you are what you eat

Today’s ravings are brought to you by Fish in the Water.

It’s not just about wasting. It is that—I’m still one of those people who throws food away and guiltily thinks about all the starving children in Africa (and in our own town) who don’t have enough to eat. I’ll compost things like beet greens and broccoli stalks and think, wow, we are alarmingly wasteful.

But when it comes to throwing away leftovers, I get wrathful. To me food is not just another cheap commodity that can be tossed out on a whim. Food is a process. As the majority of the food we eat was produced by either my hands or the hands of someone I know very well, throwing it away is tantamount to a very deep personal insult. That’s my time that went into the production of that food. My sweat, my blood, my exhaustion and caring and effort went into that piece of broccoli. It’s not something to just be tossed away.

Then add in the layer of processing. With most things, I not only grew it (or paid dearly for someone close to me to grow it), I spent hours chopping and stewing and grinding and freezing and canning it so we could eat it. Canning tomatoes may be relatively “easy”, but it is a vastly time consuming process. I didn’t sit for hours in a boiling hot kitchen packing those fuckers into cans just so they could be thrown away. I didn’t spend hours rolling out pasta so it could be thrown away. I put care and time into doing these things because I care so much about the people eating them. I love my family, so much that it daily breaks my heart. I’m not going to sit back and let them eat pizza all the time. I put all this work into it because to me, this is going to help them live longer. This is the key to keeping them healthy and whole and with me for as long as possible. When I catch myself doing something that seems ridiculous- making an enormous mess while making tomato paste from scratch, for example- I just remind myself of all the people I love who are going to benefit, because this tomato paste will contribute to their well being. Maybe in a teeny tiny way- and I’m sure there aren’t too many people out there who have contracted cancer from eating store bought tomato paste- but each little thing helps.

Each meal I make is a sacrifice from me to them, and each meal is a spell cast not just to keep them healthy, but to tie us together. Those meals are my way of showing how much I love the people in my life. People ask me why I do so much cooking- and yes, I do enjoy it, most of the time. I like coming up with things to make. But that’s not really why I do it. Feeding people answers some kind of base instinct at my very core. If all else was stripped away- if, for some reason, all the things I do for fun disappeared- there would still be feeding people. I would do everything in my power, until my dying breath, to continue to feed the people I love, and to do it in the way that I thought was best going to keep them alive. That is a meal. It’s a bond between people that can’t be broken. And it’s certainly not something you throw away.

It becomes astronomically worse when the food in question is meat. It breaks my heart to throw away food- it shatters it to throw away meat. I haven’t been eating meat for all that long, and I still remember why I stopped. I could not stand the thought of the merciless torture that is the bulk of meat “production” in this country. I still can’t stand it. So all the meat I buy comes from animals I have met. And it is still hard for me, sometimes, to look them in the face and know they are going to die so I can live. And that they aren’t doing it by choice, or for some noble reason, they’re just going to die. I try to repay each and every one of those lives by eating every last bite. It seems the ultimate act of callousness to casually throw away a life. And it is, I believe, at the core of what’s wrong with our society. People ask why, how can these things happen, what’s wrong, what could it be? And then they turn around and so casually dismiss the suffering that takes place daily, in every corner. Millions of animals suffer and die? Oh well, tossed out with the trash. Children in other countries suffer and die to make your shoes and your iPads? Oh well, they’re out of style, throw them away. When that kind of apathy exists on that kind of scale, it’s no wonder these things happen. It’s easy to turn your head when you’re warm and comfortable and there’s always enough of everything.

And it all comes back to that, doesn’t it? We may have enough of everything, but at the moment I have no money. I really don’t. Fortunately for me I store enough food through the summer to get us through the winter at no additional cost. I don’t ever have to be hungry. But when I look at my bank account and see that there’s nothing there, I think of all those who are not so fortunate as to have a fully stocked pantry and freezer. And I swear to myself that none of it will go to waste. That it will all be fully and deeply appreciated, and that I will be grateful for every bite that I am so fortunate to have. And I will do my best to share with others, and never throw away the leftovers, which so many others would long to have.

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