November 2, 2009
This post is late. I was making it about 2 hours ago, but when I had completed the first entry and went to save it, I was directed to the log in as I had been timed out. I lost my entry completely and had no back up for it. At that point I was chagrined, but do not regret the loss as I had stopped to have lunch at a sit down meal with my wife, stepson and 11 month old grandson for the first meal together at home in quite some time. Well worth it to have to redo the blog entry. It was a full meal, baked ham, red potatoes, green beans, brocoli, and home made applesauce from fresh picked apples that my wife had made last week.
We enjoyed fellowship as well and lingered over the meal before my grandson wanted to get down and play and my stepson went back outside to finish up work on a brick patio he is building for us. My wife and I have a small house and the purpose of the patio, which connects with another one built two years ago in our back yard is to be able to entertain more of my wife's family and our grandchildren for cookouts during nice weather. Our house is very small and it is hard to set up for all of our family and have any space to serve a meal, let alone have everyone sit down.
Eating together is a sacred event and many of us have to fight to keep this tradition viable. My wife and I both work at night, afternoon to evening, and breakfast and lunch are our two meals we can have together before I am off for night classes at my college and she is off to the hospital where she is a nurse.
While we may have a quick meal at McDonald's on a road trip to see our parents, in Illinois or in Oklahoma or Indiana, we delight in a candle light dinner at home. A few years back we had one night out a month for a restuarant meal and a concert at the Ordway or MN Orchestra, but with money tight and 4 grandchildren, we are having many more dine in events for family, either with my step children, our grandchildren, or both, and it is really satisfying and sustaining. My wife and I share in the food preparation and serving, and that time as well is very nice, as we share and catch up with each other. For both of us it reminds us of growing up in the 1950s where the whole family sat down for dinner in the dining room and ate together every evening with few exceptions. My wife and I light a scented candle even in the daytime and if it is night time, we have an assortment of candles that we light and them turn the electric lights off. If we aren't working we may also have a glass of wine.
As a child, my mother prepared dinner and asked me to light the candles in the dining room just before we sat down to eat. Some of my fondest memories are of having dinner with my family and enjoying both eating and sharing about our day and what we had experienced. We ate at 6:00 p.m. after the evening news and after dinner it was upstairs to do my homework until bed time or from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. My mom did not work so this was more fully possible to have meals together than for most of us today. My wife and I always go out for lunch at Panera after church and on a special occassion or a payday will go to a restuarant for a meal, favorites include Vietnamese, Thai, or contemporary American, a favorite being Sunsets Restuarant out in Woodbury. We are modest in our picks from the menu on price but enjoy both the time together and the enjoyment of eating the food and savoring it.
I think of this as community, fellowship, sustaining our identity as a couple and family. I think our fast paced society and crazy work schedules can cut into time people have to get together for a meal with each other. I also have friends that I get together with for coffee, a glass of wine, or a meal or combinations thereof that are very imporatnt fellowship times together. One friend of mine is very well read, he was a double major in history and literature and we can meet over food and drink and talk for an easy 3 to 4 hours, part of which in good weather can start having some food and coffee at an establishment and then adjourns to a long walk around Highland Park in St. Paul, with coffees to go in hand and sometimes another at the half way point around St. Cate's at a Caribou at Randolph and Fairview. In lesser weather we parouse books, music, DVDs, and magazines at Barnes and Nobles or Half Price books. We make it kind of like a moveable feast of snacks and coffee, filled with discussions on topics related to an Earth Stewardhsip class we teach at a church where I met him 15 years ago. I join him for these events and discourse on weekend afternoons when my wife is working. Again, food and fellowship, these are made to go together, and both are made deeper by each other.
