By Nicole Staniger, Quiet Earth Provisions
I am convinced that eating McDonald’s at home with your family around a table would be healthier for you than eating a grass-fed organic burger while driving by yourself. Now, I am not a proponent for eating fast food of any kind, but I would like to convey that eating holistically involves a lot more than what you’re putting in your mouth.
Most Americans have accepted a problematic view of food and eating. We are conditioned to think that nutrients are the most important thing about any food. The existence of Nutrition Fact labels testifies to this philosophy that food is a mere vehicle for nutrients. This may not seem very problematic at first glance, but let’s follow this reasoning out a bit. Since you and I can’t see nutrients, minerals, vitamins, saturated fats, etc…, then we must rely on a higher authority (or scientists) to tell us what to eat and what not to eat. Since we have experts dictating this, who are influenced by politics and agendas, the food world gets divided into things that are “good” for you and things that are “bad” for you. But then we get confused because research is varied and we don’t know who to trust. After all, the “experts” were behind the low-fat campaign of the 1970’s when everyone got fatter and sicker! Ironically, the best foods you can buy don’t come with Nutrition Fact labels.
To avoid the pitfalls of an expert-driven food chain, we need to question the fundamental assumption that science can tell us what will make us healthy. Once we’ve done that, we have the freedom to embrace that Holistic Eating has traditionally and historically been about building community, practicing animal husbandry, responsibly eating in-season (including canning/fermenting for the off-season), respectfully supporting sustainable agriculture, and gratefully bringing these things to your family table.
Take a look at this in action (baby steps!). Let’s say that you only have the window or yard space to grow 8 tomato plants. Do it. Then encourage your neighbor to grow eggplants and when they are ready to harvest, trade. Ask the person down the street if you can help them pick their apple trees in exchange for some applesauce. Now that you have 100 pounds of apples, you’ll need help canning them, so invite a couple friends over to help process. Then they can do the same. Did you see that? A microcosm of the community that food necessitates – local sustainable agriculture. It takes time (but less than you think it will) and it takes relying on others (which Americans aren’t great at), but the holistic health on the other end is priceless.
To help you on this journey to true health, I love some of the Food Rules that food activist Michael Pollan has come up with (abridged): don’t buy anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food, avoid anything that has more than 5 ingredients, don’t buy anything that doesn’t rot, eat whatever you like as long as you cook it yourself, and eat with others around a table (if you live alone, eat at a table). Anything written by Pollan is worth the read. Also look at The Westin A. Price Foundation website – it is a goldmine of traditional eating wisdom.
“The shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from the mere animal biology to an act of culture.” ― Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto