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Sustainable Change – A Simple Approach to Eating Better in 2013

Making Kimchi for Winter Health

This post is excerpted from The Entwife’s Journal.

 

Are you making any New Year’s Resolutions for 2013?  I usually don’t make any formal resolutions but I do find it is a good time of year to look at changes in areas like food and eating or organization.

But there are a proportionately large number of people who make resolutions and set goals and never fulfill them.  Why is that?  I think it is in part because those goals and changes are not really sustainable and so we are set up for failure.  In order to succeed we need to look at our new year goals and figure out how to sustain them.  That often means we need to set smaller goals or make them smaller steps that build on one another.

So if your goal is to eat healthier in the new year how can you break that into smaller more sustainable pieces?

  • Make a list of several different ways you could be healthier
  1. Add in fermented foods to your diet.
  2. Start making bone broth.
  3. Start soaking your grains.
  4. Make sourdough bread rather than buying bread.
  5. Stop eating gluten.

You can get the idea.  The above are 5 possible choices, all of which would make anyone’s life healthier who is not already doing these things.

  • Pick one of the above or something else that you feel would be a good choice for you.
  • Brainstorm some different ways to implement your choice.  Make a list of utensils, ingredients,etc that you will need to make your changes.
  • Find a friend who also wants to make changes and get some agreement on accountability.
  • Write down what you plan to do and if it looks too big, break it into smaller parts.
  • Set your day to begin and jump in.

How would this look if you want to eat more fermented foods?

Read More on The Entwife’s Journal

 

The Pilgrims in 1621: Agriculture

First Thanksgiving by Brownscombe

As the American holiday of Thanksgiving is celebrated we often will hear some bit of the story of the Pilgrims and their “First Thanksgiving.” Regrettably, their story is often boiled down to the basics and we lose some of its fullness. Here I want to flesh out a small part of the story concerning the Pilgrims’ work in agriculture.

In the spring of 1621 the Pilgrims and the Indian tribes planted and worked in the fields of agriculture. We can see that both the English and the native tribes had skills and abilities the other lacked. We read in William Bradford’s book Of Plymouth Plantation, “Afterwards they…began to plant their corn, in which service Squanto stood them in great stead, showing them both the manner how to set it, and after how to dress and tend it.” Squanto and the Indian tribes had great experience with the land that the English lacked. They had a history of learning from mistakes and finding what worked. They knew the right seeds to plant. Squanto taught the English to fertilize their corn with the fish that would spawn in the river nearby at just the right time. If they didn’t, the nutrients in the land would get used up.

Pilgrims with Samoset

Here we can recognize that God provided the Indians with fish that would spawn at just the right time to fertilize the land so they could eat and live. As Matthew 5:45 says, God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Here the Pilgrims reaped the benefits of working with the pagan tribes by learning the good things God had given them. This was a very providential blessing as their own seed did not do well, but thanks to this help they had enough food.  But despite God’s blessing on the native tribes, they were not exactly prosperous and thriving. The help was not all one sided, as we can see from an event that happened two months later.

It had been a little time since the English had seen Massasoit and so they sent two men along with Squanto to meet with him. This expedition had several objectives. First, to reaffirm peace with Massasoit and to keep a good relationship with him. Second, to exchange for seed for experimentation. The Pilgrims wanted to make sure that had a variety of things planted in case some failed. Third, to find out which tribe it was that they had taken corn from in the winter, so they could pay them back for it. Fourth, to explore the area around them. And fifth, to limit hungry visitors. It is this last objective that shows something about the Indians’ work ethic and food production. What was happening was there were many Indians that were taking advantage of the Pilgrim’s hospitality and staying there eating up their food. The Pilgrims wanted to be hospitable, but did not want to run out of food and so asked Massasoit to limit visitors to the amount they could handle. They were generous with gifts and hospitality, but did not want to become welfare providers, especially when they couldn’t afford it.

