Skip to content

Worth Your Time: Foodie Edition

May 2, 2010
After a Khmer New Year rendez-vous with my mom in Italy, food’s been on the mind! Not all of these articles are brand new, but all are engaging and thought-provoking:

[Paarlbarg] claims that without industrial food systems, “food would be not only less abundant but also less safe.” To build his case, he points to improvements in food safety in the United States, such as the drop in E. coli contamination in U.S. beef. He neglects to mention that the virulent form of E. coli, a pathogen that can be fatal in humans, only emerged in the gut of cattle in the 1980s as a direct consequence of industrial livestock factories — precisely the model he would export overseas. Meanwhile, Paarlbergconveniently ignores the diet-related illnesses spawned by industrial food in the United States, where the health-care system is now crippled with these preventable diseases. Hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes have all been linked in part to diet.

The lunch rush is just starting at So All May Eat (SAME) Cafe, and soon I’m ladling steaming servings of soup into a mismatched collection of bowls and mugs. With me behind the counter are three more volunteers preparing pizza and dishing out salad and cookies to the growing line of customers, a cross-section of East Colfax Avenue foot traffic: latter-day flower children, sunburned day laborers, older women in librarian attire, laptop-toting students, professional bums, khaki-wearing businesspeople, vegan-core punker kids and the general miscellany of society that never appears in restaurant-industry demographics.

SAME has a menu that changes daily but always features food that’s made from scratch and is largely organic. It has tables, chairs, bus bins, plants in the windows and overhead music (usually a mix of classic rock). But there’s one thing SAME doesn’t have: a cash register. There’s no credit-card machine, no change drawer, no receipt book. That’s because SAME doesn’t have prices. Diners come in and order — some ask for just a cup of soup or a small slice of pizza, while others go for a whole meal, maybe even seconds if they’re really hungry — and then pay what they want.

Myth 2: Nature is to Blame for Famine

Reality: It’s too easy to blame nature. Human-made forces are making people increasingly vulnerable to nature’s vagaries. Food is always available for those who can afford it – starvation during hard times hits only the poorest. Millions live on the brink of disaster in South Asia, Africa and elsewhere, because they are deprived of land by a powerful few, trapped in the unremitting grip of debt, or miserably paid. Natural events rarely explain deaths; they are simply the final push over the brink. Human institutions and policies determine who eats and who starves during hard times. Likewise, in America many homeless die from the cold every winter, yet ultimate responsibility doesn’t lie with the weather. The real culprits are an economy that fails to offer everyone opportunities, and a society that places economic efficiency over compassion.

  • Caitlin Flanagan takes down the school garden movement in California in Cultivating Failure, specifically critiquing its negative impact on students of color:

If this patronizing agenda were promulgated in the Jim Crow South by a white man who was espousing a sharecropping curriculum for African American students, we would see it for what it is: a way of bestowing field work and low expectations on a giant population of students who might become troublesome if they actually got an education.

Here is the essential question we must ask about the school gardens: What evidence do we have that participation in one of these programs—so enthusiastically supported, so uncritically championed—improves a child’s chances of doing well on the state tests that will determine his or her future (especially the all-important high-school exit exam) and passing Algebra I, which is becoming the make-or-break class for California high-school students? I have spent many hours poring over the endless research on the positive effects of garden curricula, and in all that time, I have yet to find a single study that suggests classroom gardens help students meet the state standards for English and math.

I don’t always agree with Flanagan in this article (here’s a helpful rebuttal), but I think her points are worth considering, especially as the school garden movement is gaining support across the country.

  • And finally, whenever I make it back to Boston, as soon as I land at Logan, I will request that whoever has the honor of picking me up drives me straight to eat these.
About these ads
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 107 other followers

%d bloggers like this: