Something happened about the time I became a mother. I've been concerned about it ever since. Cooking from scratch started to disappear. It became harder and harder to serve healthy meals. Shortcuts, fast food and processed and precooked meals have removed us from our heritage of diversity. We're losing our food roots, our diversity, our varied seed stocks along with the family farms.
At the same time that the time squeeze began, as sports became more demanding outside of school, as seasons stretched, as competition became more deluxe, as the advertising to kids for processed and junk foods ramped up, family farms were dying.
I'm concerned about heirloom seed stocks, massive agribusiness and commercialized food. Amber Fields of Bland, by Dan Barber (NYTimes behind the subsriber Select wall), appeared on January 14. He writes of farm bills and policy from the viewpoint of a chef, saying that "70% of our nation's farms have been lost to bankruptcy or consolidation." He writes, "...the food that we grow on 200 million acres of harvested cropland is inedible. Stand in the middle of our farm belt and you'll see cornfields extending to the horizon, but the harvest won't be dinner, not until it's milled and processed into flours or starches, or used to fatten our animals on feedlots. Just four crops -- corn, rice, soybeans and wheat -- account for the vast majority of our harvested acreage. Not surprising, given that these same crops account for 70 percent of the total subsidies allotted to farmers. No one wants farmers to suffer, especially chefs. But if we're spending $20 billion or so a year on farm subsidies, we ought to invest in the foods we eat."
Another NYTimes article by Michael Pollen, Unhappy Meals, writes about the confusion since the 1980s about nutrition and how we came to regard food products as food. "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." That is his opening sentence and his article is a good one on why, as consumers, we're boondoggled by the food industry, journalists and nutritionists.
Ethnobotanist Gary Paul Nabhan has written about our connections to food, our roots in nutrition and culture and the importance of food diversity. I've been reading his books since the early 1990s. They are delicious to read and eye-opening in conceptual thinking.
In our busy lives, I am guilty of attending to other things. I'm removed from the growth of the foods we eat. I'm rushed by pressures to take shortcuts in feeding my family. I'm guilty, through my actions of shopping, buying and eating, of encouraging the trends through lifestyle choices.
This is an important issue that deserves more attention and action. As mothers, responsible for the health of our families, we are overlooking something that seems to be out of sight and out of mind.