Pilgrims with Wampanoag

As the small expedition went out they could start to see why many Indians preferred to get the food from the English. The Indians, despite having a great abundance of natural resources, still struggled in having a stable food supply and clean habitations. As Edward Winslow (one of the two men on the expedition) says in his book Mourt’s Relation, describing a meager meal they had with Massasoit, “this meal only we had in two nights and a day, and had not one of us bought a partridge we had taken our journey fasting…he was to have us stay with them longer: but we desired to keep the Sabbath at home: and feared we should either be light-headed for want of sleep, for with bad lodging, the savages’ barbarous singing (for they use to sing themselves asleep), lice and fleas within doors, and mosquitoes without, we could hardly sleep all the time of our being there; we much fearing that if we should stay any longer, we should not be able to recover home for want of strength.”  Bradford remarks concerning this lack of prosperity among the Indians, “For the Indians used then to have nothing so much corn as they have since the English have stored them with their hows, and seen [the Englishmen’s] industry in breaking up new grounds therewith.”  On their trip some Indians desired that the Englishmen kill some crows, because they had been ruining the corn. There the two Englishmen with their superior weapons killed 80 crows in an afternoon.

We can see that the Indians benefited both from observing the English work ethic, and the technology it produced (such as guns and hows). This work ethic had come from the long history of Christendom where it had been taught that work is worship to God, that work is a blessing, that we are created to work and produce to the glory of God, that our first command from God is to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion” (Gen. 1:28).

Even the monks in the Middle Ages were taught this and spent much of their time in working and agriculture. The Protestant Reformation continued this and expanded it with its teaching of vocation, that the farmer and the pastor are both doing God’s work. The Pilgrims understood the importance of work and produced great things. When my family and I were in Plymouth in 2009 we saw a mill built only fifteen years after the Pilgrims first landed. It was amazingly intricately designed with all sorts of wheels, gears, stones, and levers–and it’s still working! We can see that the Christianity of the Pilgrims made them hard-working, productive, and a relatively prosperous society. It was this culture that built America.

Read more at The Christian Philosophy of Food

There’s a Food Crisis and You are the Solution

 

Food is not what it used to be, at least not the food found at the supermarket. The modern world boasts of a bountiful harvest provided by technology – the wonders of industrialization applied to agriculture.  But the result of this production system has largely become one of turning a few crops into commodities and engineering a vast new sea of “foods” from them.  The modern western (and especially U.S.) diet largely consists of highly processed food products, far removed in form and nutrition from the original life form that they came from.

 

The Industrialization of Food

This commoditization of food has been greatly aided by government subsidies for corn and soy, to the benefit of the food processing and fast food/junk food industries.  The creation of very cheap inputs into factory foods by government policy is a foundational contributor to the change in the nature of food in America over the past several decades.  This, combined with the cultural changes valuing mobility and convenience over family time and traditional cooking, have led the sea change in the way that Americans interact with food.

The results have been devastating.  We now have widespread (if not epidemic) rates of obesity, heart disease, cancer of all kinds, food allergies, and behavioral problems linked to poor digestion and gut health.  It is not coincidental that these changes have come with the change in the American diet and lifestyle.  Causal is a better term to describe it.

Industrial Agriculture
Industrial farming has leveraged economies of scale to produce for the mass market through factory farming, but the land, animals, and humans have suffered the consequences in falling nutritional quality and illness caused by chemical farming techniques.  And industrial farming is petroleum based farming, turning oil into food.

 

The era of cheap food is over. 

Even before the great American drought of 2012, rising oil prices have combined with third world nations’ rising incomes and increasing demand for more meat and other higher-cost food, to drive food commodity prices ever-higher.  Food has traditionally gone down in price, at least the trend had been that way for the last 100 years. According to Global Financial Data, food prices have dropped over the last 100 years by 82%, and looking at the economic business cycle for food, it would seem this would just be another “bust.”

FAO food price chart Oct 2012

But two important factors reveal that this may be a more long term trend. First, oil is now more than ever a critical input to commodity crops, and therefore food production. According to a study by Cornell University, it takes 140 gallons of fossil fuel to grow and harvest one acre of corn. This fuel is not just for the tractor; this includes all the petroleum used to make the pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers, and this number does not include the cost of transporting the corn to a market, or the petroleum used in the packaging of the food. As volatile geopolitical situations arise, and as sources of oil continue to diminish, the price of food will rise regardless of regional food price differences. Ill-conceived government subsidies for ethanol that is turning food crops into fuel have only exacerbated this trend.

A second factor at play is the diminishing amount of farmland. The demographic trend continues to be individuals gravitating towards large urban population centers, and not out to the farmland. The American Farmland Trust estimates that American farmland is disappearing at the rate of 2 acres per minute. As farmers and their land become more scarce through industrialization, the system becomes more susceptible to shocks and rising food prices.

