Friday, June 13, 2008

What The Eff Is Going On With Our God Damned Food!!!

Seriously people, what the eff? I know, I know, I try hard to be happy and shiny and all, "We can build a better future and sing kumbaya while holding hands and then we can cure blindness through the power of our love."

But it is a little hard sometimes to be optimistic about everything when our food systems are freaking collapsing in FRONT OF OUR VERY EYES!!

Spinach, pet food, seafood, tomatoes, I mean really, isn't this getting a little ridiculous? Isn't someone going to step up to the plate and say, "Hey. This isn't really working out that well for us. Maybe we should change the way we grow food?"

Oh, but see, that would be too easy. Instead, I have read various suggestions including, I am not fucking kidding, not ever eating vegetables raw.

Yeah. You know where I don't eat raw vegetables? In INDIA. You know, that third world country on the other side of the world? I am okay with not eating raw vegetables in India. Because frankly, it's India. I don't expect the electricity to stay on all day, I don't expect the hot water to be working. And I stay dehydrated rather than use the bathroom in the train, because the restroom consists of a toilet seat with a hole, and frankly, there is nothing more discomfiting than staring into a toilet bowl to see the tracks beneath you. But that's INDIA.

This is AMERICA. Aren't we beyond this? Isn't our flipping food supposed to be, oh I don't know, SAFE?!!!!!!

I am sorry, I guess I am a little cranky. Which is kinda weird, because I have been eating tomatoes all week. Because I bought my local tomatoes at a farmers' market and therefore I know that they are safe. And also delicious in my bison meat sloppy joes.

But you know what? I am tired. I am tired of watching as our infrastructure breaks down. And what's more, I am tired of people EXPECTING our infrastructure to break down. It's like we're all so demoralized by Iraq, Katrina, etc that our expectations have diminished. We see problems with our infrastructure and instead of being shocked and outraged, we shrug our shoulders. Because ... meh. What do you expect?

This is a dangerous road we're traveling on, the road of expecting less. Because when we expect less, we get less. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. I've witnessed this first-hand in India. As India has prospered, I've noticed that people have started to expect more. And you know what? They're slowly starting to get more.

Well, I'm done with expecting less. I want food that is safe, I want water that is drinkable straight out of the tap, I want roads that aren't filled with potholes, I want schools that aren't falling apart, and I want bridges that won't collapse. And what's more, I EXPECT all of these things. Because this is America, and I am tired of lowering my expectations. 


Anonymous said...

Hi Arduous

I hear what you are saying, I understand the anger and in a sense the mourning for some things that seem to be vanishing before our eyes.

I guess from my perspective, many things will come to pass, we are overpopulated and intent on using every resource this gorgeous planet has to offer as fast as possible. I don't see it as expecting less, simply the realities of supply and demand.

We cannot continue the lifestyle we have, there is more demand than supply, the earth cannot keep up.

BUT, that doesn't mean we have less, we simply do it differently.

I grow my own fruit and vegetables where I can, we get safe, nutritious food without all the chemicals and we have joy knowing that we grew it ourselves.

I have chickens for eggs and if need be meat, we have friends who have organic farms we can buy from and a group of people that have the same interests we do in looking after ourselves & mother earth.

All in all, I guess what I am trying to say, is don't be discouraged, find alternatives if you need to, ones that work for you and yours. We all have much to be thankful for, concentrating on what we have works better for me than what I want (and no, I am certainly no saint, just mary lou average)


Burbanmom said...

Yeah. That tomato thing sucks. So I picked up a GORGEOUS tomato plant at the farmer's market yesterday for $20. It had six beautiful, ripe red ones already on it and another six green ones waiting to blush.

Mmmmm, I already ate three of them!

You are right though. We need to expect more from our food supply. We need to respect farmers and pay them for what they do. We need to remove the middlemen, shippers, distributors, grocers, all that and just pay a fair price to our local farmer.

Is it a bit more work than stopping by Kroger's on the way home? Yes. Is it worth it? I dunno. Ask the folks who got salmonella poisoning. They probably have an opinion.

Anonymous said...

I think it's just another symptom of the "Gotta have what I want right now" that has come to dominate our country's ethos. The rise of huge commercial farms has also distanced us from the entire process, and why farm at all when we can import? I'm starting to look towards more local solutions.