There are important issues facing us in our modern world of an abundance of food of all kinds. Globally, I think mass produced food from industrialized agriculture is both good and bad. We are paying a big price environmentally and in terms of food additives and health risks related to how this food is processed before consumption. Growth hormones, genetically modified foods, and use of antibiotics in meat production as a few examples of food processing and alteration, which may have yet to be realized long term impacts on human health. As far as the environment is concerned, we are having a great loss of native ecosystems, forests and grasslands as agriculuture expands and this is resulting in a major exticntion crisis, climate change and degradation of water resources. While our food may be afordable nominally at the grocery store, the cost ecologically is high and accumulating over time. We are pulling on the world's fresh water through irrigation and using soil resources at a rate that is too fast for regeneration and sustainability. There is a risk of eventual collapse of output if this is left unaddressed, especially if we add in possible future impacts of climate change. We all need to eat lower on the food pyramid and less fat, meat, sugar. Debates rage on these isses, and there is uncertainty, but each year we add about 78 million people to the planet and erode about 24 billion tons of topsoil, which slowly robs cropland fertility. Nitrogen pollution from fertilizers has reached epic proportions, with serious consequences to water resources, ground water, lakes, rivers and coastal areas. Some of these issues are being addressed through sustainable agriculture, reduced tillage techniques and organic farming, but this raises the cost of food which then makes buying green at coops and grocery stores something only the well to do can contemplate. Yet a good friend buys all her family's food at an organic coop and she is a stay at home mom and her husband is a music minister at a church in St. Paul. Moreover, she has two children at home. However, she buys all bulk food and prepares all meals from scratch, no processed items, no convenience foods, no mass produced factory farm foods. She is a remarkable person, yet many today would be unable to take the time that she does in food preparation. Some how we will have to address food production at the current mass production, industrialized state and transform it to a sustainable mode. That will be a huge effort. While the Green Revolution doubled food output several times over, so then did it follow that the human population did the same. It was a noble effort, but now we have to top it and somehow keep up with population growth but not destroy the ecosphere. We will be able to do this if we eat less meat and lower on the food chain, since 3 to 10 pounds of grain are needed and many gallons of water to produce one pound of meat.
There are many issues facing us on food. The trend towards a more sedentary life style for us all and more food, but in some cases poorer food item choices, is producing a growing number of young people who will have early onset of heart disease and diabetes. PBS Frontline did a major special program of this issue in this decade. Many children now recreate playing computer or internet games and spend less time outdoors getting physical exercise. Then there are the media stereotypes in western culture for the tall thin woman of 5'9" weighing 110 pounds that has become the culturally reinforced standard globally whihc results in many women being rejected by others or themselves or depressed that that do not meet the globally reinforced media ideal. Hence, record numbers of eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia here in the US, the west and now in other countries. The message is that if you are not like this ideal you are not going to earn as much, be as successful, paid as much or have as much opportunity. This feeds the diet and drug industry as well as the medical system for treatments of eating disorders.
It is a form of subjugation to have to submit to industrialized mass produced food, media bombardments of acceptable weight and height, and there is push back. We each need to look at ourselves and say I deserve time to eat with a community of people, that we deserve safe food and a safe, clean environment, and to value others for the deeper value they have that is beyond their physical appearance. In the end all physical beauty is fleeting, you are only young for so long. As we age we learn that there are far more rewarding aspects to relationships than physical appearance. This is hard for a culture like ours that is so saturated by visual media and the current stereotypes. But we all need to eat and this brings us all together around these issues. We need to take it back and challenge the mass produced food industrial complex, and while this will be hard, each step leads the way to the next and soon momentum is gained. There is a sustainable agriculture community and movement. It needs more voice, media access and incentives to break further into the food industry. The birthing process of it going mainstream could be painful, but what could be gained in the long run will bring us miles ahead in succeeding as humans on Planet Earth.
I am thinking of doing a field trip with my Earth Science class to an organic food coop, and haivng the staff there give a guided tour and presentation. I did this a number of years ago to the Seward Coop, but have not in recent years, since I am not teaching environmental science at this time. I will leave it here for now and look forward to seeing my classmates blogs. Best to you,