This morning’s search for meaning!

Finding the Foortpath website logo
Finding the Foortpath website logo

This morning’s search for meaning!

Finding the Foortpath website logo

This morning’s search for meaning!

Food for Fought

Date Published: February 18, 2021
A large burger and fries on a wooden board

When I was about seven or eight, I remember reading a story in a comic, it was your usual picture strip story that a child would read.  On reflection now, it was quite profound in its message, and maybe that is why it has always stayed with me since. From what I recall, over the forty five years or so since I read it, it loosely went something like this. 

There was a man (he might have been a king or something in my childhood memory?) who lived in a large grand home. He had all he could desire to eat and drink at any moment he would desire it. The whole house was automated, it was the 70’s and domestic gadgets were the new and future thing. He had all his little heart desired. Couldn’t be better, right?

He was then joined by a young boy. This young fella was astounded by the whole set up, and couldn’t quite believe his eyes. The man asked the boy what he would most like to eat and drink in the whole world! The boy, a little bewildered, asked for something he enjoyed and within a moment or two, an automated draw popped out of the wall and a hot dish of his favourite fare was presented to him, with drinks, deserts and ice cream to follow!

The boy, in wonderment, asked how this was all possible? The man explained that he was very clever, and had invented machines to extract anything that was to be found outside in nature and turn them into whatever he desired to eat or drink.

In his excitement to show off his machines and their great capacities, he removed the unfinished meal from the boy and threw it in the bin. Try something else, the man exclaimed, explaining that he himself  just takes one bite out of one dish and throws the rest away, so he can experience something else. This went on repeatedly  amidst the man’s uproarious laughter and the boy’s amazement.

The final scene, which I remember most of all the images, had no speech or words attached. The picture was of the house with the two of them, seen through the window, carrying on gorging and laughing. Then the main part of the image was of outside the house;  the claw on the end of the crane pulling the last living tree out of the earth, roots and all, dropping it into the funnel of his fantastic machine to make the next (and last unknown to them) requested dish. The rest of the wide landscape was empty of life to the horizon, like a post nuclear holocaust scene.

Fair play to the person who put that story together, it was so very impactful to a young mind. Even as a child, I may not have been able to articulate exactly what was wrong in the story, but something deep inside of me knew.

Food security is a global issue, climate change is applying environmental pressures, in disparate places all around the world. But here in the Western World, we, as a rule, have become more than a little spoilt by the abundance we have increasingly enjoyed since WWII. Should we however think a little more about the quality of food available, and that we all eat a little too much of, rather than the quantity we can produce.

With a growing population, the world invested in new machinery, technologies and latterly sciences to increase volume of yield. New methodology and practices were applied to maximise crop output to feed the expanding multitude of global population. It also provided healthy profits for those involved at boardroom level, as small local family farms were consumed by national and multi-national companies.

It is in this industrialisation of farming that farmers have been forced by economics to turn away from nature; its rhythms and ebbs and flows. Leaving a field fallow to rest for a cycle just won’t cut it in these times of market forces. You can maximise output from a work horse by working it constantly, at a higher speed, even pump it up with drugs; but in the end, something must give. Nature has its pulse and patterns. Working with those, and not fighting against, is the best mindset  for longevity.

A tractor in a field silhouetted against an orange sunset

While the improved harvests appeared to be beneficial, to help solve relative short term problems of supply; the seeds of calamity were also sown. Nature is no longer deemed a resource in our surrounds that we live in, to utilise for a balanced existence, it has become a commodity to exploit to the full, by economists for short term profit.

Nature is nothing though if not a survivor. Mankind can try and bend the will of nature to support his own needs; and this may work for a time. I wonder however, if the Natural Law has a deeper code of wisdom within its being. Where Man left alone might exhaust natural resources completely through his short sighted greed; nature plays the long game.

The consequences of our experiments with chemical fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides, monocultures, genetic modification, blanket use of antibiotics, deforestation for meat production; even the tilling of soil on a mass scale is ultimately catastrophic for the local environs. Over tilling can kill off micro-organisms, nutrients, worms and organic matter; alive they provide constant fertility. Yes there may be a few more weeds present but with a little time and effort these can be removed by hand. Industrial tilling especially leaves the organic matter in the soil exposed to the sun, winds and rain that dry out and blow and wash away this lifeblood of the soil, even the soil itself.  The ‘Dust Bowl’ of the 1930’s American mid-west being a primary example.

A car, wooden carts and a house half submerged by sand in the dust bowl

Chemical fertilisers will work for a while but slowly our land is becoming sterile. Like a drug addict, the land is becoming increasingly more dependent on its singular source of synthetic fuel until the natural vitality of the micro system itself becomes exhausted and dies.

This may not be observable in our ‘superstores’ today, because our system of measurement is based on quantity of yield. How else could it be we might ask? Well, quality over quantity as the old adage goes, but old adages don’t wear a slick collar and tie. One thing that does not appear on the charts of the farming industrialists, economists and supermarket executives is – nutrition. Waistbands are expanding in the West, as cancer, heart disease, strokes and diabetes increase in relation to processed food intake.

Nutrition, the powerhouse of fuel your body thrives on, is not weighed in pounds, kilos or tonnage. The shiny red homogeneous apples, that adorn our supermarket shelves, that are bred for size and longevity of shelf life, appear to offer us abundance. The plastic like ‘TINO’S’ (tomato in name only) that sit unbruised and immaculately shaped, keep their tastelessness intact for weeks without fear of blemishing or stinking the place out with the smell of… tomatoes.

A selection of fresh vegetables and bread

There are many studies that reveal to us that modern farming methods, soil depletion being just one, is critically harmful to our health. Back in 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition published “reliable declines” in the amount of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients to common good health, now present in mass produced vegetables.

In the light of current circumstances during the epidemic, we should be at least asking simple questions about the body’s own capabilities to fight viruses, disease and infections. For surely it is almost wholly dependent on the strength of the body’s immune system and what that is fed on. With our world becoming more polluted, more toxins are going into our bodies, we are eating less nutritional food, to arm it in the fight back. Most of the time, we have the answers to our troubles if we take some time to stop and think.

During the lockdown, time was one thing that was afforded to some of us. People who were fortunate enough to have access to a little parcel of land, a garden or allotment, have explored, sometimes for the first time, the opportunities to start growing their own vegetables. Even ‘hanging vertical gardens’ in small spaces, can provide small harvests, and a little physical and mental health benefits, especially during these difficult times.

A shop display of fresh vegetables for sale

It is true for all of us, so very often we take for granted what we have until, like children, it is taken from us. I hope so very much, that we learn to appreciate what food is for once again; a super fuel, to energise us, to fight off viruses, or ought that would harm us; before we end up spoiling the beautiful bounty that we have already.

We are what we eat. There’s another old adage… another truth unadorned without a fancy collar and tie – for the benefits it provides us, exist naturally within.

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