Wednesday, September 06, 2006

It's Not So Great To Be At The Top Of The Food Chain

I have a very fond memory from about seven years ago when I was serving a church in suburban Maryland. On Christmas Day, wiped out from the previous day's services, I drove down to D.C. to spend the afternoon with Scott Wells (Boy In the Bands ). We were both tired pastors who were suffering the typical Christmas Day exhaustion, and we sat in easy chairs in his parsonage with a glazed ham between us, working our way through it while drinking glasses of riesling and watching "Damn Yankees."

Good times.
But I'm afraid my days of happily devouring spiral-cut ham may be coming to an end.

Scott, with his many thoughtful posts about buying local and in season, started me thinking a year or so ago about where my food comes from. My emerging interest in cooking and recent transformation into a true foodie has also contributed to my curiosity. Lately, it seems, there's been more and more attention focused on sustainable agrigulture, agribusiness and ethical eating. The most recent issue of "The Nation" has a series of terrific articles by people like Alice Waters and Wendell Berry on the subject.

I bought my first organic chicken yesterday, and found that I couldn't buy any other meat products. This is a very interesting development for this carnivore.

Today I bought a copy of Jane Goodall's book Harvest For Hope: A Guide To Mindful Eating, which is all about sustainability and is written in Goodall's typically gentle, wise and loving manner. I have been a huge admirer of Goodall's for many years, and consider her a hero. As an irrational lover of chimps, I have to give due propers to anyone who has done as much for them as has Goodall. She is totally down with the primates, and therefore she gets my vote. Also, I loved her book Reason For Hope. If you have mean dish about Jane, please don't tell me. Leave me my unblemished adoration.

I don't know where this will all lead, but wouldn't you know, just as I was feeling very righteous about genetically-modified crops I made the acquaintance TONIGHT of a young scientist who works for (cue villain music) Monsanto!
I asked her to explain her work to me, and she got me all confused again by describing what she does in calm, very intelligent way that made her company's efforts seem decidedly un-villainous. I said, "Uh-oh. Now you've blown all my lefty liberal self-righteousness!" and she laughed. She knows, she knows.

Powderblue, don't you go doing a little victory dance yet. I'm not sure that I won't go out and have a big hamburger for lunch tomorrow or something, but let's just say that I'm thinking. I'm thinking a lot. And I'm not happy about that frozen kielbasa in my freezer. I'm not happy about all that corn syrup that my baby nephews are ingesting, and I'm not happy about the fact that the entire food supply seems to be irrevocably tainted in some dire way.

One thing I do know is that I'll be stopping by the local farmer's market tomorrow on the way to the hospital. At least it's something.


Blogger fausto said...

Well, you know what St. Paul said:

Blogger fausto said...

Hm. Blogger cut off the URL. Let's see if a link works:

What Paul Said

Blogger Elizabeth said...

I became instantly inspired to be a vegetarian (well, thoughts had been accumulating, but...) T"his Steer's Life" really put me over the edge. It goes through all this horribleness following a calf from calfness to steakness, and then after going through all the various horrors - environmentally and otherwise - the author EATS the calf he followed throughout the story and resolves to eat grass fed cow. I was so indignant that he could report on so much bad stuff and then continue to eat meat. Which made me realize - oh, wait - I HEARD all this bad stuff and I still eat meat. So I gave my chicken to my roommate and started on the journey. Here is the article in case you are interested.
One more quick thing - my best friend from college is on a huge kick about how the vegetarian movement would be much more successful if it encouraged small changes for people rather than "YOU CAN NEVER EVER EAT MEAT OR YOU ARE A BAD PERSON" sort of approach it sometimes takes. So she is all advocating "Just be aware of how your eating habits impact the environment and try to reduce and see how that goes." So much better than "STOP EATING MEAT OR YOU ARE EVIL," ehh? Great post. Gracias....

Blogger John Plummer said...

PB - You might check out Michael Pollan's recent book, The Omnivore's Dilemma. Pollan still winds up eating meat at the end of the book, but in a limited way, with a lot of attention to where it comes from. ( If you want the short version, he was recently interviewed on KPFA -

I'm been vegetarian for years, but find myself increasingly pushed toward vegan, after reading more about the dairy and egg industries, courtesy of folks like Will Tuttle. Disturbing stuff.

The good news is that there are so many more good resources for high quality veg food these days. For fun, check out the crazy girls at the Post Punk Kitchen, a show on NYC cable access, which has become a sensation and spawned a (very good) cookbook -

Blogger powderblue said...


You may be interested to know that Will Tuttle will be speaking at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly, next June in Portland, OR. As others may also know, Will is a Zen Buddhist priest and author of The World Peace Diet.

Blogger John Plummer said...

Very cool, Powderblue. I was assigned to review The World Peace Diet for Quest magazine. It is a powerful book. Carnivore friends might be advised to work up to it, though.... it is tough!

Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

Did the Monsanto employee say anything about their patents on seeds?

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Hafhida, I know. Believe me, I think Monsanto is devilish. But talking to this young, talented woman I could tell that she definitely believed that her corporation was going to feed more hungry people. I wasn't going to tell her that she worked for Satan, although I rather believe she does.
I mean, what could be more horrific than having your frankenseeds infect farmers' crops and then SUING them for patent infringement? That is a special kind of moral heinousness.

Thanks everyone else for your comments as well, and recommendations.

Blogger LaReinaCobre said...

=( I had hoped maybe she'd told you it was all just a crazy dream! An anti-capitalist conspiracy! I'd prefer that to the reality. Oh well. Unfortunately, she won't be the last bright, idealistic young person to be sucked into bad things.

Case in point: Glam rock. I just saw on tv that glam rock is "back." Egads!


Post a Comment

<< Home