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don’t do it very well. They tend to Q. In an open letter to President Michael Pollan’s
cook with far more salt, fat and sugar Obama, you state that the health of our
12 Commandments
than any normal human being would food system is a national security issue.
ever think to put in their food. When Why is this?
of Food
corporations want to cook for you, their
goals are to sell you more food, to get Because it’s so highly concentrated
1. Don’t eat anything your great-grand-
you to eat as much as possible, and to and there are so few companies pro-
mother wouldn’t recognize as food.
replace good quality ingredients with cessing food these days. Four compa-
2. Avoid products containing ingredi-
salt, fat and sugar, which are very cheap nies are basically packing all the beef. ents you can’t pronounce.
to insert into a food and very seductive. A single, hamburger-grinding plant
could be making millions of patties
3. Don’t eat anything that won’t even-
tually rot.
a week and feeding so many people
Q. In a recent interview, you claimed that if there is contamination in any of 4. Avoid food products that carry
that democratizing organic food is cru- the meat going into that plant, it could
health claims.
cial. Please explain that. affect millions of people. So, there’s
5. Shop the peripheries of the super-
a strong national security argument
market; stay out of the middle.
We need to democratize healthy food; for decentralizing the food system. It
not just organic food, but fresh produce doesn’t mean there won’t still be prob-
6. Better yet, buy food somewhere
also, which is more expensive than junk lems, but they won’t affect so many
else: the farmers’ market or commu-
food. If you’ve got a dollar to spend in people.
nity supported agriculture.
the supermarket and you’re poor, you’re
7. Pay more, eat less.
going to end up in the middle aisle
buying processed food, because by the Q. What is your view on the relation-
8. Eat a wide variety of species.
calorie, it’s a bargain. ship between food and living a con-
9. Eat food from animals that eat
One of the things we need to do scious, wide-awake life?
is to change the agricultural policies of
the country, so that we’re not subsidiz- Food is one of the most profound ways
10. Cook, and if you can, grow some of
ing the least healthy calories in the su- we engage the natural world; not just
your own food.
permarket, which are high fructose corn the landscape, but the species we share
11. Eat meals, and eat them only at
syrup and hydrogenated soybean oil. this planet with. One of the traditional tables.
This is what our policies make cheap, uses of food has been to remind us of
because we subsidize corn and soy. It this critical relationship—our depen-
12. Eat deliberately, with other people
whenever possible, and always with
also makes feedlot meat cheap because dence on nature. That’s why people say
those [corn, soy] are what we feed the Grace. Yes, they’re thanking God, but
animals. We need to find ways to stimu- they’re also thanking the creatures that
late the consumption of and production gave their lives for us and the land that
of what are called specialty crops. The brings forth this bounty. I think eat-
fact that the Department of Agriculture ing at its best is a profoundly spiritual
calls real food a specialty tells you all experience.
you need to know; it shouldn’t be a There’s a wonderful quote by
specialty, it should be routine. Thomas Merton: “From the moment
you put a piece of bread in your
mouth you are part of the world. Who
Q. You have suggested many new na-
grew the wheat? Who made the bread?
tional food initiatives. What can indi-
Where did it come from? You are in
viduals do?
relationship with all who brought it to
the table. We are least separate and
I think it’s vitally important that we
most in common when we eat and
teach kids how to grow food by putting
gardens in the schools, how to cook
food by having teaching kitchens (what
For more information visit MichaelPol-
used to be called home economics) and
how to eat food. I think Alice Waters
has it completely right; lunch should
Ellen Mahoney is a freelance writer
be an academic subject. You should get
and teaches writing at the University
credit for lunch in the same way you
of Colorado, Boulder. Contact evm@
get credit for physical education.
July 2009 19
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