As the saying goes, “we are what we eat.” For many, this saying helps us to cut down on fatty foods and desserts, but if we dig deeper, what does it really mean in our modern society?
To start answering this question, here is an exercise for you to consider. For a month, write down all the foods you ate: those from the grocery store, restaurants, school meal plans, office catering, candy dishes, church potlucks, and celebrations. Then, look over your list. What are you eating? Usually a common theme quickly surfaces: we really have no idea what we’re eating, how it was made, or where it came from.I have serious concerns about the available foods these days. Low prices, uniform appearance, shelf life, bright colors, and marketing slogans have become the driving force behind our food production, despite the fact that our food is becoming less and less natural and healthy for us. Why is this? Does society care more about immediate gratification and the external appearance of their make-up, gadgets, cars, houses, and vacations, than they do about the food they internally consume all day long? Some might argue that natural, healthy foods are too expensive, but the world functions on supply and demand. If people demand fancy cell phones, they are manufactured and everyone totes a cell phone. If people demand natural, healthy foods, they become more available and less expensive. What we have is a simple problem with priorities: do we focus more attention on quick fixes and superficial status symbols, or the natural world and ethical values?
For those who prioritize natural, healthy foods, grocery shopping has become difficult. At your typical grocery store, it’s hard to find organic locally-sourced produce, whole grains, dairy products without rBGH, or meat without hormones and antibiotics. I don’t enjoy looking through item after item on the shelf to find something simple without corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, MSG, dyes, unnecessary sugar and salt, or BHT. Not to mention the mystery about whether the ingredients were treated with unlabeled chemicals or are genetically modified. I’ve managed to meet our food needs by shopping for different products at a variety of sources: rBGH-free local cheese and organic fruit from Metcalfe’s, hygiene products and organic canned goods from Whole Foods, summer vegetables and yogurt from the farmer’s market, nuts from Target or Copp’s, and bread from Clasen’s bakery. But sometimes grocery shopping feels like a week-long tour of the city to meet all our food and budget needs.
Despite the difficulty, it is a worthy endeavor to seek out natural foods and understand where our food comes from. Not only are we caring for our bodies, we are also connecting to nature, supporting the farmers or producers, and taking a stand in our society to say that food ingredients and sources matter. In addition to shopping around for natural foods, here are some other ideas to connect ourselves with natural food sources:
* Instead of filling our Christmas wish lists with shiny gizmos, why not consider asking for a share in a CSA?
* Instead of going to the store for zucchini, why not have some in the garden to pick for our soup?
* Instead of fretting over choices in the bread aisle, why not bake our own homemade loaf and fill our homes with the smell of a bakery?
* Instead of buying mysterious jams, canned goods, ketchup, pickles, or applesauce, why not make and can them ourselves?
* Instead of believing that restaurants have healthy options, why not find out where they get their ingredients from and decide for ourselves?
To go back to our initial saying, “we are what we eat.” If we don’t know how our food was made, can we understand who we are? Are we becoming an unfamiliar, unnatural, chemical, genetically-modified, and marketing creature rather than a human being? I stand up for natural food, for connecting to the source of our food, and for prioritizing nature and ethics as I live my life. In the 21st century it’s a journey filled with difficulty, but I will do what I can, to take care of my family and the earth.