Michael Pollan really gets me
You may know of Michael Pollan. He is author of five New York Times Best Sellers: The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, The Botany of Desire, In Defense of Food, Food Rules and, mostly recently, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation. In 2010 he was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine.
First, let me be clear - I do not know Michael Pollan, but reading a recent interview Rodale's Organic Life did with him, Why Organic Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be, I felt completely understood. The interview is (not surprisingly) thought-provoking and covers several interesting ideas/proposals about local fresh food, organic farming practices, and the relationship we have with the food we grow and/or the people who grow our food. I highly suggest you take the time to read it. Some of the interview is about individuals gardening and cooking with fresh food, as well as the importance of supporting local producers at Farmers Markets (not necessarily the same as "Local" in supermarkets). He is spot on when he says that building relationships with your local growers is important. But, what really hit me in a personal way was this statement:
"The longer I'm at it, the more I'm convinced that gardening and cooking are really important activities, both at a practical level and at a spiritual or philosophical level. Both are ways to reconnect with the earth, with all the processes that keep us alive. And then there are all the practical benefits. A lot of people say, 'Oh, I can't afford high-quality organic produce.' Well, if you have space for a garden, you can afford it. Anyone can afford it. You can grow better stuff than you can find anywhere. And you don't need a lot of space to do it."
I was in the middle of a restaurant when I read this and I had to fight the urge to stand up on my chair and yell "THAT'S IT! THAT'S EVERYTHING!" But, I just bookmarked the article on my phone and decided to take the more civilized route and just write about it later. Those restaurant patrons have no idea that they narrowly escaped being suddenly scared out of their seats.
This is really what I feel to the core when I garden. And, believe me when I tell you that my yard is the size of a postage stamp, yet I grow more food than I sometimes know what to do with. I'm out there every day all summer tending to the garden, so it's a lot of work, but the cliche is true - it's a labor of love. There's something visceral about how I feel when I go out in my tiny backyard and see the growth of actual, fresh, honest-to-goodness healthy food. I have to admit, it makes me feel powerful - in control. Until, of course, I find blossom end rot on my tomatoes, my cucumbers catch a bad case of fungus on their leaves, or my beans don't produce what they should. It's humbling too.
Pollan comments on our increased consumption of processed food that has no nutritional value and is a detriment to our bodies and our environment. He states, "'The people who are vegetable gardening are cooking. I don't think you garden unless you're going to cook. Fifty-eight percent of Americans are still cooking, but the numbers are trending downward." Over my lifetime, I cook more than I used to (in my earlier years, I had no idea how to cook) - and I definitely take advantage of having fresh organic goods in my backyard to make dinner with. I love going out and "picking" dinner. It doesn't mean that I won't eat some questionable food choices...I do....too often. But, for example, when I had an overabundance of lettuce in my garden, I ate salad a LOT more often during the season. I hate letting food go to waste, particularly the food I slaved over growing.
I still rely on shopping outside of my garden for food though, even during the peak season. Pollan's point is not that organic isn't important, but there is a difference between buying organic from a food source that you're not familiar with and one that you are. (e.g., many certified organic farmers are just factory farms). Know your growers. One of the best ways to know your growers is to be one.
What are you growing this season? What local farmers are you looking forward to buying from?