I have been ‘getting ready’ to start this blog for twelve months. My first inspiration came from hearing Michael Pollan speak at the Sydney Writer’s Festival in 2008.
Reading his In Defence of Food made me think more about what I’m eating and what I buy. By that I don’t mean that I haven’t always been conscious about making sensible and healthy food choices but I have come to the realisation that there is more that I could do.
For example ‘Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle’ and ‘Get out of the supermarket whenever possible’ both tend to add up to ‘Pay more, eat less’ and they also add up to having to take more time over shopping and food preparation. Which in turn means having to make shopping more of a pleasure and less of a chore (for example shopping at the farm gate) and being a bit more pro-active (making sugo when tomatoes are cheap).
I also realised that I don’t know as much as perhaps I should about various food production methods or about important issues such as GM foods. Nor do I really understand what many of the claims on food products amount to – ‘free range’ on eggs for example and perhaps more significantly ‘organic’.
I suppose too that I have rather tended to think that the choices I make only really make a difference to me and to my family. Michael Pollan made the comparison with political movements – who would have thought the Berlin wall would come down one day just because a handful of people had believed, for a very long time, that it could and should. So Pollan suggests that we work on the assumption that what we do is making a difference and eventually we will see changes. I suppose too that we can set an example and by discussing what we are doing and why we perhaps convince others too.
I am particularly interested in the whole question of avoiding the supermarket because of the current popularity of the ‘recipe’ book 4 Ingredients. If all the people who are buying this book also cook the recipes then there are an awful lot of people out there who see no problem with using cans and packets of soup to add flavour to their food because it is a fast and convenient way to prepare meals and makes shopping easier. How to convince them that spending more time and more money shopping is in fact a better way to go? How do we convince people who really do not like cooking that it is important to spend time in the kitchen if you want to present your family with healthy meals? How then to convince them that there are ethical issues associated with what we eat and how we shop?
Another inspiration was a comment by Fred Kaufman (author of A Short History of the American Stomach) on the Saveur magazine website (issue 111, May 2008). He was talking about cooking programmes on television. He sees these shows as presenting a fantasy of domestic bliss and regards the audience as ‘voyeurs’. He believes that ‘working for that domesticity, making a house, cooking and being together is not a simple thing in real life. We watch food television to get a bit of that feeling, and then we can just throw something in the microwave and eat crap alone in the dark.’
Finally after months of procrastination I have decided that this blog might help to contribute just a little something to making a difference, to getting people away from the television and the microwave and out of the centre of the supermarket – even if only one crumb at a time.