With a severe global economic downturn setting in and millions of families worldwide facing difficulty in figuring out how to feed their families, we have now entered a global Food Crisis.  The “Arab Spring” was one of the many indications that the global food system is precariously balanced at the edge of a cliff.

But the crisis caused for millions due to the increasing price of food is a lagging indicator. More fundamental is the drastic way that food production, distribution, and consumption has changed over the past few decades.  With increasing urbanization has come the loss of productive farmland and the decline of family farming around the globe.  This makes the modern food system much more susceptible to risks of various sorts, everything from weather and crop failures, to market conditions in oil markets and global geopolitical events.  The 2012 drought in America’s heartland – the worst ever – is an important recent example.  Even local disasters can produce serious problems with respect to food availability due to the long supply lines in modern food systems.

 

What is the Solution?

With so many systemic problems in our food system, what is the solution?  The solution to all of these problems – to our depleted soil, shrinking and aging farmer population, our toxic environment, diminishing nutrition, chronic health problems, and rising prices – is YOU. You are the solution!

Learning early
As much as you are able, grow your own food.  Being productive with what you have is an essential first step.  Buy fresh and buy local. Know your farmer and support your local economy.  Buy from a farmer you can trust, one whose farm is not entrenched in the factory farm system.  Join a CSA or community garden.  Localization is a key to transforming the food system.

Top Tomato receiving from Farmer Matt

Know the risks associated with buying chemically-produced food, and choose to buy organic and sustainable products.  Self-education is a critical foundation for transforming the way your family deals with food.  Don’t rely on someone else to do it all for you.  Further, research and implement traditional food preparation methods, which will help you maximize the nutrition that your family receives and keep them healthy.

Plan ahead and buy in bulk from trusted suppliers.  Join a food co-op or buying club to get better deals on whole foods, buying in bulk  to utilize aggregated purchasing power.  Build up a food storage supply – the larder of olden days – to be prepared for emergencies and ready to share with neighbors in need.  Forward thinking is required to get out of the rat race that comes with “convenience”.

 

Is It Really That Simple?

With such huge challenges facing us with our broken modern food system, could it really be that simple?  Yes, it is that simple.  You are the Solution.  It requires action by individuals and families to change the system, because food choices are what support the system.  It was, in fact, only because people changed the way they acquired, prepared, and ate food – adopting “convenience” and price as determining factors – that our current system became what it is.  Stop feeding the beast with your purchases – opt out, as much as you are able.  Change what you are demanding, and the market will change to accommodate you.  In fact, it already has begun to do so.

Grow a garden.  Know and support your local farmers.  Join a buying club.  Build your food storage.  Grow community around food.  It really is that simple.  It starts and ends with you.  You are the Solution.

 

 

Congratulations to Joel Salatin for 30 Years of Full Time Farming

We'd like to congratulate Joel Salatin, his family, and the team at Polyface Farm for making it to today: 30 years of full time farming by Joel at Polyface!

Joel is a very unique man.  He has been a visionary leader of the sustainable farming movement, a prophet of sorts, calling people back from the destructive ways of modern industrial farming to return to a sustainable agriculture model that utilizes technology appropriately while honoring God's design in creation.  Take a few minutes to read this reflective note from Joel written this morning and posted on the Polyface Farm Facebook page, and rejoice with him on this momentous occasion!

Joel Salatin

A note from Joel…….

Sept. 24, 1982 marked my first day of full time farming. It was a Monday, just like today, and the Friday previous
I had cleaned out my desk in the Staunton News Leader newsroom and waved goodbye to my fellow journalists.
Everyone thought I was making a huge mistake. Farming? Anything but that.

Even farmers thought I was making a huge mistake. And then to know that I was not going to use chemicals. That
I was going to pasture chickens and pigs. That I wasn't going to build silos and plow the soil. How could anything be
as ridiculous?

This morning I awakened to a farm festooned with balloons. I had mentioned the day and its 30-year importance in
passing a couple of times during the summer, but frankly have been too covered up with responsibilities to plan any
big celebration for myself. No worries. I'm surrounded by the most loyal, grateful, creative, dependable, conscientious
team of young people you can imagine.

I've been crying all morning.

I think Eric and Brie led the plans. Overnight, they and accomplices decorated the farm with balloons, strategically
placed to intercept my morning routine at every step. From the clothesline beside the backdoor to the equipment
shed, balloons lined the path. The Massey Ferguson tractor they knew I would use to move the Eggmobile had
balloons anchored to the wheels. As I approached the Eggmobile to hook it up, balloons cascaded off the front.

