Real Food

Real Food

Approximately a 3 minute read

What we eat illuminates the relationship between us and our natural world. It also directly influences the way our living planet is used. 


Before industrialization

Industrialization has turned food into a commodity and severed the connections between growers, eaters, and ecoystems.

Before agriculture and food production became commercial industries, meals were made up of locally sourced ingredients and prepared entirely from scratch.

Depending on the time and place, some of the ingredients were wild caught or wild harvested.

Others were raised or grown in gardens, were traded with a neighbor, or were purchased from nearby. A few came via trade with further away communities.

All of the growing, harvesting, storage and preparation was done right there in local fields, gardens and kitchens, often in a cooperative way that brought families together. The network of connections between the soil, growers, processors, and eaters, was unbroken. 

There was relatively little packaging and labeling, there were no numbers or codes, and the nutrients harvested from the land were returned to it in an endless cycle of growth, decay, and regeneration.

That essentially describes what I call Real Food.

Today the giant machine of industry and its in-house science and technology have up-ended our food production and supply systems to such an extent that real food is no longer easy to come by. Depending on where you live, it may seem impossible to access.

But it's important to remember the slow, small, cumulative power that lies with us as decision makers. In our daily decisions about what to feed our families, lies the power to turn the ship.

Four powerful questions to help you identify Real Food

Eating and agriculture are insperable: what you eat determines how land is used.

Ordinary eaters can nudge food production back towards balance by asking these four powerful questions as we weigh up our choices about what to buy.

  1. "Will this food be good for my family's health?"

  2. "Was the production of this food good for the community and ecosystem it came from?"

  3. "Was this food grown/processed/marketed in a way that strengthens connections between the elements involved – the ecosystems, the grower and the eater, and their communities?"

  4. "Does the entity that's selling this food care about its impact; is it behaving like a responsible citizen of our interconnected world?"

The more of those questions you can answer yes to, the closer you are getting to a real food diet – a sustainable diet that will nourish not only you and your family, but other families and our living planet, also.

We've become pretty knowledgeable about the first of those four questions. Our next responsibility as users of our planet's resources is to become equally well-educated about the last three.

Will that be easy? No.

Do you need another task, another thing to research, another thing to pay attention to? No.

But it will get easier, just as answering the first question is now something you can usually do with barely more than a pause and a glance at the back of the package.  

Eating is an agricultural act

A sincere (not perfect) effort to progressively (not all at once) bring real food back to our kitchens is a very powerful way that we can make a difference.

Eating is an agricutural act."

Wendell Berry

Perhaps you live in a city, and you think you cannot influence the way that landowners and managers care for the land they control. Think again: what we choose to put on our forks directly influences how the living planet is used.

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