The Rules for Eating

Just finished reading “The Omnivores Dilemma – A natural History of four Meals” by Micheal Pollan. From the very first page it was evident that I was having a conversation with a good and respected friend. His journeys in search of the roots of eating in modern America were both familiar and new. Having grown up experiencing a wide array of food cultures and traditions, I have had an awareness of what he describes as the omnivores dilemma. That is; I can eat almost anything but I can’t eat everything, how do I choose?

In cultures with deep traditions, the rules for eating are developed and transmitted by practice over long periods. They are influenced by the seasons and the region in which cultures formed. It becomes very clear in those contexts that if you live in the desert eating pig is probably not a good idea, shellfish, if you are far from the sea could possibly kill you and if you don’t cook cassava it will kill you. As we move farther and farther away from these traditions and find ourselves presented with increasing choice and decreasing rules we find ourselves eating out of context. That, coupled with the always expanding array of processing methods and globalism has resulted some very dysfunctional relationships with our food.

The importance of the food in our lives has always been important to me. From an early age my mother taught me that where food came from and who made it possible was just as important as the recipes we used to prepare it. We didn’t eat grapes or lettuce for long periods in the 60’s in support of farm workers. As the organic movement took hold my mother established a food coop in Los Angeles and in the mid 70’s we moved to South Dakota where we became homestead farmers.

As I write this, I find myself far from the farm raising a family in an urban area and trying to teach lessons that are better taught through example than unconnected words. Pollan’s book has reminded me that it is truly important to “Eat your View”, the best food comes from people you know. Look for them, support them and we will all be better for it.