As is my routine, I went out to get the morning newspaper–once a news junkie, always a news junkie–and the farm
entrance literally floated with ballons and our entrance sign had an explanatory addition in huge letters: Happy
Anniversary Joel Fulltime Farming 30 Years.

Tears welled up uncontrollably as the reality of the love and support of these young people overwhelmed me. To
be this age, farming, surrounded by this kind of enthusiasm and honor–could it get any better than this? And then
I had to chuckle: take that, friends, farmers, experts. All you folks that said I was throwing my life away, being foolish.
Can you see me now? Ha!

I always check the cows in the morning. Yes, balloons on the 4-wheeler (my personal Japanese cow-pony). Streaming
behind me, the balloons followed me up the three-quarter mile farm lane to the farm pasture. And as if that weren't enough,
all along that route, from the trees and bushes, balloons heralded the celebratory day. We're here! We've made it
this far! Touchdown! Hallelujah! Say it however you want to; scream it from the rooftops. We're still here. And not
only have a survived, we've thrived.

Tears streaming down my face, I topped the little knoll before coming to the cows and there, adorning every electric
fence stake in the cross fence, were more balloons. The cows, mostly lying down on this 38 degree morning (we
actually had the first patchy frost of the season), simply burped up another wad of grass cud to chew on. They looked
at me completely ordinarily. Nothing much upsets their routine. Nothing is as placid as a placid cow.

With gratitude and a deep sense of blessing welling in my heart, tears streaming down my cold cheeks, I headed
back to the house for breakfast, the newspaper, morning emails, and desk work. My spirit is overflowing today.
Teresa and I had a dream. We worked at it. We prayed over it. We babysat it. We lived and loved it. Today it shines
like a burning bush, attracting people from all over the world to come and see. Thank you, Lord, for 30 wonderful years.

And lest you're wondering, we don't think we've hardly started yet. Now we're not just a couple of people standing on
the shoulders of our parents, but we're a tribe, with the next generation and the next and a whole team of players
plugging the gaps where we're weak and leveraging our expertise where we're strong. Look out, world. Here we come.

Thank you, family. Thank you, Polyface team, staff, interns. Thank you, patrons who have stood by us monetarily,
supporting us with your smiles, your eating, and yes, your dollars. Polyface Farm is charitable, but not a charity. It is
a business, but not only a business. So raise your glasses, folks. Here's to another 30 years. Thank you.

 

Learn more about sustainable farming and local food in the Local Agriculture and Farming group.

 

Famine, Food, and Freedom

“People have, age after age, starved to death in lands with small populations and rich soil, and also lived richly in heavily populated areas…Much of the world has rich soil, but little of the world has the free men to make use of that soil.”~R.J. Rushdoony (Law and Liberty, p. 184-185)

http://www.thechristianphilosophyoffood.com/

Why We Farm! Or a guide to relational farming…

Farm fresh produce

The ritual begins during a fading Texas evening. I open the rear hatch of my van, and pull two picnic-worn coolers out onto the chapped pavement. I clear the beads of sweat from my forehead before opening the big white cooler and pick out a healthy specimen of cantaloupe. Behind me stands a small gathering: two newlywed couples, a gurgling baby in a baby carrier, a father and daughter, and a doting grandmother perched over the infant. Their task in this ritual is to watch.

“These were picked this morning,” I say, carefully handing my charges to the first couple in line. The husband flips the fruit around in his hand, inspecting the tiny ridges, and nestles his nose into the plant’s navel. He sniffs in the aromatic perfume with pleasure and satisfactorily deposits the fruit in his wife’s handbag.

I move onto the blue cooler, pulling out a crinkling store-labeled grocery sack stuffed with purple pea snaps, bell peppers, okra, tomatoes, cucumbers, banana peppers, basil, and oregano.

“Eighteen dollars and fifty-eight cents.” I recite from the yellow receipt, and the husband hands me a crisp twenty.

“I hope you have change,” he states, subtly reminding me of my lack of change the previous week.

“Yeah, I do,” I say, quickly shuffling through the stuffed envelope of coins and cash until I find the right amount. After he is done, the couple stands there and admires their food while I move onto the next couple’s order. The wife occasionally glances back to her mother-in-law and infant and smiles.

“My baby girl just loves the squash you gave us last week. I mashed it up, and she just took it right down.” I turn my head far enough so she can see me smile, and reply, “I’m not sure if anymore will come this season.”

