Ours are very legible. I know this because weekend before last, a freaky old man slowed almost to a stop at an intersection, squinting at a fellow protestor’s sign. We were all asking the FDA to at least label genetically modified foods, since we’re the only nation that refuses to do so. The freaky old man was having trouble getting that, though.
Frustrated, he roared his truck up our way & apparently read our signs & grasped our aims quite easily, because he then leaned out to yell, “Retards!”
Off he road into his genetically modified sunset. Bless his heart.
Portrait of a Reluctant Protestor
I never thought I would protest anything in public. I’m originally from the very, very southern Midwest. We don’t protest anything, ever. We just get high on weekdays & drunk on weekends. Also we like to shoot things. There is no need to complain because all problems, personal, social or global, are the result of individual weakness.
Other reasons I’m not ideal protestor material: I’m quiet & internally-oriented; like to hide behind (written) words; fear conflict or confrontation; am busy with too many projects; don’t like crowds; don’t fully trust political movements of any stripe; am embarrassed by slogans; and feel most existentially alone when singing, much less chanting, en masse.
But here’s the thing: I love food. Whole food. Food grown, prepared & shared with SOUL.
Who’d have thought this would turn me into a legible-sign-holdin’, marchin’ mama?
Mothers Doing Other Very Embarrassing Things That Scar Their Children For Life
My own mother always says food is love. I’ve taken this rather profoundly to heart.
Daily I read a ludicrous number of food blogs, from urban farmers to rural homesteaders to foraging queens to real foodies all over the country. Sticky note recipes run wild all over my kitchen & office. I exchange these with friends as we earnestly discuss the finer points of wheat vs. no-wheat. We subscribe to Mother Earth News, Organic Gardening and several other magazines that feature food justice articles routinely. Of course we support local farmers & indie foodsmiths with our dollars. Each month we also give money to the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. When Cheeseslave asks for support in Michael Schmidt’s cause, she doesn’t need to ask twice.
I’m afraid it gets worse: We’re the sexy kind of folk who have at least 3 giant bottles of kombucha fermenting in our bedroom at all times, because we’ve got too many other things fermenting in jars on our countertops. We make our own peanut butter. Our suburban yard is full of sunflowers & Egyptian walking onions tilted at weird angles. It looks like crazy people live here.
I’ve even bought my children food documentaries as gifts. There are no words to describe the joy upon a teenage boy’s face when he opens Supersize Me.
Portrait of a Reluctant Blogger
But I’ve been struggling with this blog. Beyond having been unusually busy lately, my passion for real food is equal to my passion for traditional & homegrown arts. I read many design & crafting blogs & you rarely see them talking about food, nor do you see the foodies venturing into the arts much. I wondered if talking about both might be weird.
To me, though, soulful food & craft are deeply synonymous & deeply nourishing activities: Creating beauty, meaning, joy & usefulness out of simple materials. Making culture. All by ourselves. To share. To save ourselves. To intensify the quality of our lives.
Anyway: I promise to post more consistently from now on.
A Diverse Convergence
Here’s what I love about the handmade community: You meet all kinds of folk, in person & online. There’s your very young man crocheting bloody zombies chatting with the elderly lady painting Victorian doll faces at the next table.
Similarly, the real food community shelters everyone from die-hard Christians to your airiest yoga goddesses to your cavemen. We all seek a more intimate connection to our bodies, our communities & our planet.
A couple of weekends ago, my fellow GMO protestors ranged from rural libertarian to urban vegetarian to uncategorizable to a suburban mother driven nearly to madness by trying to nourish her children in the midst of the wide world of fake food.
“The only thing that makes me feel better,” she told us, “is organizing a GMO protest every couple of months. I know people think I’m crazy if they pay attention at all. But I’m not necessarily doing it for them. It’s for myself. To stay sane. Because at least I’m doing something besides just feeding my own family.”
She pulled the bill of her baseball cap up & down, down & up. “That’s all it was, at first. I read Nourishing Traditions & I was off like a shot, making my own mayo & all that. But then – I run a daycare – I couldn’t standing feeding that packaged shit to these other children, even if their parents could care less. And then it was like, oh no, what about our pets? How can I feed them this horrible meat? Do you have any idea how much grass-fed beef costs?! And my husband & kids are like, how come we can’t have regular mayo like other people? Ours is so runny! And I’m like, because other people don’t understand what’s in that crap & it’s poison! Poison!”
