Thursday, December 13, 2012

Food for thought

Following on from the other day regarding my discussion of food. Here's a caricature I quite like:

The hamster says " And when you eat it do you also use a mask?"

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Quote of the Day

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning." - Albert Einstein.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Some thoughts on food...and local produce.

Living in a small town in Catalonia for the past year has taught me a lot of things...

One of those things being the importance of buying locally produced goods as well as ethical consumption.  The following is by no means an exhaustive discussion of this subject, but more a personal reflection as this topic can be discussed forever and a day. I will however mention a few articles, videos, books at the end of this post if you would like to explore the subject further.

I started my journey into learning about ethical alternatives to consumption, especially when it came to food, whilst I was in a lecture on the topic of Anthropology of Food at SOAS and I remember something that has stayed with me in particular.
It was regarding a banana.

Yes, a banana, one of the most potassium rich fruits in the world that most athletes devour to give them a burst of energy.

A perfect morning snack.

Also the subject of two characters of a children's favourite TV show. See: 'Bananas in Pyjamas'.

Now, we all know that a banana doesn't magically appear on the supermarket shelf.
A banana in fact has a story - and all food that we eat does.

Note: Unfortunately many children probably do think that banana's grow on supermarket shelves or may not even know WHAT a banana is - no fault of their own... See 'Potato or Tomato': Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution).

The way human beings interact with food has changed drastically. Not only are we not teaching future generations WHERE fruit and vegetables come from, WHERE their steak comes from (and with animals it is a different story. See: my article 'Meet your Meat') but we are not teaching them  HOW they are produced, WHY we buy food in supermarkets and WHAT they are good for.

I mean the amount of problems that exist regarding food nowadays is what I would probably call INSANE. A system of instant gratification and over consumption has left us with problems ranging from global warming, destruction of nature and our natural interaction with plant/animal life, GMO crops, unfair trade regulations, paying more for ORGANIC food that isn't ridden with toxic pesticides etc. etc. etc.

Where did all go wrong? And when did we forget that a plain old banana has a long, at times, painful order to reach our mouths?

Where was it planted? By who? Which country? Who was the middle-man that allowed it to be shipped across the globe? Then the other who decided which supermarket chain it would go to? What mark-up price will it be sold at? Is the farmer who planted this banana being treated fairly?

The questions are endless. So, in fact, when we bite into that banana, we are biting into a lot more than we realise....until we start realising that we ourselves are part of a long long chain in this system of global trade and consumption. We can either choose to ignore this fact or we can choose to face it and realise the consequences of our actions and buying habits.

I think it's important to realise our own place in global market and trade system; and make ourselves aware of the many initiatives currently across the globe trying to raise light to issues that has been kept in the dark. It's a complicated topic and there are many sides to it...

Luckily enough for me there is a fresh fruit/vegetable/cheese/fish market everyday in this town of 22,000 and that allows one easier access the food produced in the area. But not only is it about going to the fresh food markets but also buying from smaller shops scattered around that help support the local economy (especially in times of crises such as this). And these CAN be found in every city (most of the global human population, for the first time in history are living in cities).

I think it's important to realise we can all do our bit. Often people think that because they cannot be 100% ethical as EVERYTHING we buy has a story (from the clothes we wear, to the toothpaste we use, to the phone we text on) then there is no point.
I disagree....if we start learning about ourselves and the things we CAN do, then it is just a matter of taking baby steps and deciding WHAT is really important to us, others and the world. We cannot deny that we are indeed a global world much more connected than ever before. The more we deny this fact, the more we are shying away from a reality, of which, if a blind eye is turned, I fear will tear us away from our own humanity. We are after all 'what we eat'...

 The consumption of a banana suddenly becomes much much more.


Bananas: A 2009 Swedish documentary directed by Fredrik Gertten about a conflict between the Dole Food Company and banana plantation workers in Nicaragua over alleged cases of sterility caused by the pesticide DBCP.
Top 10 Genetically modified crops
Local produce and healthy eating
Fair Trade website