“Really?” 

“But I’ll check to see if any will be here by next week.” My brother, Gerred, owns and runs the farm, I just run the business side of the operation. I often find myself telling customers that I must check, since he keeps a constant check on the farm's pulse.

“Thank you! I like using it as her baby food.” I listen as she describes how long the produce has been lasting in their fridge, longer than any produce they could purchase in a store. I listen on as her mother-in-law, a woman whose eyes light up at the red beefsteak tomatoes, describes just how good the cucumbers were last week. 

“Best cucumbers I’ve tasted in my life,” she states and goes on to describe the thin skins and moving down to the rich, succulent meat of the vegetable. Having eaten some earlier that day, my own mouth revisits the textures and flavors. One by one, I finish the orders, finally passing off cantaloupes to the father and daughter; the former sniffs the fruit without saying a word, while the latter chuckles, “I think he’s really going to enjoy himself tonight.” Everyone trickles off except for the newlywed couple with the infant, who now sleeps soundly in the growing dusk.

“You know, this coming growing season we’d love it if you would grow some acorn squash,” the husband requests, “I can eat that all day! Oh, and we love spaghetti squash.”

“Do you think you could give me an estimate of how much you’d eat in a month?” I ask. They provide me an answer and I mentally log the numbers for my brother to consider.

“We’ve enjoyed your produce,” are their parting words, “I don’t think I could ever find better produce at the store.” They scurry to their car, and the ritual ends, and I watch my charge, my food, become another item in someone's fridge. As I drive home, my mind wanders to the farm work, keeping communication with our various buyers, trying to determine what they will want next growing season, and all the feedback I need to get back to my brother. It’s that time of year, a transition from summer to fall, zucchinis and cucumbers will dissipate to allow in cabbages, lettuces, pumpkins, and squash; as I calculate the figures of how much we can make on our small plot of land, I consider the grand scheme that has brought me to this most basic of professions.

* * * * *

Where does your food come from?

Why farm? Why choose a profession and lifestyle that runs against a cultural tide of sharply dressed, well groomed talking heads, who preach the advantages offered by fancier, cleaner, and more lucrative careers? American culture may claim to romanticize agrarian life, but the love is less than legitimate. USDA statistics show small farms and their farmers have been declining in size since the 1940s, even though number of large farms producing single crops have grown. Yes, the dirt and grime attend to the farmer as an occupational certainty, but any college management class will inform you that “employees” are more motivated more by “intrinsic rewards” than “extrinsic rewards,” or, more simply, workers want to feel as if their work has lasting value. What greater reward could be given than the foreknowledge that one is satisfying the hunger of humanity and your community? The answer lies with the changing idea of American food philosophy, what I would call a purpose-driven understanding of the role of food and American food suppliers in culture.

In an age when food has cheapened with advances in science and technology, we have allowed the doctrines of food and food production to shift, even from my grandfathers’ time to my own, when he grew apples in Washington state during the 1960s. He lived under the philosophy touted by the US Department of Agriculture, which made the US farmer out to be a national hero. He says to have grown food to supplement his teacher’s salary, but the country also saw a national icon and international competitor for American interests, and the American farmer had an built in intrinsic value that extended beyond profits.  

My grandfather’s generation of men sat in darkened movie theaters and watched Frank Capra's classic series, “Why We Fight!,” which taught them why the nation’s role in World War II was necessitated. My grandfather went on to rivet B-17 wings for the war effort, and when he was done, he found that his country needed him in a new capacity. The Government had gifted my grandfather and all American farmers with a new vision: The farmer could forget about the people and the land, and see only a machine, carefully oiled, static, and prosperous for the faithful user. For farmers like my grandfather, any affects that the land experienced were of no concern to him. The system made him more money as long as he kept improving the “machine,” and the food appeared unchanged. If the soil was affected, he could believe that a fix would be over the horizon. The miracle workers of World War II had made a new miracle. 

