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Archive for July, 2009

Food Inc.

The truth can be a hard pill to swallow sometimes.  It’s never easy to see things that challenge your perception of reality and give you a different perspective.  Recently, I’ve been reading books that present critiques of the American food system such as ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ and ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma.’  Although these books can be difficult to read at times because of the (sometimes) ugly truths that they tell, they succeed in creating debate and dialogue on the subject of where our food comes from.

At a ‘young professionals’ meeting put on by the Vineland Chamber of Commerce recently, it was brought to my attention that there was a movie coming out called ‘Food Inc.’ I searched online and saw that the movie would present itself as ‘lifting the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that’s been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies.’  Last week, my mother invited Jill and I to a showing of ‘Food Inc.’ at The Ritz in Voorhees, so we decided to go and see what the movie was all about.

After finishing the movie, we all left the theater talking about the effects of the industrialized food system on our lives.  On one hand, the benefits of an industrialized food system are obvious; cheap, accessible food, an endless supply of fruits and veggies available year-round, the ability to feed an ever increasing population.  On the other hand, the dangers of industrialization lurk underneath our reality; the reliance on fossil fuels to run the entire system, the environmental and social consequences, the indifference towards freshness, flavor and seasonality, and the truly inhumane treatment of both animals and humans in factory farms.

What I found most interesting about the film was how interconnected our food system is with so many of the problems that plaque society… everything from environmental pollution, to immigration, to health care.  Of course the makers of the film have their own agenda, so one has to take everything presented with a grain of salt.  And I did check out some websites that offer harsh criticisms of Food Inc, which is always important when forming an opinion.  Being in the food business, I am especially interested in informing myself so that I’m more knowledgeable in general.

I ultimately believe that our food system is somewhat broken and no one is to blame but ourselves.  We can only change it one person or one family at a time.  If we change our eating habits to support local business and family farms, cut out the soda and sugary drinks, learn to enjoy cooking and eating with family, and most importantly, teach our children healthy and sustainable eating habits, we can negate some of the negative consequences that our food system is having on our collective health.
If you have a free evening, check out Food Inc. at the Ritz, or grab a copy of ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’ or ‘Animal, Vegetable, Miracle’ of off Amazon.com or at the local library.  Learn about where your food comes from and what’s in it.  I know say it a lot, but remember that ‘you are what you eat’ and so what you put into your body becomes, quite literally, you!

All this heavy stuff about the evils of the food system made me get a hankering for some real food.  I stopped into Lucia’s on Sherman Avenue a few days later to drop off some leftover cookies we had from the bakery for Chef Murray and the rest of the staff.  I went in the back door, into the kitchen, and found Murray dropping squash blossoms into the hot oil of the fryer.  They were so orange and seriously beautiful.  He told me that he had gotten them from Malench farm right down the road, and I can assure you they were picked that morning because they looked so nice and fresh.  Murray had stuffed them with ricotta and basil and dipped them in a thin beer batter.  Little tiny yellow squashes still clung to the bottom of the each blossom.  He must have sensed my adoration of them, so he offered to quickly fry a few for me.  He gingerly slipped them into the hot oil, and they emerged a few minutes later to be placed in a to-go container (I had to share with Jill back at the bakery) and drizzled with a little sun dried tomato sauce.  He then gave me a big fat Jersey tomato and told me to slice it and sprinkle the slice with a little salt.  I got back to the bakery, and Jill’s eyes grew when she saw and smelled the treat I had in my hands.  We put the food onto a plate and dug in.  It was divine… pleasantly salty and cheesy, delicately flavored with the squash blossom and hints of basil with contrasting textures of warm ricotta and crisp tempura batter.

Real food.  Local food.  Prepared by skilled hands and treated with the utmost respect from the farmer, to the chef, to the eater.  It was a perfect food chain, a simple and delicious system.  We can change our common food future one meal at a time.  Remember that each meal is a vote for what you believe in, so vote wisely!

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