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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

ireland-fields.jpgWhen I was a kid in the 70s, mom collected our newspapers and tin cans for recycling, and she and I would pick up trash by the side of the road. In school I saw a completely traumatizing film about a world constantly awash in grey polluted rain, in which a woman maintains a little green house. A green house that ultimately gets destroyed by a mob, desperate for a touch of beauty. I named myself an environmentalist with pride and did so up until I started studying sustainable food production methods.

That food production in this country spews vast amounts of poison onto the earth and water is not news. The fact that the larger environmental movement had more passion for spotted owls than acres of toxins was somewhat understandable. Food production was – and is – a political hot potato. The idea that modern farming methods saved millions from starvation was probably true enough for a short period of time - immediately after artificial fertilizers and DDT were introduced - but now that is the story that corporations like Cargill and Monsanto use to keep us convinced that they should be allowed to sell GMO seeds and pesticides. And the silence from the environmental movement is deafening. The focus on mega fauna and fortress conservation has separated the average American from nature. Nature is something we go to parks, or zoos, or media to see. School children are shocked and grossed out by the fact that vegetables grow from dirt. The same attitude that places Nature on a pedestal separates us from the source of what nourishes body and soul.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

I often make references to grass-fed livestock. This would seem to be an obvious concept, a pasture full of cows is still something that my generation might remember from childhood, before livestock was banned from suburbia for being stinky and attracting flies. Mom and I used to buy our milk (and ice cream!) at the local dairy. You could watch the cows come in from the field and go into their spot in the barn. They would get their udders washed and the milker attached, and would stand munching hay while they were relieved of their burden. Then off they would go, back out to the pasture. These cows were clean and healthy. It was obvious when you looked at them. The farm was a transparent operation, and their handling practices were there for all the world to see.

And while this is assuredly a big step up from confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), this is not quite what I mean by grass-fed.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Last month, the New York Times had an essay contest in which they asked for people to write about why it is ethical to eat meat. You can view the results here, and read my essay here. I was not surprised to not be chosen, but did find this an interesting challenge, because one of the requirements was that we could not talk about grass-fed livestock for meat. 

Relationship is one of the aspects that defines Pagan attitudes about food. For Pagans, deity is immanent in the world. Every rock, every tree, everything that moves and breathes is sacred. Including what we eat. It is very common for Pagans to feel a deep kinship with both animals and plants. This creates an ethical dilemma that is not easy to solve. How does one eat one’s brother? Industrial farming is repugnant to anyone who takes the time to look. But even more so to a Pagan who claims kinship to all living things.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Perhaps you have heard the term “food culture.” It is the idea that a particular group of people eats a particular group of foods. Cajun, for example is from Louisiana. It is spicy, and includes a lot of fish, or German cooking, that uses cabbage and sausage. Both use the foods that are locally available to create a particular flavor palate. Food culture is trendy. Which is funny because it is just what people eat because they had to. Germans ate  - and still eat – sauerkraut because cabbage grows well in Germany’s northern climate. People on the gulf coast eat fish because it is available, and spicy foods because it is cooling to do so. Food culture is about place. Barbara Kingsolver says food culture is “an affinity between the people and the land that feeds them.”

For Europeans, this is a straightforward proposition. There are long traditions there that are supported by not only differences in food availability, but in differences in language. For North Americans it’s a different story. We do have some things that support local food cultures to be sure, in our early years here, it was a matter of pride for a woman to source her family’s needs close to home rather than importing from England. This was one of the ways that women contributed to the Revolution.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

If I seem food obsessed, please understand that in the normal stretch of human history, I am quite normal. My blog postings often come back to the kitchen, the hearth. And when that is the case, it is because this is where my explorations of what it means to be nourished have lead me. In our modern culture, what you eat only matters if it will make you fat. Appearance is an obsession of the wider culture, one which Pagans have, for the most part, been successful at resisting. What matters to us is connection, integrity, and celebration.

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  • Larksong
    Larksong says #
    Hi Selina, Great article. When your ready for your next post I've installed a new blog system. Its working, thou I'm still working

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