* * * * *

Industrial farming has taken the heart out of our food

The USDA produced films that showed the miracle of modern food production: thousands of individual farms brought together in a large corporate system to supply supermarkets with a cornucopia of produce, meat, dairy, and canned goods from disjointed regions of the US; the laboratory extending into the field, making larger, more nutritious, and better tasting crops; and the consumer, offered the convenience of this food, enjoyed the prosperity of American ingenuity. The purpose for growing food was simple: Be a part of a new miracle and make more food with less land using whatever means suited that end. It was a system that begat success, so long as the system’s management was carefully regulated. Our food philosophy had shifted, and despite this growth, one factor from previous generations of farmers remained: The community knew the farmer, and the farmer had a social accountability to that community which the government could not override. Even as farms began to cannibalize each other to remain in the system, the farmers were still “independent agents," able to still create life-filled nutritious food, instead of merely "safe food."

The USDA first began to preach this system during World War II, praising farmers for working alongside the government to slowly bring this massive food supply system to being, accepting the government’s aid, and producing what they needed for the war quotas. In one film titled, “Henry Browne, Farmer,” the farmer was described as a “soldier of production” who must produce the right amount of "oil and fats" to combat the Japanese agricultural production. Government had a reason for centralizing farming, out command the marketplace. The farmer’s duty would not be divided between field and national duty.

The national audience grew accustomed to this changing view of farming. Originally, our former food doctrines allowed for a collection of decentralized family farms that occupied the 1910s and 20s, and these businesses had not satisfied the nation's stomach during the depression. Food had lost its plentifulness in the land of plenty, and the government was determined to make ordinary food into something it could have never been on its own, and for a broader use in the world stage. The farmer still had his local connection, he still provided food for his neighbors, but the marketplace was making a way for him in the world, a way that my grandfather would fill, and now, a way my brother and I could fill: the way of mass production, yielding a greater world, filled with complacency toward the simplest action of our humanity. 

The modern world driving home I see different farms as I drive home from my delivery run. These farms are still run by grandfathers, with some migrant workers that drift through. Some have families who work together, but most do not. The crops I see are one of three: Corn, Sorghum, or soybeans, grown to fill the stomachs of cows and humans as cheaply as possible, while the farmer remains accountable to state regulations only. And what a world those regulations have built. The fields are still alive with food, but the food is empty, plastered together with an assortment of chemicals, pesticides, and other toxins that render the life still imagined in the soil a hopeless corpse; at least they can say our food is safe, free from the bacteria that harms us. The plants grow as they are supposed to, guided by their genetic modification, but they remain merely signposts set against the sky of what this world has become. Vastly rich, but hollow-shelled, flavorless, and impotent. The modern farmer can assert he has the same reason for growing food as his predecessors, for although he still feeds that masses, his food has no heart left to give to the table. That's why we don't farm anymore. The life that was found in the fields, is no longer life to us. It doesn't provide substance to our bodies, it doesn't even provide a bottom line for the farmer, it just replicates mindlessly, without thought.

* * * * * 

The beauty of the harvest

I return to the farm after the delivery run and help my brother plant the fall crops. I think about the series "Why We Fight!," and wonder, if I made a documentary entitled, "Why We Farm!" what would it try and communicate to an audience. The answer slowly comes to me among the rows of peppers and tomatoes. I mentioned in the beginning of this piece that I consider my work a ritual. This ritual is the familiar way to be a farmer, or the way I have found familiar. For far too long, farmers have become familiar with growing food better, but I want to be familiar with growing food right.

In "Why We Farm," I would say I grow food because I imagine myself being a part of the world that takes longer to mature, to achieve success, but remains a work in progress. I grow food so it becomes rich again, full of life, and containing the DNA it was supposed to contain. I grow food because I imagine one day, when I have kids, I will want them to grow as they were intended to grow, at a slow, steady pace, ready at the right season to accomplish what they are supposed to accomplish. I grow because a mother sees her child starting that journey, and believes the food I am growing will yield an abundance for the body. I hope that people will see the value in the food, the richness of nutrition, the communities that knew the seminal work that made any table look like a feast. The joy of the God-given command to, “Be fruitful.” I grow food, and the reasons why sprout up to say hello without fail every season.

Now, I am hoping you will ask yourself a similar question to mine, “Why am I not farming, or at least growing food in a pot?” I think the answer is easily found. You only need to look in a mirror, and see a face that is packed full of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, and rub it until you know it’s real. Then, stand at the edge of your child’s room or find them in the yard and watch them play, see their muscles attached to tendons attached to bones moving back and forth; lastly, I go to the fridge, and take a stock of what is contained inside. Consider the value of that food, whether it was made to give you strength, or whether it was made just to fool an eater. I believe the answer to your question will come easily. 

