What is modern eating? Or do I mean future eating? Actually, I’m probably talking about privileged eating….of the future.
Recently there was a bit of an uproar about people seeking out raw water. Before that, it was Soylent. Why are often these stories in the United States? Is there something about our approach to food that makes us seek these shortcuts? Is drinking Soylent better than going through the drive-thru? Maybe, on paper. Eventually, will we be all eating some sort of superfood grown from algae as told in many a sci-fi novel?
In The Dorito Effect Mark Schatzker’s premise is that all the flavorings put into today’s food confuse our senses. We can no longer eat intuitively to get the nutrition we need. Flavors are very complex, but we can mimic them using only a some of the overall flavor profile to get an approximation. In turn, we need to add more flavors to make processed food more palatable. I think about this book every time I put a condiment on something. I find if I cook a meal from scratch myself I’m less likely to be reaching for those condiments to spice things up. Though I’m very privileged in that I have the time to do this. Is this
Recently I read Big Chicken which looks specifically at the poultry industry in the US and all the issues that have been caused in the move from turning chicken from a special occasion food to our everyday meat. The environment the chickens are kept in, food poisoning outbreaks and antibiotic resistance are all part of this shift. Then since we have created a bland bird by only breeding for growth speed, we need to flavor in the way outlined in Schatzker’s work so it is enjoyable. When I lived in Indonesia you would often see “ayam kampung” the menu which translates to neighborhood chicken. Those chickens were small, but so very flavorful. If only we had balanced size with taste in the US or focused on taste. One of my goals for the year is to grow my own meat chickens and test the difference between home raised and commercially raised chicken.
The Omnivore’s Dilemma was really the book that sent me down this path of thinking about food differently. In it, Michael Pollan traces four meals from a traditional fast food meal, to an organic Whole Foods style organic meal, to a meal sourced from local farms, all the way to a meal he sourced himself through primarily hunting and gathering. I was inspired to reread the book a few weeks ago because my neighbors were reading it. We are all on the goal of sourcing a meal from local farms, primarily our own.
Through Pollan’s book, I began seeing how little difference there is between regular and organic commercial farming. Factory farming whether it be organic or not just isn’t the way I want to eat anymore. The methods of Joel Salatin and other “Non-Barcode People” is what I’m striving for in my own farming. I’m not sure if I will go as far as the hunting and gathering per Pollan’s fourth meal, but I do want to reduce my dependence on the Big Ag system.
In thinking about how modern eating forces people to choose between getting something quick and affordable versus getting something nutritious. Many of our relationships to food are unhealthy, my own is certainly no exception. I gain a deep satisfaction in preparing a meal where the ingredients only come from my farm or the adjoining one, but that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes crave a milkshake and a burger. Over time I hope to at least make that milkshake from my own milk and the burger from my own cow. Though I’m certainly one of the lucky that I can even view that as an option.