The rest of us – nice cardigans, muddy overalls, gauged ears & all – nodded respectfully. We hear you, sister.
Someone brought up Occupy Wall Street. “What’s on our plates is a lot more important than whatever the banks are doing,” they said. People nodded.
Then I gave the heavily-breathing suburban mom Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s recipe for fool-proof homemade mayonaisse. May it restore her serenity the way it did mine.
Much as we goat-milkin’, cake-bakin’ real foodies love to think we’re living outside the system, Wall Street really does relate directly to what’s on our plates. To wit:
The network has blossomed over the past decade, creating an amazing social infrastructure that is actively using the food system to make us healthier and happier. In the Food Movement we re-learn and re-invent ways of farming, cooking and eating. In doing so, we put back in the social, economic and cultural values robbed by the industrial food system.
But if the community gardens, CSAs, farm-to-school programs and sustainable family farms in the Food Movement are so great why isn’t everyone doing it?
The simple answer is, because the rules and institutions governing our food system — Wall Street, the U.S. Farm Bill, the World Trade Organization and the USDA — all favor the global monopolies controlling the world’s seeds, food processing, distribution and retail. This should come as no surprise, the “revolving door” between government and corporate food monopolies is alive and well, and goes back decades. But it means it’s unlikely that the Food Movement’s alternatives will ever become the norm rather than the alternative fringe — unless the Food Movement can change the rules and institutions controlling our food.
To do that, the Food Movement needs politicizing.
Occupy Food Street
Well, the Food Movement is already politicizing. When people protest Michael Schmidt’s surreal convictions by a judge who is now a Monsanto employee, they’re certainly being political. When people stand near intersections holding up fantastically legible & well-designed hand-painted signs protesting GMO foods, they’re asserting their democratic rights.
To the larger Subway-eating, Starbucks-drinking mainstream, these must seem like absolutely wacky actions. Freaky, even. Hilarious. Raw milk?! Frankenfoods?!
You know, kind of like those crazy Occupiers in their quest for a broad-based movement for fundamental change.
United We Stand
Whatever odd arguments erupt in the world of food – & there are some really weird ones (see Guy Guyenet vs. Gary Taubes, or paleos vs. vegans) – it seems to me that we’re connected by the fundamentals:
None of us wants animal factory farming. CAFOs are blatantly disgusting on every level & we all know it. Oh, & it’s destroying our own health, too, when we eat such godforsaken creatures.
None of us trusts genetically modified foods. Geez, 93% of the country wants this crap labeled, hardly just foodies. It’s just that probably 93% of the country doesn’t understand they’re already eating GMO foods every single day, since they’re in just about every processed food & are not required to be labeled.
None of us trusts the pesticides, dyes, synthetic fertilizers & other bizarro additives to foods.
We understand implicitly that we really are what we eat.
Most of us are interested in supporting & growing local economies.
Most of us can connect the dots between Big Ag & Big Finance.
Deep down, we do know that we can’t just avoid processed foods, eat only straight from the pastured cow & all will be well. If nothing else, GMO crops are going to take over every other crop through cross contamination. Soon nobody will have access to an organic carrot, neither our own children nor the “daycare kids” baseball-cap-suburban-mom mentioned.
Foodies Gone Wild
Now, we can certainly remain separate from one another. We can stay in our little categories & just focus on our own homes & blogs. We can argue about lectins & whether or not to eat food cooked over a certain temperature. We do make some quiet change that way, just very slowly, very granularly, very limitedly & probably very ephemerally.
We can also be one of the 15 people out protesting in the intersection, like I was a few weeks ago. Again, our impact will be very limited. On the positive side, we might get freaky old men in trucks calling us “retards.”
My guess is that Wall Street would much prefer it if we remained fringy, divided & thus not a threat. They would enjoy our holding up small, not-very-legible or coherent signs.
But I think we’ve got more SOUL than that. I’ll be proudly carrying the sign at the top of this post this weekend in support of my local Occupy movement. What about you?