I’m reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. If you love food and you care about your health and, oh, by the way, the health of the planet, be sure to read this book. You can get it cheap on amazon.com or order it up from your local library. But read it. The way you think about those low-low prices at the big chain supermarket will never be the same.
In a nutshell, as Kingsolver points out, “U.S. citizens… on average spend a lower proportion of our income on food than people in any other country, or any heretofore in history.” She goes on to say, “It’s interesting that penny-pinching is an accepted defense for toxic food habits, when frugality so rarely rules other consumer domains.” We treat ourselves to name brand clothing but not to food that keeps our arteries functioning. This, as Kingsolver says, has “left the kids huffing and puffing (fashionably) in the dust.”
What if we were to make a conscious decision to eat food that is full of nutrients, fresh from our own or other local gardens and farms? Even if that meant giving up the next cool technology, the extra day on vacation, the bottles and bottles of soda or, God help us, water?
What if our kids learned that the seasons have reasons and that it’s time now, in the middle of January, to start planning the garden and that soon it will be time to start some seedlings in the sunny March window? Do you think some of those kids might enjoy digging in the dirt or tasting the fruit of their labor? Maybe they’d find vegetables actually delicious, as I saw last summer when a batch of kids came over to try out my grape tomatoes (and the arugula and the basil and the little carrots). And maybe they’d be less likely to develop Type II diabetes if they were doing some of the heavy lifting of urban farming and eating salads instead of junk food.
But maybe you’ve already heard all that. What may amaze you as it has me is the cost of eating the way we do. Until I read this book, I never realized that every household in the United States subsidizes agribusiness with hard-earned tax dollars to the tune of about $725 per year! (You can see how that figure was computed by reading this page.) You can just imagine how many heads of cauliflower, pounds of tilapia, gallons of milk, bushels of apples that would buy.