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Friday, October 21, 2011

some thoughts on the value of food

by Francesca @ FuoriBorgo

Thank you for your comments and thoughts the other week on the cost and wastage of food (here).  I was going to focus on ways to limit the waste of food in our households this time around, but I'd like to share a few thoughts that stem from your comments.

thoughts on food

We all seem to agree that when we pay and/or labor more for our food, we're far less likely to waste it.  I, for one, am guilty of occasionally wasting store-bought bread that's gone stale. It doesn't happen very often, as I normally bake our bread, and only rarely need to buy it.  And I don't actually throw it away, it goes to my neighbors' chickens.  But it does happen: we occasionally waste store-bought bread gone stale.

However, I would never, ever waste the bread I bake, which costs far more than the store-bought kind both in terms of money - as it's made with a variety of organic flours and seeds, and baking increases my electricity bill, and in terms of time - to mix, knead, wait for the dough to rise, and bake.  The money, effort and time I spend baking the bread my family eats is not something I'm willing to compromise on, as I believe they're all an investment in our health, and the health of our planet.  Plus, the result is fragrant and precious bread that is eaten to the very last crumb - fresh or stale (we'll talk about how to use stale bread in a different post).  But the stale store-bought bread?  That I toss.  I toss it because I didn't pay much for it, because it's not very healthy, and because it doesn't taste very good.  I toss it, in other words, because that cheap bread wrapped in plastic that I picked from the shelf in a consumeristic logic is not worth trying to save and make something out of.

I think this is the root of the problem: since when has food been (culturally) devalued so much as to become expendable?   What happened to the concept of food as something precious that nourishes our body and souls?  I say "souls" because food is not just about a bunch of nutrients that we gulp down, it is also a matter of taste, and consuming food is a daily ritual that connects us with the land and the people who produce our subsistance, and the loved ones with whom we share it around the table.  I suspect that the fact that food has become cheap stuff that we pick from the shelf, often unaware of where it comes from, has something to do with the fact that from precious, food has become expendable, and liable to be wasted in colossal amounts.  What do you think?

15 comments:

flowtops said...

I agree that the relation between people and produce has become distant.

I think this is not only due to the fact that most of us do not know where food comes from, or how some of it is made.

It seems that the crazy speed of modern daily life has led us astray. As a society, we've come to believe that this speed is king, and we should adhere to it also in preparing food and eating food.

And now, for most of us, life does not revolve around nourishing, but around quick solutions.

Nicki

Oya's Daughter said...

You do make a very good point; convenience seems to have replaced responsibility. It's actually bemusing as I've had people see me pick apples or berries in the hedges or talking about keeping chickens for eggs and meat and there's invariably someone who will look at me in horror and a faint bit of disgust, saying "Why don't you buy it in the supermarket like everyone else?" Perhaps it's a status thing as well - at one time only the extremely impoverished couldn't buy food at the store, and therefore anyone who raises their own food must be on a lower rung than everyone else.

I do tend to waste food at a rate I am not proud of, primarily due to not being able to predict when I'm having a day that is good enough to allow me to prepare and cook vegetables from scratch. This is something I'm trying very hard to remedy to try and include veg in every meal even if it isn't very fancy. Getting there!

Linn said...

I think your right! If more people made their food from scratch I bet there would be a lot less wastage for the very reasons you posted about.

Robert said...

I can't speak for the US, but in the UK, a lot of people struggled financially until the 1950's. They couldn't afford to throw food away. Then there were two periods of actual shortage in the World Wars. When I was growing up, every adult had experienced at least some of this, and the culture said you ate everything on your plate however nasty - and British cooking has often been nasty. These days, we're far removed from that period, and food is just another commodity in an age of surplus.

Erica said...

I think about the same things often, though not nearly as eloquently!

SARINA said...