Why Food Can Rebuild Civilization

 

The technological improvements of our age, such as computers and phones, have made it easy to do some good things (like write this article), but also have made it easy to be superficial. This superficiality has damaged our society in many ways. What a ‘friend’ is has been cheapened to a click of a button, and can be de-friended at the click of a button as well. Arguments and debates often become fierce name-calling collections of facts without relationships, which anyone can participate in. Our friendly conversations are often something like “I am eating cheese” or “a funny thing happened to me”. Our culture is deteriorating because culture is built on relationships. Since our relationships are depersonalized, our music is from Nashville, our movies from Hollywood, and our food from McDonalds. While there may be exceptions, our ‘communities’ have largely become depersonalized and non-relational.

The problem is that people are still personal. We haven’t become impersonal, but how we think of people and their ideas has been corrupted. Man was not created to be alone, but was created to be a relational being, with God and with other people. When man separates himself from God and man and hides in the cyber world, he separates himself from the context in which he is to understand himself. He becomes part of the ‘lonely crowd’. He becomes part of what Tristen Gylberd has rightly termed “this misbegotten wreckage we call modern pop culture”.

So what is the solution? And what does this have to do with food? Food has much to do with this because it is an integral part of hospitality. And hospitality is a large part of the solution to our mess. 

For the most part, our cultural experiences are meant to be done with people because of the way we are made. This applies to food perhaps even more than other things. There is a long history of having fellowship around the table, of taking a break from work and enjoying each other’s company with food. Even in the Christian sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, unity and communion with Christ and His followers is participated in through the bread and wine. Eating together also requires some face to face interaction. It is this simple thing of eating together that can help us rebuild real community. We can resolve our theological, philosophical, and cultural differences much easier around food, than we can by writing long papers to someone you had never seen. Papers are good and sometimes necessary, but writings alone will generally not help as much as a dinner, a dance, and a song. Restoring personal relationships back into our culture and life is a rebuke to the self-centered society around us, and brings a thankfulness and love that is so rare today. Of course relationships are hard and will take some time to master, but it is something we will have to learn if our food is to be used to build civilization.

“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling.”
(1 Peter 4:9)

“Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.” (2 John 1:12)

 

P. S. That said, take everything you read here with a grain of salt, and if you really want to get to know me, invite my family and me over for dinner. :)

 

Peter is the author of a new book which is available in the True Food Solution store, called The Christian Philosophy of Food.

The Cultural Puzzle and Food

Puzzle Time

When dealing with food it it important to deal with it in its context of life. Here is a quote that describes this very well by Ken Myers in his book, All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes (p. 34):

"We can't simplify things too quickly by isolating one of these cultural expressions and asking how Scripture applies to it in isolation from everything else, for then it's not part of that social experience that's called culture. We cannot, for example, evaluate the virtues and vices of fast food in our culture merely by looking at Biblical teaching about meals. We have to take into consideration the place of the automobile and highways in our culture, our view of time and convenience, the pressures on modern families (both those relieved and those exacerbated by fast food), the opportunity for employment created by this new service industry, and the many other pieces of the cultural puzzle. We then have to ask, given all the of the other forces that shape modern culture, whether eliminating McDonald's from the equation would mean that the people would automatically eat more nutritious home-cooked meals with the family gathered around the table, or whether they would eat more frozen TV dinners on their own unsynchronized schedules."

While I don't agree with everything in Myers' book, he really hit it on the head at this point. We really need a more comprehensive view of the many cultural aspects of food before we can deal with the details of each aspect. Too often we want to break things down to the specifics and forget that life is interconnected. Instead we can, and should, discuss economics, nutrition, aesthetics, community, etc. all under the subject of food.

As “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:6 ESV), so we ought to be careful that every area of life is examined, including its relations to other areas of life. It is not easy to connect the dots, nor is it easy to balance the unity of the whole and diversity of the details. So may we humbly use the wisdom of God in trying to adjust our whole life in accordance with His Word, recognizing the difficulties of the web of "the culture puzzle".

 

Peter Bringe is the author of the recently published book The Christian Philosophy of Food.The Christian Philosophy of Food

 

 

Thankfulness and Its Implications

 

grateful for the bounty, it just keeps on coming!

 

While it is good to strive for goodness and beauty in our food, if we are unthankful, we will defeat our own efforts. Unthankfulness is a refusal to praise God, a refusal to enjoy Him. To do so is defiance in the face of God’s blessings. Instead we should always be thankful to God (1 Thess. 5:18), as every good gift is from Him (James 1:17). Selfishness is the opposite of thankfulness, and if I had to pick one thing that is wrong with the current view of food, selfishness would be a top choice. 

