Food and Sustainability ~ by Carl Abramowitz
Dear WFS Community, Families, and Caregivers:
Who does not love to eat good food? Not the readymade food we find everyday in our pantry or our refrigerator, but the food that requires some preparation, some perspiration, and some critical thinking. For me, for something to qualify as food, it needs to engage my imagination, provide a healthy benefit, and have recognizable ingredients. When I sit down to eat, I, more often than not, want to eat the colors of the rainbow. The brightness, and the natural crunch and density of a farm-grown item makes me feel like I am doing my part to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
For me, living a sustainable and healthy lifestyle goes hand in hand and it is empowering to know that my choices have everyday effects on the world I navigate. Essentially, I can create the world I wish to live in with my fork. It is not easy to live a sustainable life nourished by good food within our industrial network, for our world is inundated with readymade, single-use foods all around us. Just think how many drive-thrus you pass on the way here from school. I am talking about food that is fairly cheap, fast, and temporarily good. These foods give us a false sense of fullness. I can recall how my parents could easily feed my older brothers and me with the simple phone call (or these days the press of a button), or the convenient drive-thru, and voila, our mouths were filled with the ephemeral joy of a cheeseburger, fries, and a Coke.
As a kid, and a young adult, we often do not think twice about the food we digest. I cannot remember the exact moment when the food choices in my pantry eventually became my own rather than the family collective. However, I can generally recall that my food journey, or rather my food story, is one full of trial and error.
My past is riddled with mistakes, peaks and valleys, and I think I am sharing this with you today because I believe all food stories are a mixture of brave, awkward, and kind. Over time, I’ve become more brave, reaching for more local and organic fruits and vegetables. How magical is a jackfruit, especially when prepared barbecue style! I can remember how awkward it is sometimes to begin to cook your own dinner only to forget that you are missing that one ingredient (it’s always garlic for me!) that will tie it all together. Nonetheless, in the end, it is also about gratitude and kindness to ourselves. How satisfying it is (as I share some of my pictures of my own food in the photographs) to take that first bite, or to watch someone else try our creation and for them to respond with “yum!”
One of the principles of living a sustainable and healthy relationship with food is related to this Michael Pollan quote: “Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store. Real food tends to be on the outer edge of the store near the loading docks, where it can be replaced with fresh foods when it goes bad.” To engage with food that can go bad on a daily and weekly basis is to change the biorhythms of not only our bodies but also our environment. It is profoundly healthier to eat food that can rot.
Of course, our relationship with food is changing. As parents, as educators, as students, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to even change one thing about our food habits. As I approach Thanksgiving this year, I am nudging myself and my closest friends and family to explore more local, organic foods, to try to live more sustainable lives, to stay out of the middle of grocery stores, and to be thankful and gracious with ourselves.
I will leave you with some inspiring and thoughtful quotes about food:
“Food is not rational. Food is culture, habit, craving, and identity.”
--Jonathan Safran Foer
“Food is a great communicator, connecting generations and helping build memories and friendships. It gathers us together and teaches us the importance of sharing not just food, but ourselves.”
“No one is born a great cook, one learns by doing.”
“A recipe is a story that ends with a good meal.”
“We have earned the freedom to cook with creativity and joy”
-- Toni-Tipton Martin