I agree with all that`s already been said by others, here. But, I also think that we(here in Britain) have the added convenience of shops close by. It doesn`t need forward planning to hop to the nearest shop and get the milk or bread we have run out of. In the shops we are spoilt for choices. Everything is easily accessable, including out of season fruits and veg. This makes us buy too much and often throw away what`s not eaten. Due care or attention to food is no longer necessary. We just look to buy everything at it`s best presentation, no matter where it comes from or how it was grown.
Less availability of certain items might well get us to rethink our relationship with food. Someone once said to me that we must go through a war time hardship situation to re-learn cookery and longterm preserving skills, and then we might truely appreciate what we could buy for food. Maybe that`s right. I don`t know. What does everyone else think on this?

allotment garden said...

Things do not have an intrinsic value. Their value depends on our need for them. Indeed we easily throw away things that are cheaply bought. We do not value these.
Something that has been produced from locally sourced resources, hand crafted and beautiful is valued much more. I do not throw away things made by my children.
Money does not have value. You can’t eat it.

Dea-chan said...

There's a post to be made about how feminism and the devalue-ing of traditional homemaker skills led to this disrespect of food. I think Sharon Astyk has covered it before (sharonasyk.com) and will probably cover it again.

Once you get started on the path of Modern Science/Medicine Says That We Do This (not like Grandma) then you start looking through that lens at everything.

Remember the whole "a GOOD mother buys formula" push in the 70s/80s? That I feel is an example of the whole problem.

I'm too rambly to be coherent, but someone else will probably pick up the thread here.

Angela said...

Wish I could grow more of our own food. Every year this is one scare or another. There was Ecoli on bagged green vegetables, then the latest was listeria on the melons and there is always some people dead. It's very scary to be dependent of the food in the grocery story. I cook all 3 meals and we rarely go out to eat.

MamaMaloney said...

Hi Francesca. As well as talking about how to use stale bread, could you please also include your bread recipe. Especially for wholemeal, seeded bread. Thank you for this post and your others. I love reading them. xxoo from Julie in Australia

Winter said...

I grew up in SF. Ca. and in a neighborhood where there was a produce market, a butcher, an Irish bakery, many specialty stores ie..cheese shoppe and bagelry as well as your average grocery store. Nothing was pre-packaged in celophane and styrofoam. I loved shopping for our meals. Not only was I certain of the freshness and quality of what I was buying, but I was connected with each thing in a unique way. We don't have that option here in NW In. There are produce markets and butcher stores, but they are all doing wholesale business as well, much of their goods are pre-packaged for convenience, they are far spread and the trust just isn't there. I think these kinds of things add to our "throw away" mentality when it comes to our sustinance. There's also the personal connection. Whereas I do all of the cooking, most from scratch or semi-homemade, as a family, I don't think we take time to value the effort or the quality. When food is ready and abundant we just don't value what we have. There's more where that came from...right? It's a fantasy of course. At some point, without more careful planning and action overall, there will not always be more. And, as another poster said, it's not always healthy anyway! Also, we are so busy. So many activities and responsibilities occupy our time and thoughts. It's just a matter of redirecting our attention. I remember reading a turn of the century (1900) memoir about an American heiress who bragged to a new English acquaintance that she got a party through dinner in under an hour. The acquaintance was flabberghasted! A dinner party was meant for relaxing and giving everyone the opportunity to connect, communicate and savor the food and company. Our attention isn't on the dinner table anymore. I agree that Feminism may have a part to play in that. It could just be Western thinking. Who knows? What matters is; What will it take to bring it back there?

cumbrian said...

Yes, supermarket bread, it's so easy to pick up a loaf. If it had to be made from scratch, it wouldn't be thrown away so lightly.

Same with a lot of other "instant" foods now.

But I thik there's a swing back to a more natural way of preparing and eating, most of the instant stuff tastes (or doesn't taste) the same.

jbfreebie said...

One option to simple, green and frugal would be build your own chicken coop

AG Ambroult said...

yes, I agree completely. And I am guilty of throwing away a lot more than just bread. But you are so right, because you'll never catch me tossing precious veggies from our garden or those loaves I bake late at night.

Angie Muresan said...

I agree, Francesca. Oftentimes I see people inhaling down food as if there's no tomorrow. Eating out of hunger and habit and not for pleasure. I could never do that. I have a love affair with food that makes me indulgent and affectionate towards it.