Why are we dissatisfied with our food?
Earlier this month I was able to visit a farm down the road from the restaurant I work at. This farm supplies a lot of the food we serve. It has the most incredible views of the sea. And what I enjoyed most about this farm is how they’re still exploring what they want to do and how they want to do it. There was this great excitement of learning.
Being at this farm, seeing the plants grow, the worms squirming in the dirt got me to thinking. A while ago I was watching Cooked by Michale Pollan. Something he said really stuck with me. “The less time we invest in cooking ourselves, the more time we seem to spend watching other people cook on television.” We have a need to connect with our food. But I think it goes even further than that.
One of the reasons I got into nutrition and cooking was seeing the general dissatisfaction people have with food, and with eating. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out where that comes from. I think a big part of it is the shame we’re conditioned to feel when we eat the things we currently think are bad, or not looking like what society is telling us to look like.
But let’s take that even further. I believe our dissatisfaction with our food comes from the fact that we’ve decontextualised our eating. We buy our foods from these incredibly clinical places – supermarkets. Our food looks clean, well presented, ‘ideal’. Some of what we eat is so processed that we have to have labels on the packaging telling us what it is. It’s all so disconnected.
Eating is an incredible act of life. Its paramount for our existence, but it also forms a part of these intricate, interconnected life cycles. Worms digging around in the dirt aerate it, allowing plants to grow more easily. The plant grows, changes the nutritional quality of the dirt, making way for what comes next. A bee collecting pollen from a flower, fertilises it in the process. An animal eats the plant, excretes what remains giving quality back to the soil. Each species depends on each other and gives to each other. In living and in dying they are all actively a part of life.
The next time you eat, take a moment to look at what you’re eating. When you see a tomato, think of the plant that pushed its shoots up through the ground, sent its roots far and wide, soaked in the sun and created that fruit. See the cow that struggled its way into this world, learned to walk and run, grew strong, swatted flies, ate grass. What you have on your plate fought to live. To eat is to become a part of this intricate web. Eating is connection. It’s about so much more than just us.