat cheese instead of processed cheese food. I buy mangoes from a little stand near my house and pick oranges from my boyfriend’s tree. I don’t keep foods that come in boxes in the house, except cereal, and I choose organic, whole grain.

I’ve never felt better. When I visit my parents’ house, I’m appalled how they can live on pastries from the day-old-donut bin at the grocery store. Papa buys Swanson’s frozen dinners because they’re super cheap, and I don’t think any of their ingredients even resemble real food. I worry about their health since they get so very little nutrition, but I can’t convince them that buying carrots is better than buying almost moldy carrot cake.

Thanks for these book reviews. Sounds like we think alike.

Reply

Beth from Avenue Z January 16, 2009 at 6:28 pm

In the past 18 months, I’ve adopted the slow food lifestyle. I eat apples instead of apple danishes. I eat cheese instead of processed cheese food. I buy mangoes from a little stand near my house and pick oranges from my boyfriend’s tree. I don’t keep foods that come in boxes in the house, except cereal, and I choose organic, whole grain.

I’ve never felt better. When I visit my parents’ house, I’m appalled how they can live on pastries from the day-old-donut bin at the grocery store. Papa buys Swanson’s frozen dinners because they’re super cheap, and I don’t think any of their ingredients even resemble real food. I worry about their health since they get so very little nutrition, but I can’t convince them that buying carrots is better than buying almost moldy carrot cake.

Thanks for these book reviews. Sounds like we think alike.

Reply

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