Slow Food, farmer's markets and more

I had heard of the "Slow Food" movement, begun in the late 60s after McDonald's got to Rome. I didn't know much about it until I read Michael Pollan's June 10, 2010 online article in "The New York Review of Books." His six-page piece is exceptionally well worth reading; I just got back to it via Google without any difficulty. Now I'll attempt to articulate some of its points and add a few of my own views.

Pollan covers some far-flung aspects of the recent history and current trends of "food in America" (and elsewhere). Early on he mentions that our citizens now spend less of their money and time preparing and cleaning up from meals than any other group in history. There has, however, been a secondary, but crucial cost, the decline of meals eaten together as a family. The impact of this is visible: our kids are growing up with meals eaten in front of the TV with an absence of family conversations; our food industry has had an enormous sway in what we eat and where, e.g., "Fast Food;" our diet with all its emphasis on ease and speed of preparation has led to the epidemic of obesity and its related diseases.

Pollan notes the variegated segments of the food movement, distinct as they have been over the past thirty years or so, have now appeared to have a common focus on high-level problems: we cannot sustain our present food/farming patterns longterm without major environmental and economic consequences. Climate change issues are at the heart of this shift, as is the realization that cheap fossil fuel enabled the huge post WW II increases in farm/food system productivity via the pesticides and fertilizers they spawned. In order to solve our global warming and water issues, we will almost certainly have to alter our farming/food patterns.

Our current diet, centered for many on meat-eating, consumes huge amounts of our increasingly valuable water supply. Our habits of wanting produce grown around the globe to be available on our tables year-round consumes fuel in enormous quantities.

The new health care reform legislation, Pollan feels, may lead to health insurance firms having a keen interest in the prevention of chronic diseases. We appear to be at a cusp where food-related businesses, locovores, food movement organizations, health insurers and even our government may agree on the need for change.

I'm tentatively hopeful that the next twenty years will see progressive shifts in our dietary patterns, our food sources, our use of fossil fuels and the longterm health of our kids and grandkids. Maybe that's asking for a lot, but the alternative is truly frightening. It's time and past time for a whole series of interlocking changes.

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