EcoBurban said...

Hey, Arduous,

I feel your anger, pain and outrage. I too, expect so much more. I grew up in a small, rural and somewhat impoverished farming town in the midwest. Now, I choose to live in the suburbs where I can give my kids access to quality education, culture, food and different ethnicities. So, after paying dearly for all of this for my family, at a huge expense...

They cut so many teachers that next year at middle school my kids only have 1/2 of the "encore" class choices for the upcoming school year and music and art have been slashed to almost 1/4 of what they were 4 years ago.

I am afraid to buy anything from the grocery store and I really can't afford to anyway.

I lived for more than 3 days without power on a generator - there weren't enough crews to restore power after our storm.

The jobless rate in Michigan is at a record high and I have close friends who have lost their homes and all that they have worked and saved for.

So, Arduous, whether you are from India or America, we feel your pain. We are all so disappointed, sad and angry. My kids keep me going, just today I posted on the tomato plant I am growing with my son who is so excited to see baby tomatoes, he wants to pick the green ones! There is hope, we just need to grow it at home and it will spread!

Anonymous said...

The food issues are just a fairly predictable result of American culture. We want what we want when we want it...we want a lot of it...and because we want a lot we don't want to pay much for it. I am guilty of it. I eat avocados all year round and I buy wines from around the globe. I would like to think I am educated enough and decent enough to change my evil ways...but I also really enjoy those things and don't want to give them up. I try to balance my indulgences by buying organic, joining the CSA, composting, etc. etc. But the truth is when push comes to shove I'm a spoiled American brat too who doesn't want to sacrifice things I've come to love. I'm willing to pay more for my food...but am I ready to give it up? Sadly...I'm not.

Anonymous said...

I dunno, it seems like from previous posts that you don't think we should all have to become farmers. While I think buying local and growing our own food is the best short term solution to risks with our food supply, I'm not sure it solves the greater problem. I might be wrong but I felt like THAT's what you were trying to get at. That we shouldn't have to find alternatives to our main food supply to feel safe. Our supply should be safe.

I would say apathy and denial is the problem but maybe it's that we honestly have lost any faith we had left in our own system to a point where we have stopped trying to fix anything because it seems futile. I really think it is too. You mentioned Katrina, and yeah seriously that was ridiculous at how unorganized of a problem. I'm originally from Houston and volunteered in the Astrodome where refugees were housed. It was unbelievable how badly the system had failed these people. When hurricane Rita almost hit Houston it was nearly impossible to even get out of the city. There was no gas or bottled water to be had at any price. The only thing that saved us was that the Hurricane didn't hit.

You also have talked about the individuality that America prides itself on and I think that's what we're turing to instead of our government. It's much easier to plant tomatoes than try and fix a broken nation.

I'm by no means an expert on our food supply but maybe the problems with Salmonella aren't because it's bigger. I mean people get food poisoning from one restaurant all the time. Smaller doesn't necessarily mean safer, there are just more opportunities for failure in a larger system.

Honestly I worry about problems with imports. Chilean grapes have tons of pesticides on them and there have been a couple times in the 90s we've had E coli scares here with strawberries from Mexico which were being fertilized with human feces. Nevermind Chinese made toothpaste with nephrotoxic ethylene glycol in it. I think there's a bigger problem with our reliance on the outside. An outside we can't control.

ruchi said...

Molly, I completely agree with you that we need to be doing what we can to foster alternative foodsystems which is why my tomatoes come from the farmers' market and not the grocery store. BUT we also have to work with the world we have. And the world we have is one in which many people shop at supermarkets. In my opinion, it is not enough for me to sit here in my little corner of the world, and say, "Well I'm okay because my tomatoes came from the farmers' market." The government has a responsibility to ALL its citizens to ensure the safety of the food. It shouldn't just be those of us with the knowledge, time, and wherewithall to shop at the farmers' market or who grow our own food who are protected.

Burbs, like you once said to me, those of us who can afford to shop the farmers' market should. Because we are building an alternative food supply and the more demand there is for farmers' market produce the more small farmers' we'll support, the more food prices at the FM might come down a notch, the more cities might start holding farmers' markets multiple times a week. At the same time, though, I believe we need to be pragmatic. To me, it doesn't seem pragmatic to get rid of grocers, shippers, and distributors. Those people fill a valuable need, especially in cities. If we got rid of them, we'd be forcing the farmers outside NY City to spend most of their time commuting into the city and selling their goods, instead of spending their time ... farming. So there is a value in the current sytem, we just have to work to make it better.

