There’s a problem I’ve noticed when foodie folks start talking about the future of healthy sustainable eating.
We’re not always using consistent language.
The conversation usually starts with food in the context of a fundamental element as necessary for life as air, water or sex.
But then the discussion quickly moves to policy or health benefits or social identity and the meaning of the word “food” seems shifts too. No longer is it simply an essential and life-giving thing that all of humanity shares, but a highly marketable thing that all of humanity can be sold.
We often call out the big multinationals making big investments in food science for transforming our most popular comfort foods into cost-effective edible chemicals, but I’m noticing the same thing is true for the kale and quinoa set.
Instagramming foodies lobbying for listicle placement to fill their restaurant, get a book deal, or perform an aspirational identity for the whole wide world are using the universal, humane appeal of food for their own financial/social benefit as well.
There’s of course nothing essentially wrong with that, especially in the context of a capitalist society like ours.
Except perhaps when one considers that our society is now starting to confront the consequences of some pretty serious food-related issues: chronic obesity, food insecurity, skyrocketing health costs.
Our relationship to food culture, I believe, both reflects and affects the most significant issues facing our species: income inequality, social solidarity, the very future of the species. . .
What if when we started talking about how to eat healthier we didn’t immediately shift the conversation to name-brand diets or rare so-called super foods? What if when we talked about the pleasures of food we didn’t just talk about extreme taste or expense?
What if food that is good for you was also just simply good and impossible to avoid?
I’d like to think 2016 is the year we start to make some headway in shifting this conversation, and I’d like to think it’s going to have a lot to do with the United Nations naming 2016 the year of the pulse (e.g. lentils, beans, legumes etc.)
Imagine if all those Instagrammers got inspired to capture the diverse beauty and possibility of lentils in all their varied forms.
And if big multinationals put all their supply channel planning behind making sure thousands of legume varieties are available to us wherever and however we shop.
The only possible problem I foresee with this transformational moment is that pulses are cheap and therefore useless for social differentiation or profit engineering.
That’s not going to stop me from eating as many meals of beautifully nutritious and delicious pulses as high-priced tasting menus or value-priced convenience meals.
Maybe you’ll join me?