Wednesday, August 09, 2006
I have lately become very aware of my inner conflict regarding the role of technology in my life. On the one hand, I have come to really LOVE this computer I've been using since my mom bought it several months ago -- so much, that I can't imagine what I'll do when I move out of this house. Ah, sorrow! And, though I was really very conflicted about it, I did finally renew my cell phone contract and ended up with a totally groovy little phone that *takes pictures*!! Ok, maybe that's old news for a lot of folks, but the novelty has not faded for me a bit. I can even check my email on the thing, reducing my need for this awesome computer, but not eliminating it by any means. Simultaneously, of course, I am at odds with cell phone towers, that girl who answered her cell phone during a meditative pose in yoga class (YMCA-Boston- 2003), people who walk down the street who look like they are talking to themselves with no shame whatsoever, hazarous waste from computer parts, etc. And added to the things I'm at odds with when it comes to technology is its relationship to the food I eat. I just finished *The Omnivore's Dilemma* by Michael Pollan, which I really enjoyed -- well, obviously -- it's the first book I've actually finished in several months now, though I'm half-way through several others. Though I struggle with a few of Pollan's points regarding the naturalness of meat-eating, I feel I owe him much gratitude just for making me think a lot about where all the food I eat comes from. The subtitle of the book is "A Natural History of Four Meals", which explains how he outlines the book, by taking four different meals and tracing all the ingredients back to their origin. The first is a meal from McDonalds, which leads him to fields and fields of government subsidized corn (revealing that these subsidies make the food cheaper to buy than to grow, which makes the farmers who do dependent on the government subsidies, you see). Frankly, the part about corn is fascinating. He also follows a cow from a ranch to a Confined Animal Feeding Operation, AKA factory farm. I thought that part would be harder to read than it was. Truth is, I feel a bit easier knowing what goes on in those places than I did anticipating knowing it. That is to say, after reading about it for the first time in years, I feel prepared to unequivocably denounce factory farming without getting too overwhelmed emotionally. The second meal he follows is one purchased at Whole Foods market, which reveals the reality of "Big Organic" and the struggles involved in maintaining (or rather, not really maintaining) the standards of organic farming in large scale operations. One of his main talking points in both sections relates to how most of our food travels at least 1500 miles before we eat it, and thus, how much it depends on petroleum. This leads to the third section, which stresses what he deems to be an ideal farm. This farm in Virginia does things in a manner that can only be called "old school", before the corruption of fertilizers and pesticides, when the key was in creating living ecosystems within the farm -- timing and intense management being the most important factors. In this section one of his main talking points, among many, is the importance of buying local. The final section is about a meal which he simultaneously calls ideal and unrealistic. This is a meal which he pays not a cent for because he hunts, grows, and gathers it all himself, with the help of some "expert" friends. He thoroughly details his trepidation, elation, disgust, and remorse in learning to hunt and in the killing of a wild boar. Then he learns to gather mushrooms and scavenges fruits, vegetables, and yeast from his Berkeley neighborhood. All in all I finished the book intensely interested in knowing more about where my food comes from -- feeling unsatisfied that I have never ever grown any food myself and that there are foods I regularly eat that I have no idea where they come from or what they look like in plant form or what the process is that gets them to my grocery store.