Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Power of Food

Hello readers! A little background about this blog is probably in order -- there are two of us who write here. I live in Missouri and will be writing about my experiences attempting to make good food for my family (wife and young daughter) while also having an extremely busy life. The other real food dude lives in New Mexico, and has a remarkably similar situation. We have very different cooking styles and approaches to food which I think are complementary and hopefully will have a little something for everyone. I call my cooking style "Elaborate Seat-Of-The-Pants-ism" or elsopism for short. Basically, I make fairly elaborate dishes, but I tend to do it without exactly following the recipes. I do this mostly because I tend to not have everything I need on hand and I have a 19 month old who is keenly interested in helping. Anyway, that's enough introduction, on to something more interesting. Dude1 wrote a post entitled "Why Real Food" so I thought I'd throw my ideas in there too.

For me, real food kind of snuck up behind me and nabbed me in the dark. I had been learning to make whole wheat bread, and cooking stuff out of the Moosewood Cookbook (which I still think is excellent, so long as you are willing to do some mods for nutrition), when I stumbled across the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. That book led to a whole series of other related books (links below), culminating in my realization that I really love food and want to be more involved with it. Descriptions of the agritourism in Italy or the open air markets in Paris make me green with envy, and I want to create that here. This reading about real food occurred almost simultaneously with a deep philosophical transformation in my understanding of politics and related topics that I'm sure we'll have a chance to discuss at length in the future, but which I'll spare you from for now. As a result of the combination of those two things, I bought a 20 acre farm and I'm going see about remaking my life so that it is centered on food and family. I'll also keep you updated about that progress as time wears on, because one of my hopes is that I end up being successful and others might do the same thing, which leads me to the real topic of this post (finally, I know) -- food is powerful.

For all of human history with the exception of the last 50 or so years, food has been the center of life's activities. It was either the purpose or one of the main attractions at almost every social gathering. It brought people together for planting, growing, harvesting, preparation, and enjoyment. Certain cultures (the French, for example) have developed the appreciation of food to a level that requires a book of several hundred pages to describe sufficiently. It is an art form in which anyone can be a master or a connoisseur with a little investment of time, and which almost all people enjoy. When you sit down to a great meal with close friends and family, you are rewarded with a social experience that really has no analogue in modern life. It is truly a feast for the senses and an antidote to the day's stresses. For all of those reasons, I believe that food has the power to transform our lives, our relationships, and even our culture. So I pursue a mastery of food not just to satisfy my tooth, but as a means to a greater end of reacquainting those around me with real pleasure.

Many of the ills that people observe every day in themselves and in society I believe stem from the lack of a centering passion. I have observed that most people do not truly savor any part of their lives. They proceed from day to day, from distraction to distraction, punching the timeclock of life as if they just want to get it over with. Without a passion that can be refined and shared over a lifetime, people turn to consumerism, entertainment, and generally to things that take them away from reality and into some short term fantasy for a while so that they can relieve the boredom of day to day life. Learning to truly savor and appreciate food and all of its intricacies can stop that spiral. It is a passion that I think almost anyone can adopt and become deeply involved with, to the benefit of their health, bank account, and the strength of their relationships with friends and loved ones. Instead of wolfing down a can of chili and sitting in front of the tube for a two or three hour evening of tuning each other out, you can use that time instead to make a fantastic meal together, savor it slowly, and think of ways that it could be different or better. During this process, you can have a real conversation over the table. If you make a habit of this, your life will be transformed. You will discover that you can become healthy, fit, and happy, while at the same time spending lots of quality time with your loved ones and saving lots of money that would otherwise be spent on things that preclude those benefits. So food has power far beyond being the fuel that drives your daily activities. Cultivate a passion for food and you will find yourself in better condition in nearly every aspect of life. You will become part of a revolution that has the potential to completely upend the consumptive, destructive patterns of today's world.

I am what I'd describe as an activist, but in an unusual way. My goal is to use the power of food to bring people together and away from most of the damaging distractions of today's world (TV, politics, etc.). If that can be achieved, our society and culture will transform to one of sustainability, creativity, and local production. That is the power of a passion, and a passion for food can make it happen.

Book Links:


  1. I can't agree with you more. My transformation came when I read the Omnivore's Dilemma, which should be required reading for teens. I think if more people ate real food, the benefits would be remarkable. It's really cool you found your passion and are living it.

  2. @Megan: Thanks for the encouraging words! It is pretty amazing how a thing like reading a book can cause a person to make dramatic life changes. I think we may all end up being deeply indebted to the authors of those books someday.