Why We Should All Grow Some of Our Own Food (September 4, 2009)
Growing some food ourselves is key to an experiential understanding of food, nutrition and health.
The key feature of an integrated understanding is that it is essentially three-dimensional, not in the spatial sense but in the sense that it combines a structural understanding with an historical and experiential understanding.
Without a knowledge of history, then the present is decontextualized--the precise goal of the status quo's mass-marketing/mass media machine. The person with no awareness of what came before is easily manipulated and exploited by a carefully manufactured politics of experience which supports the status quo.
An integrated understanding includes an experiental understanding. "Old World" skills (both Old World Europe and Old World Asia) were grounded on the absolute mastery of the fundamentals through practice and repetition. Only when this foundation was perfected would the student or apprentice begin adding higher skills and knowledge. This is the structure of scientific knowledge as well.
Thus an integrated understanding of health, well-being, nutrition, cooking/cuisine and life itself requires growing some food oneself. Even if it a single tomato vine in a pot, everyone must gain the experience of nurturing, harvesting, preparing and eating real food. Without this experiential working knowledge, then there can be no truly integrated understanding of health, well-being, nutrition or cooking/cuisine.
It is a simple "obvious" truism that what we put in our bodies for sustenance directly influences our health and well-being. No one denies this, yet many stuff themselves with visibly unhealthy foods--mostly packaged by agribusiness/fast-food global corporations for profit, not nutrition.
As a result, the U.S. is a nation plagued by poor health and pandemic chronic illness.
There can be no real understanding of what food is without growing fruits or vegetables or raising livestock/fish and then preparing and eating the results. Even if it a single tomato harvested from a single vine in a single pot on the deck of an apartment, then the experience is necessary to transform one's understanding of food, nutrition and health.
Here are some photos from readers' own harvests. Correspondent Cheryl A. and her husband Michael grow vegetables in large containers on their deck.
Correspondent Jed H. recently submitted this photo of his mango harvest in Hawaii:
An integrated understanding works back from "the obvious" to the source and then works forward again, grasping each causal link in the entire network. To understand the epidemic of "diabesity" then we have to trace the causal chain back to our stilted, alienated understanding of food itself.
From there, we can advance through all the other causal links: from the stupor/torpor induced by high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt packaged food to the decline of cooking skills and the saturation of the mass media with messages to consume unhealthy but highly profitable items which are simulacra of actual food, manufactured to stimulate the addiction/reward centers in our brains.
Once a truly integrated understanding is reached, then you stop buying packaged foods entirely and you also lose the desire to consumer fast foods, half-gallons of ice cream and a host of junk-"food" snacks and beverages.
In a similar fashion, there is no way to reach an integrated understanding of well-being without being physically fit along with eating real food prepared at home--even if "home" is a campsite. No gym equipment is necessary to become fit; nothing is needed but two square meters of open space. If one has never experienced well-being, then how can one claim to understand it?
This is a radical departure from the quasi-"scientific" politics of experience which claims a full understanding is possible by quantification alone. This is a politics of experience which leads to quantification traps in which simulacrum of understanding are supported by quantifications which are inherently ambiguous or decontextualized of meaning.
Propaganda favors statistics and quantification because manipulated data can always be presented in ways which support a politics of experience under the control of a centralized, concentrated-power Elite. (Does that list of ingredients on packaged food really tell you anything which adds to your understanding? Or is it designed to obfuscate and deceive?)
That Americans are eating their way to death does not support a highly profitable complex of "food" and "sick-care"/pharmaceutical industries. Hence it is suppressed and decontextualized in favor of incentives to continue eating oneself to death so that powerful Elites can increase their profits.
The relentless promotion of "free" media is an integral part of this profitable world; not only does mass media profit from ads for fake-food and medications to counter the diseases created by the fake-food but the media itself acts as a substitute for experience of the real world.
Citizens spending hours sitting on the sofa watching cooking shows is immensely more profitable for the Power Elites than citizens turning off the TV and engaging the real world of growing and preparing real food. The profit potential of citizens experiencing the real world in these ways is almost zero. There is little profit in seeds, raw vegetables and garden mulch.
Nurturing a single bean plant and preparing the harvest, however small, gives an enlightenment that is unattainable by any other means.
In a way, an analysis of the politics of experience leads to this point: lived experience is the key to seeing through the sham politics of experience presented by the Power Elites for their own benefit.
Just as mind and body are one, so too are food, activity and health one. But it is much more profitable to make us ill with "food" manufactured to be unhealthy and then proceed to sell us the pharmaceutical and surgical "cures."
Yes, some diseases are genetic and others are triggered by environmental factors; these will need to be treated by medications or surgery or other treatment. But to ignore the causal connections between food, diet, activity, consumption of mass media/marketing and chronic disease/ill health is to ignore the "obvious." Why surrender control over those elements of health we do influence?
This is why I have said "A healthy homecooked family meal and a home garden are revolutionary acts." In the context of a State/Elite-shaped politics of experience which profits from unhealthy fake-food and the management of the resulting diseases, then wresting control of one's food is decidedly revolutionary.
A free people will want control of their own lives, sustenance and destiny; an enslaved people will "buy" whatever they are "sold" and accept their Masters' "explanations."
As soon as we buy a packaged "food product" or "fast food," we have ceded control of our nutrition and "cooking" to a corporate entity whose concern is not our health but shelf life, profit margins, and engineering the "taste" of the "product" to trigger the reward centers of our brains in a cocaine-like fashion.
If you think this is exaggeration, please take it up with the former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, David Kessler, M.D. who reached these conclusions after careful study of the available scientific evidence. He published his findings in 2009: The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite. Among many other points, he found that the nutrition information on packaging is manipulated by the food industry to mask its true composition. Thus the "quantified data" which you are invited to trust is deceptive.
Why should we cede control of our health and well-being to global corporate interests whose sole purpose in marketing their products as "food" is to maximize sales and profits?
It is a reflection of the twisted influence of false ideologies that taking control of one's food, cuisine, nutrition and health can be viewed as either "highly progressive" (down with the corporate parasites and toothless State lapdogs) and "highly conservative" (let's get back to the roots of what made this country great--real homegrown food, real homecooked family meals and hard work) at the same time.
Is there any wonder than an integrated understanding steers clear of ideological entanglements? Ideologies are all about the opposite of understanding: manipulation of public opinion by Power Elites to further their own control and gain.
I would like to emphasize the value of control and establishing who holds control in every causal chain or network. If I buy a packaged food item which contains more salt than is healthy for me to consume in one day, then I have ceded control of my salt intake to the corporation which manufactured the packaged food and thus control of my own blood pressure and the attendent health risks that high salt intake incurs.
The goal of an integrated understanding is to make a realistic assessment of what serves your best interests and what does not serve your best interests, and then act on that awareness. We can all start by growing some of our own food, no matter how modest the harvest.
Here is a recent photo of our own modest harvest from a small urban garden and one peach tree:
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