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You were raised on poison
The food you were raised on is poisoning you. That yellow box of Cheerios sitting on your pantry shelf is filled with small, crunchy O’s and a trace of Glyphosate — the pesticide that forms the foundation of our modern food system. The sea salt you season your food with has microplastics embedded in it. The effects of 70 years of industrial agriculture and modern manufacturing sit unwelcome at your table daily. We’re only now starting to wake up to the effects.
When my grandparents grew up, starvation was one of the leading causes of death in the world. The Green Revolution, kicked off in the 1940s, was a mission to rid the world of starvation by increasing global food production. The US provided technologies such as GMO cereals, chemical fertilizers, irrigation, mechanical tillers, and pesticides to developing countries. Government agencies worldwide, the Rockefeller and Ford foundations, and the FAO spent billions on agricultural research and technology transfer. These technologies increased yields and provided calories to countries on every continent. They effectively reduced starvation around the world.
Yet, in health, there is no free lunch. Today, people are overfed and undernourished. More people die of malnutrition and diet-related diseases than of starvation.
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People are slowly waking up to the fallacy of the Green Revolution. Some people see the polluted waters and rising temperatures caused by chemical fertilizers. Others see the rapid increase in obesity, diabetes, and heart failure and wonder what the hell is going on. Still others are afraid of GMOs, animals and plants owned by big companies and bred to resist their pesticide of choice.
I started with the environmental damage, but the deeper I got down the rabbit hole, the angrier I became.
Food used to mean something. You knew it came from the earth and was destined to return. One way or the other. The beef you ate came from a cow that ate grass and pooped fertilizer in a closed cycle nature designed over 1000s of years.
I’m not so sure the future will be the same. If we want to hold onto that sacredness of food, we must stop consuming what the food industry is pushing on us. We need to choose to love our food. Intentionally.
Loving my food
We’ve all heard the foodie tropes about falling in love with vineyards and farms. That drivel - bullshit inspired more by pornography than food - has been worn out. But that’s not what I mean when I say we need to love our food.
I know what it means to like something but not really love it. For years, I thought I loved food, but I really just liked it. I liked hard-core diets, shopping at Whole Foods, and enjoying bougie restaurants where I could rub elbows with
porn writers food critics, in the same way, I liked math, physics, high school football, and the accoutrements they brought.
It wasn’t until I questioned, argued with, cried over, and rooted the depths of an egg’s soul that I truly loved my first egg. When I’d burnt 100 bowls of rice and perfected the 101st, I loved rice. When I started appreciating the meal more for the chef's devotion than the plate’s cost, I loved those meals. That’s the type of love I mean.
It wasn’t until I woke the fuck up that I learned to love.
The ins and outs of my family meal
Every Saturday morning is family breakfast at my house. 7:45, ish. In truth, it's whenever my wife emerges from our bedroom to greet me with her groggy smile and Van Morrison brown eyes. I long for that smile as much as I do the food on the table.
I stole this meal, a weekly ritual of sorts, from my own childhood. Yet back then, our family breakfasts were nothing more than another to do list item, a break from my normal push for the next achievement. This meal, though! This meal, I love.
This week’s raspberries are especially tart. They make my daughter’s mouth pucker in surprise while the rest of us laugh with her. At least we tell her we’re laughing with her.
The flavor in those raspberries comes from the flavenoids and phytochemicals adapted specifically to protect them from curious bunnies at the farm where they’re grown. Interestingly, the bunnies never got into most of the raspberries. The first row of raspberry bushes, sacrificed before the farmer wrangled the bunnies, warned the entire crop of their pain. To defend themselves, the raspberries developed those phytochemicals that caused the tart pop in my daughter’s mouth. They also help stimulate my son’s brain and fight the effects of his ASD so that he can grow into a richer version of himself.
I’ve chosen every ingredient in the homemade pancakes. This wheat is grown here in Montana by farmers practicing regenerative agriculture long before it had a name. They grow Kamut, Spelt, Soft White, and Durum wheat mixed with other crops. They intersperse cows, chickens, pigs, and other animals into their fields, which enriches life below and above ground.
I love this meal because I know this meal. In an obsessive, what the hell is wrong with me way, I know this meal. I vividly remember the fire alarm screaming at the burnt eggs, the broken pancake scraps sliding down the back wall, watery coffee, screams, tears, and surprises of past meals. I’ve learned the griddle’s perfect temperature, so my son’s pancakes have crispy, brown edges and a soft tan middle. I could never really love something I haven’t chosen intentionally, wrestled with, cried over, yelled at, lost to, and ultimately come through the other side changed by. I’ve chosen to live this life with this food, and it’s taught me. Now I love this meal.
The ins and outs of my food system
My food system is more than food. Those wheat farmers feed my family as they feed the soil, care for their community, and advance science. By the simple fact of a continuously cycled system, they have added 10x more minerals and nutrients to their grains than the local whole wheat in the grocery store aisle.1
Industrial agriculture farms account for 40% of US yearly emissions; these farmers draw carbon and methane from the atmosphere. Industrial agriculture farms have removed wildlife from the land; these farmers are bringing grizzly bears and wolves back from the brink. They add inches of topsoil every year, a feat scientists declared impossible 10 years ago.
I’ve come to revel in the ritual of intentionally choosing my food. I’ve traded Paleo, Vegan, Whole 30, and every other fad diet CrossFit could get me to try for long, meandering conversations about nothing at all with farmers who teach in their own ways.
Choosing the future I want my kids to have
When you wake up to our food system, every choice is a small act of defiance.
Every ingredient serves a purpose. The A2 milk, in-season berries, speckled pink eggs from free hens, and spices help my son manage his ASD and my daughter soothe her eczema. My wife still rolls her eyes when I try to hide turmeric in pancakes, but I’m not giving up, dammit.
I choose regeneratively grown foods because they add beauty to nature. I’m choosing a future where my kids have a pale blue planet to find wonder on.
I wasn’t raised to know nature like my children do. My heart skips a few beats when my daughter asks why our dog killed the neighbor’s chicken. She saw the feathers and blood on his snout. I’d much rather tell her a story about Simba’s version of nature, but she won’t let me off the hook that easily. Still, I choose the tension in my chest because the alternative is that I let our modern food system slowly kill her.
There’s a revolution coming in food. It won’t be found on the aisles of the grocery store or in an overly filtered Instagram shot. It’ll be found in homes across the country as people start intentionally choosing how they eat. They may not call it love, but it will change them. It’s still small, mostly a congregation of oddballs like me. Like that other rebel alliance, we know what we’re fighting for and we have a hell of a lot of fun doing it. There’s an open seat at my table and a spot in my kitchen if you feel the call.
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