Academic, I agree with you. We should, as individuals, be looking for local solutions. BUT, this does not absolve the government of their duty to ensure the safety of our food.

EBM, I agree that growing your own tomatoes can be an individual solution. But we can't individualize everything. It doesn't make sense, for example, for everyone in Michigan to rig up their own power supply because you can't trust the electric grid. There are economies of scale. You SHOULD be able to trust the grid. You SHOULD be able to trust in the schools. You SHOULD be able to trust in the food supply. We SHOULD be able to put our faith (at least somewhat) in the government. That it's not happening right now is a huge problem in my mind.

Orgie, again, I'm not positive it's entirely symptomatic of our food culture. Is our food culture problematic? Yes. But it's also problematic that the FDA doesn't give a crap. I mean, here's the thing. I really don't remember there being five food scares per year in the late 90s. We still had avocados and bananas shipped to the Midwest then too, but I don't remember always worrying about what the latest outbreak would be.

SDG says:
"While I think buying local and growing our own food is the best short term solution to risks with our food supply, I'm not sure it solves the greater problem."
EXACTLY. Those are individual solutions to a societal problem. While I am pro alternative food supply for a variety of reasons, I still believe that the food at the grocery store should be SAFE. You're right. It's easier to plant a tomato than to fix a broken nation, but ... we have to fix our broken nation.

Melissa said...

I think you are right on one very important point, and that is that this is a very gradual, long term lowering of expectations. One example that comes to mind is social security. Since before I even had my first job I never have expected (and still don't) to see any return from it. How screwed up is that?

If I have kids, I expect that the responsibility to provide them a quality education will fall on me.

I have learned not to expect my police department to do anything beyond writing traffic violations.

I still think we have plenty of resources in this country - but we're spending way too much money on the military and not enough on anything else. Like making our food systems safe, or funding education. Because nobody is demanding that (or not enough people, anyway).

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is just symptomatic of our FOOD culture, but our entire culture. We want things done in mass and cheaply...plain and simple. Increasing regulations for both how food is grown inside and outside this country and increasing overseeing to make sure those regulations are being followed all add up to increased prices. I totally agree with you that these steps should be made, but wonder if people would be willing to pay the price even if it means safer food. Here's an pesticides have been sited by just about every study to be pretty much poison and yet the vast majority of consumers still buy non-organic apples...and feed them to their kids. If the choice is to do without the foods we are used to, cut back on quantity but buy quality & safe, or get the most for your dollar no matter what...we know what most people choose...regardless of their economic level. (I know plenty of wealthy people that can squeeze a nickel pretty hard.)

Anonymous said...

cites not sites

Melissa said...

In response to the issue of the FDA not giving a crap, I think that it's not quite that simple. I think there are a lot of other issues at play - industries like meat packers just IGNORE what regulations are in place...and they have such huge influence and so much money, that they can get away with it. One interesting thing that I took away after reading fast food nation is that companies like mcdonalds are much more able to enforce food safety regulations than the federal government - simply by threatening to pull their business. That is eff'd up.

ruchi said...

Melissa, yes, I think the pernicious lowering of expectations is incredibly damaging. I'm with you. I don't expect social security to be around when I retire. But I *should.* Nothing is so bad that we cannot fix it, but we have so lost faith in the systems, that we think, well why bother fixing it.

Orgie, well it's kinda like the whole trans-fats thing, right? I mean I know I'm mixed on that, but there's a reason we ban the use of pesticides, and we should and could ban the import of goods that had certain pesticides sprayed. It might initially cost more, but our systems are flexible enough that eventually supply and demand would even out and the cost would go back down.

Melissa, you're totally right. But I think part of the problem is that in this administration (am I allowed to talk about this administration?) the FDA and the EPA have been used as tools to protect the corporations rather than the citizens these organizations were designed to protect.

Melissa said...

