Firefly’s fourth pillar of connection is to food. Somewhere along the way, Americans started outsourcing the making and cooking of food to companies and restaurants, which has been not only detrimental to our collective health, but also to our sense of connection to food. I like Michael Pollan’s advice from his book In Defense of Food “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
Unfortunately most of what we’re consuming today is not food, but rather “edible food-like substances.” We have broken food down into nutrients, and in the confusion of what to eat the less healthy we become. Instead of food, we’re consuming creations that are outcomes of food science. Many of these products come packaged with health claims, but they are anything but healthy.
In addition, the ways in which we are consuming food — in the car, in front of the TV, and increasingly alone — is not really eating. We have lost touch with how our food is grown, how it is made, and our relationship to eating. We barely slow down enough to eat, and often pay little attention to what it is that we are consuming.
American’s spend the least amount on food of any developed nation (only 6.4% of annual consumer expenditures) even though the annual cost of food in the U.S. is more than the average of all the countries for which data is tracked by the USDA. With 65% of Americans overweight or obese, the emphasis seems to be more on convenience and quantity over quality. We buy into what the food companies are telling us and fill up on nutrient-deficient, highly addictive packaged food-like products.
Growing your own food is no easy task, as I have discovered over years of trying to grow my own vegetables in my backyard garden. Due to government subsidies and heavy consumption of meat and packaged foods, most of America's crops are corn, soybeans and wheat. We are destroying our soil, facing declining populations of bees, and increasingly using pesticides and genetically modified organisms.
Food is something that not only provides physical nourishment, but also helps us connect to one another. When we come together to “break bread,” we talk and often celebrate. We use food to mark special occasions, and to offer comfort. No matter what our cultural background, the preparation and eating of food is something we all have in common with one another. The table is where we gather, not just to eat, but also to nurture our relationships through communication and sharing.
I stay connected to food by growing some of my own food, visiting local farms and farmers’ markets, cooking and sharing meals with others. We want to hear from you. How do you connect with food?