Tadg and I were harvesting some veggies for dinner yesterday, I found myself thinking about what beets looked like when I was a kid. They came in a tin can, when you hammered on one end after you’d opened it, out would pop a red – gelatinous tube of something weird. I remember noticing the similarities between that food and a Howitzer shell: neatly packaged and built for speedy delivery. You could eat it or fire it out of a canon – how cool is that!?
Its no secret we have World War II to thank for our industrialized method of food production, but canned beets really send that message home. When you pull a beet out of the soil and consider it along side its industrialized (distant) canned-cousin, you can see how significantly industrialized thinking has impacted our food. The spirit of that time, its hopes and fears, completely changed our relationship to food. The difference between live food and what most of Americans eat today is extraordinary.
Perhaps we came to believe trusting the mechanized world was the only way we could survive and defeat our foes. Maybe too many of us were traumatized by death, hunger, and starvation. For those reasons and perhaps many others we traded in food that was genuinely vital and nourishing for a ridiculously poor facsimile.
Amazing foods have been hiding behind our industrial farming complex. Not just veggies like beets that have been packaged so far beyond their original form as to be unrecognizable as food. There are also unique varietals deemed too challenging for the American palate that never make it to market. Right now we have mustard greens in our garden that are smoking hot on the palate, and now sorely missed when they don’t show up in our salads. After a few seasons they, and other spicy greens we grow, just reseed themselves where they see fit to grow. I can’t imagine our garden salads without them.
Which brings me to the most important reason to abandon industrialized food – if you don’t you’ll ruin your kids appetite. I never liked beets when I was a kid, because they were a disgusting non-food posing as food. My son loves beets, due in no small part to the fact that he grows and picks them. He has a relationship to his food, he enjoys the food much more because of that relationship.
When we walk into the garden he picks those greens commercial growers would never market, and munches down happily. He chomps the heads off our broccoli, he’ll stick anything in his mouth at least once – often twice because of his short memory.
Thats probably the way kids have grown up since the beginning of agriculture. Why did we give that up? The barons of Big Farma would have us believe we needed to do food differently in order to feed all of us. Thats no reason to stop gardening though.
When we ran to an industrialized method of raising our food, we were running away from something as well. Will we meet that specter in the road someday soon? That can of beets isn’t so much a way to feed the world, as a way to make it seem tame. Perhaps the wildness of the world was too much for us. We sacrificed Eden so we wouldn’t have to deal with the snake in the apple tree.
That reminds me, our young apple tree looks like it will be producing fruit for the first time this year.