The more I get into eating real food, the more I’m involuntarily becoming a food activist. I was familiar with folks like Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) before going Primal, but now that I’m sourcing as much food as I can locally and seasonally, their messages have my full attention. The Real Food agenda has been swirling around and gathering strength for years now, and I think we’re on the cusp of something really big.
Which is why I was thrilled to see Melissa “Melicious” Joulwan’s post about Revolutionary Act. Their manifesto perfectly sums up my feelings about food and its intersection with our lives at this point in our shared history. Be sure to click on each of the ten headings to see more. Also check out their list of 101 Revolutionary Ways to Be Healthy (here), and scroll over each to see more.
It’s for all those reasons that I feel like it’s time to gather Real Foodies together, whether Paleo or Primal or WAPF or whatever. Ancestral, Paleo 2.0, Archevore, locavore, whatevervore. We’re all technically on the same side and our similarities are greater than our differences. We may not see eye-to-eye about soaking legumes or how much fruit we’re consuming or whether or not to consume raw dairy, but we all have the same foe. And it’s HUGE.
Why is it that the bulk of this country, the richest and most privileged in the world, don’t have access to the local, organically grown produce and pastured, grass-fed animals that I do? And those that do have access can rarely afford it. It’s easy to see how the whole cycle feeds into itself: government meddling and subsidies, factory farms and feedlots, fast food companies, processed food products, the multi-billion dollar weight-loss industry, pharmaceutical companies. Where does it stop?
All of us have to say: It stops with me. It stops with my family. It stops here.
I’ve been mulling this over and I see 3 major obstacles to this message being understood and accepted by a larger audience:
- Convenience — This, even more than cost. I’m serious. Think single parents, working parents, college students in dorms with no refrigerators, commuters who get home at 7pm, business travelers. I’m not going to lie: I wish there was a Primal pizza delivery service in my town. Many of us got into this mess in the first place for convenience. There’s a fascinating history about convenience food and its sordid relationship with advertising. Basically, our grandmothers were told way-back-when that their homemade cakes were low-class and unacceptable. That their neighbors were all making Betty Crocker cakes, so if they didn’t want their child to be a pariah, they’d better make the Cherry Chip Cake with Vanilla Frosting for the birthday party. That if your mother still put up veggies and made your clothes, then you just didn’t measure up. And then all the women won the right to go to work, and Hamburger Helper became a frequent visitor to the dinner table. Am I saying women should go back to domesticity? No. But I’m saying we went too far in the other direction.
- Cost — Well, duh. Do I need to explain this one? I just bought two grass fed ribeyes for dinner tonight at $13.99/lb. Ouch.
- It’s All So Abstract — Some of us were already on board with the foodie wave going on when we switched over to Paleo/Primal. This was not a complete 180° for me. I was already using mostly fresh ingredients and I knew my way around a kitchen. For others, if you tell them to eat this way, you will hear crickets. Even if it’s not nighttime. They will not know why a McDonald’s hamburger with fries is not an acceptable meal. And even if they somehow know it, their lives are not arranged in such a manner that will allow them to make a change. I’m thinking particularly of many of the patients my husband sees in the ER: Diabetic, overweight, and drinking an industrial-sized Slurpee. We have to figure out how to make this accessible in order to make it a viable choice for everyone, regardless of cost.
Great, Karen. How about some solutions?
- Convenience is a mental state. Of course there is a transition phase, but this shouldn’t be the reason someone won’t take on a real foods-based diet. In a month or two’s time, cooking this way becomes second nature. Maybe you make huge meals with lots of leftovers you can take to work. Maybe you make a week’s worth of egg muffins to have on hand for breakfast as you run out the door. Maybe you make giant batches of jerky for snacks. I’m not saying it won’t take effort, but I do think the effort it takes isn’t as gigantic as people make it out to be. As I’ve mentioned before (here), a bowl of cereal does beat scrambled eggs in the morning, but not by much.
- There’s no doubt that this is a toughie, especially for families. Many people blog about Paleoing on a budget and things I see mentioned a lot are eggs, liver, buying meat from the discount bin and freezing as necessary, uncured lunchmeats, planning your meals for the week, and using things like butter or coconut oil with veggies. Also, cowpooling. If cost is the only thing preventing you from taking the plunge, get creative!
- One of the most important things to keep in mind is that the way we’ve been eating has only existed for about 70 years. What many consider to be the only way to eat is a historic aberration. When people are flummoxed, ask them what their great-grandparents ate. That immediately dispels the idea that there’s nothing to eat. Then, encourage people to get in touch with their food roots. If you think this idea is hokey, I’d like for you to consider how powerful it would be if every Native American reservation in this country made that decision. So much richness and tradition is at risk of being lost to Kentucky Fried Chicken and Taco Bell. We have to make it clear that if it ain’t real food, it isn’t food. Another interesting historical food tidbit: There were laws initially passed when fake foods, like margarine, began appearing and they have been loopholed and chipped away to almost nothing. Fake edible-foodlike-substances (thank you, Michael Pollan!) really do belong in their own category, and until that confusion is cleared up, it will take a massive re-education campaign. Until we hit these companies in the pocket books, they will continue to provide the public what it’s willing to pay for.
So what are you doing to help the food revolution? Even if you do nothing, if you’re reading this, chances are you’re already a foot soldier in this fight. It starts with me and it starts with you.