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"Nell Newman makes the message simple, clear and compelling: Knowledge and action add up to revolution. She gracefully conveys both the science and the soul of the issues, and offers practical solutions. Nell is living proof that social activism and environmental responsibility are integral to–not obstacles to–health and success; let her lead you on her candid, thoughtful, gently subversive path to better choices every day, and before you know it, you too are a passionate agent of change for a better world."
-Elaine Marie Lipson, author of The Organic Foods Sourcebook
There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine drunk.
óM. F. K. Fisher
I was lucky to have grown up in an old colonial farmhouse with a garden and a few apple trees. My mom taught me to cook at an early age, and the ingredients we used came from our garden. The fruit of those trees ended up in our pies, and the eggs laid by our chickens went into cakes and omelets. My father taught me to fish, and we polished off what I plucked out of the Aspetuck River with corn and tomatoes from a local farm stand. My pa always had a good eye for produce. Early on, he showed me how to thump a melon.
But he still had some stubborn views about food. To him, organic foods referred to the hippie-dippy dishes my mom experimented with in the sixties, like nut loaf with yeast gravy. He was due for a wake-up call.
As my own food awareness grew, I'd gradually begun using organic ingredients in my cooking. And for some time I had been trying to get my father to add an organics line to his food company. But whenever I brought up the subject, he dismissed it because he didn't really understand organics. I was on a mission to change his mind.
My father expected a traditional Thanksgiving meal, and I was going to give him one. Sort of. One year, before leaving California to go home to Connecticut, I packed a bunch of organic foods from my local haunts. Petite pois. Sweet potatoes. Bread crumbs for stuffing. The whole bit, down to the turkey, packed in ice. I flew home with this cornucopia in my luggage and headed straight for the kitchen.
When the meal was over and I could see that it more than met with his approval, I leaned over and asked my pa, "How did you like your organic Thanksgiving meal?" He was floored. That was the day he learned that there is nothing newfangled about organic food. If anything, it's downright old-fashioned, and its rules for coaxing food from the earth date back almost ten thousand years, to the invention of agriculture. That was perhaps the most thankful Thanksgiving my family had enjoyed together up to that time. My four sisters and my mom were in on the conspiracy and supportive of my goal. We looked at my fatherócontent, well fed, ready to embrace the ideas of modern organics, which are instinctive and simple but require a new paradigm in order to be incorporated into our high-tech and complex food culture.
Most of the time, what we eat is removed from where and how it is produced. Convenience often takes precedence over taste, nutrition, and the consequences of production and delivery. Most of us don't know or don't think about where our food originates and are not aware that eating is, as the farmer, author, and poet Wendell Berry says, "an agricultural act."
The organic movement is gaining momentum. Today you can go to any major city in the United States and eat at top-flight restaurants where chefs use only organic meats and produce. You dine exquisitely in these places; out-of-towners book reservations months in advance. There are now two major natural-food-store chains dotting the country, and you can also order organic foodstuffs online. Americans are rediscovering their local farmers, either at regional markets or through an innovative concept called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
The chief difference between organic and conventional food is the method used to grow or make it. No long-lasting, synthetic pesticides or herbicides are sprayed on organic veggies and fruits. The livestock grow without hormones meant to fatten them quickly and without antibiotics to keep them from getting sick in overcrowded feedlots. The land and feed is also certified organic. On organic farms the soil, water, air, and all living creatures (including humans) are spared the stress of assimilating compounds that are proving unnecessarily complex and threatening. Biological reality has proven that volume and price are poor substitutes for a healthy ecosystem.
Few of us realize that the American way of producing food has become one of the biggest threats to the environment. The apple you buy in Maryland was picked in Washington State and flown, hauled by rail, or trucked to your store. Other foodsólike canned veggies and cerealsóare overprocessed, overpackaged, and over-preserved for this journey and extended shelf life. By the time you eat the typical bowl of cereal, the wheat, corn, or oats have been stripped of their nutrient value and coated with sugar and preservatives. Meanwhile, the harvesters, conveyors, packing machines, trucks, and other devices that make all this happen demand fuel, and so they too take their toll on our resources and the air we breathe. Yes, the food gets to where it has to go, but it's hardly efficient. By one estimate, for every calorie we eat, ten calories of energy have been used to bring it to us.
Modern farms grow food the way factories build widgets. Technology, not the earth's natural rhythm, is assumed to hold the answer to every problem. Want bigger yields? Use this industrial fertilizer. Want to eradicate bugs? Spray these chemicals. The irony is, after decades of these practices, the bugs are only getting stronger and the land is less fertile. In many parts of the country the soil is literally drying up and washing away.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Posted April 19, 2007
Posted March 12, 2003
This book is fabulous- a great tool to living an environmentally responsible life-easy everyday tips, no huge lifestyle changes until you add up all the small stuff! Great for starting organics users like me!! I started looking into organics when my 2 year old daughter was diagnosed with asthma and i wanted safe cleaning products and pesticide free food for her-- now she's free and clear and we are healthier than ever!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 8, 2010
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