Saturday, August 02, 2008

Decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse

Last month, I read a terrific book called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by novelist and essayist Barbara Kingsolver. I already recommended this memoir to Samurai Frog; it's in my opinion essential reading for our times. In a nutshell, the book documents Kingsolver's year of eating locally, or to use our neologism-loving society's term, they became locavores.

The book begins when they move to a new house on several acres of wild land in the southern Appalachians. With a few exceptions, they eat only things that originate within 100 miles of their farm. Much of their meat and produce is grown themselves, and they make a point of knowing the origins of the other items. It’s a bit heavy on the preaching (especially the brief fact boxes from Steven Hopp, Kingsolver’s husband), but then, this is a topic very easy to get worked up about, and it makes for fascinating reading regardless. There’s a vast wealth of common-sense information here backed up with facts and figures. Just a few of the salient bits:
  • factory farmers dump a billion pounds of pesticides on our crops annually! Yes, really.
  • the moral question of relying on nonrenewable fossil fuels to transport food
  • the way food factories are destroying America’s health at the taxpayer's expense
  • how a psychological disconnect between the making of food and the eating of food (and the harvesting of animals) is connected to America's fear of food and our obesity epidemic
  • the established link between farm-raised food and good mental health
It really is a persuasive, important book, every page a reminder of how corporations crush small business and sell us fetid garbage made cheap through subsidies. I read it wishing everyone in America would read it and take its crucial messages to heart. Not everyone needs to be a locavore, but everyone ought, at the very least, understand where food comes from and the benefits of eating sustainable, humane, farm food.

And for pity's sake, can we stop cutesifying farm animals and hiding from kids that hamburgers are cows and ham is pigs? What's wrong with telling them the truth: that we kill animals to eat? If we can't admit that as a society, what does that say about how mature our food attitudes are?


Speaking of health, he smoothly segued, I've doubled my walk with Dog. I don't really have any idea if I walk anywhere from .75 miles to 1.5 miles or more a day, but on the advice of my GP, I increased the walk length to get in some cardio. In the summer here in Devil-Town, where it's still a nice and toasty 98 degrees F at 8:15 p.m., this isn't the great fun it could be, but I've been doing it.

And, as I mentioned a while back, I've pretty much stopped lifting weights, on the advice of my cardiologist. I still do pushups daily and about ten minutes of desultory moves with the 45-pound dumbbell, but the heavy weights have been gathering dust for a while. I've been lifting weights since I was 18 years old, nearly 20 years, and it doesn't feel right, and I miss it. I used to have a fairly impressive upper body; now when I walk, I'm sure people wonder what that silly little fellow with the spindly arms is doing wearing a sleeveless shirt. "Cover up them pasty white twig-arms, boy!"

Well, perhaps no one actually gives a shit, but it's funny to imagine. Anyway, who am I trying to impress? I'm 37. A nearly-40-year-old fellow like me should expect a little corporal degeneration. Even if I still get carded when I buy alcohol.


Yankee in England said...

Well now I have an idea for my next book to read. They recently did a study of grade school children here in England in regards to food and it was amazingly disgraceful how few children realized which meats came from which animals if they even knew it came from an animal at all. The worst part was most children could not choose a vegtable from a list of four foods.

My parents rented a house on a cattle farm when I was sixteen. My dad did so many hours of work for the cattle farmer a year for 1/2 a cow. There was something very gratifying knowing that something my family had done had helped us aquire the meat in the freezer. We knew exactly what the cow had eaten and how it had lived. It seemed so much more dare I say humane than just buying some shit hamburger off Walmart's shelf.

My happiest memories of food is canning vegtables from our garden or from the local farmers market. I felt very conected with the spagetti sauce or the strawberry jam when it was opened because I had either weeded the tomato patch or taken the tops off the strawberries.

Chance said...

Yankee, that's exactly it. If you do read AVM, you'll probably feel right at home with the Kingsolvers.

Yankee in England said...

By the way glad your back. I found you blog just as school was ending and you seemed to take a vacation from blogging. I totally get the rich spoiled kid syndrom. I use to work at five star/diamond hotels amazing what people think money should buy them.

bill said...

companion recommendation: Unmentionable Cuisine by Calvin Schwabe.