You just reminded me of an article I read several months back (I think in Harpers) about how this administration (see, I'm not scared either ;-) has politicized our beauraucracy to an extent never seen before in the history of the nation. I think it's a subject with enough nuance that a lot of people don't realize a) that it's happened, or b) how damaging this can be for a nation, but after thinking about it, I think it's a mistake as big as any other that's been made in terms of impact on the average citizen.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

I think part of the problem is that we've taken so much for granted for so long. Bananas and avocadoes and foreign wine have just always been there for our generation - although my oldest Auntie didn't see a banana until she was in her late teens. And all these things are being taken away so slowly that maybe people aren't sitting up and taking notice like they should be. It may take something bigger than the petfood or tomato scares to wake everyone up - hopefully not another New Orleans.

maryann said...

Great post and I totally agree. The government takes a third of every paycheck we earn, we should expect some basic needs to be met in return!

Robj98168 said...

Arduous- I feel your pain.Whats more, in reality, no matter who gets elected, I am afraid it is not gonna change.When I read that neither Obama nor McBUsh showed up for the vote on taxing windfall oil company profits, that just confirmed it for me.

Anonymous said...

damn right!

EcoBurban said...

I totally agree, an individualized process couldn't be the answer. Especially for someone like me, living in suburbia with 4 kids and a scrap of land. Where the heck would I put a couple cows, 10 chickens, a goat, two pigs and a humungo garden? That would be comical!! And there I would be, making cheese in my bathtub and peanut butter on my porch!! :o)

I only meant by starting something small, such as educating my kids about how food grows and where our eggs come from that my hope for the future is that they will consider food and farming to be a craft, not a supermarket bargain. Our country relies on mass produced, low quality substitutes for sustinance. I have always been aggravated that you can buy soda for half the price of juice and candy bars for a quarter of the price of granola or cereal. The process is broken, very broken... and starting with our children, it's our responsibility to teach them to think differently. Arduous, you are making the waves that are bringing change!!

Anonymous said...

Being angry suits you, arduous :) I was really pissed when I heard about the latest food problem - I LOVE tomatoes. Now they are having a bad name for no reason.

Then I heard a food expert on NPR saying that that we should all avoid tomatoes or boil them. I started yelling at my radio. It's like telling a patient with brain tumor to take Advil every day! If that doesn't work, we will up the dosage. Or we will drip morphin in your vein.

We deal with debilitating food issues one after another as if they were all isolated cases and as if none of them had any root causes! Let's boil tomatoes, let's irradiate meat, let's all stop eating and get our nutrition through IV tubes.

Are we at the point that we are so numb that we fail to exercise our critical thinking cacacity?

Are we so beaten down to the point that we do not have any courage to even think about changing the system?

Some of us are lucky enough to be able to grow our own produce or find reliable local farms to source food. Unfortunately most people rely on a safe food system to live.

Yes we are part of the problem. We constant seek more food at lower prices. We are a wal-mart nation that is paralyzed by the monsterous and insane food system that we help create but no longer understand.

We are obsessed with food (just witness the blossom of food shows on TV) yet don't even demand our food to be safe.

So yeah arduous, I am with you. I am mad. And I am worried.

Going Crunchy said...

This tomato junkie is in mourning, and I'm nursing my little plants along as much as possible. Sigh.

ruchi said...

Melissa, I'll have to see if I can find that article. Thanks for the food for thought.

CAE, you're right, things are being taken away so slowly that we don't even notice. It's very insidious.

Maryann, EXACTLY!

Rob, I think you are a little right and a little wrong. Neither Obama nor McCain will be the sweeping change we need. But both will be better than the current administration.

Kimberly, thanks.

EBM, I think we are ALL making waves that are bringing about changes. And thank you for reminding me that what we do as individuals does affect public policy.

Cindy, isn't that crazy the way that people are like, "Let's just boil or cook all the tomatoes." And you're like ... seriously? That's your answer? It's SUMMER. I want a damn salad.

Shannon, yeah it totally sucks. Luckily California tomatoes have been absolved of any tomato crime so we can eat tomatoes here as long as they are local. But the tomato industry has still collapsed even though most tomatoes come from CA or Florida, both states where the tomatoes are known to be safe. Because all the restaurants are doing without tomatoes as a precaution. So perfectly good tomatoes are just rotting uneaten. It all sucks.

Anonymous said...

Your idea of India a wee bit outdated..
Anyway, all the best to you.

Like they say in India, madarchodo ki gaand mein keede pade (Let them speak, let our work speak for ourselves)