There are two kinds of selfishness that I see as a problem. The first is a now-centered, pleasure seeking self-centeredness that has gone mainstream in our culture. Our food is largely meant to fulfill our immediate cravings, without regard to future consequences. We often use our agriculture for today, not looking to its future for others. We eat more food with less hospitality and fellowship around the table, making for shorter meals with a faster intake of food. For the materialist at least, food becomes merely an economic commodity, instead of a work of love and beauty for others. This selfishness tends to want the most personal gain, especially sensual gain, with the least work. Perhaps these words fit:

“Be not among drunkards
or among gluttonous eaters of meat,
for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
and slumber will clothe them with rags.”
(Proverbs 23:20-21 ESV)

But there is also a kind of self-centeredness that is not over-indulgent, but can be over-restrictive. Some might complain too much about what the corporations are giving us and forget the blessings that we do have. Some might over-emphasize nutrition and get caught up in banning any food that might have anything detrimental to health. Unintentionally, they could become ungrateful for everything that is not completely healthy. Instead, even though we strive for health and nutrition, we should be grateful and content with what we have. And some might think that food is only a means to survive, and the enjoyment of food because it gives physical pleasure is unbecoming. Instead, we should praise God for giving us tasty food that is pleasing and beautiful to our God-given senses. This restrictive way of being ungrateful is strongly addressed in the Bible:

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.” (1 Timothy 4:1–5)

The food Christians eat is made holy, as it is set apart for righteousness by the Word of God and prayer. This is because if we are consistent as Christians, we will eat for God’s glory with thanksgiving to Him. When that is done, we will neither be selfishly sensual or selfishly health-obsessed. We will be God-centered, and will joyfully thank God for making His food healthy and tasty. We will stand in awe of His wisdom in His creation, and we will not pervert His blessings for our glory. Thankfulness to God is a great starting point to solving our food problems.

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is
than a fattened ox and hatred with it.
(Proverbs 15:17)
 
 
Peter is the author of a new book which is available in the True Food Solution store, called The Christian Philosophy of Food.

Centralization in the Food Economy

 

A full discussion of food will include the social-political and cultural aspects of the environment in which the food will be cultivated, harvested, prepared, and eaten. If our society and culture in general is messed up, our food’s quality will not escape unaffected. It is good for us to then to examine our current system, and the centralization that accompanies it.

Authority and relationships go hand in hand. Without any relationships or knowledge of the people or situation, authority will be blind and arbitrary. Without authority or rules, relationships will have an arbitrary basis (i.e. no basis) for love, faithfulness, or even clear communication. Thus only God, who alone has absolute knowledge of everything, has absolute authority over everything. And when He has a special saving relationship with a people (or person), that people is even more accountable to His authority. We, on the other hand, are limited in knowledge and relationships, and thus limited in our authority and power. While we should not be individualists, we should have an emphasis on local authority and relational power. The more centralized and impersonal the relation is, the more limited the authority should be.

From this thinking comes representative government and our Tenth Amendment. Also from this comes the vital importance of the family to society and culture. It is in the family that the relations are able to be close enough to establish what food we eat, what clothes we wear, and what music we develop. It is in the family that culture is passed on and developed.

When large institutions like Hollywood and government schools try to form culture, it ends up with cheap, impersonal Pop Culture. It affects music, dance, agriculture, communication, cooking, manufacturing, etc… While some good will usually remain in the centralized systems (like great action scenes in perverse movies), and while the centralized systems may think they are helping, they generally break apart relational and familial culture, society, and economics. Thus we get fast-food. Thus we get the processing and preserving to make food mass-marketable. Thus we get FDA raids on small farms.  Thus we get most of the modern food industry. 

Much can be said on how to rebuild our food system (hence True Foods Solutions), but basically it will be a return to a more local and relational system. How that is done is up for debate. How local do we mean? What can we learn from the corporations of today, and what should we throw out? How quickly ought this to happen? Etc… And neither will it be easy. Relationships are very messy. But in the work that has been put before us, so let us strive for reform, for decentralization, and for excellence.

"Woe to those who join house to house,
who add field to field,
until there is no more room,
and you are made to dwell alone
in the midst of the land."
(Isaiah 5:8 ESV)

 

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