Gratuitous Food

HERD ABOUT IT?

by Ana Grarian

Are we partly to blame for today’s agricultural methods and how does it tie into obesity and other food health issues? I started thinking about my own misuse of food and my health issues. This started me thinking about food in our culture which led me to think about our fast food notion of sex.

Food on the run, in our face all the time, and yet unsatisfying.

Sex everywhere we look, and yet demeaning and unsatisfying.

Two essential parts of life that should be communal and yet have become very solitary.

Rabbi Achia ben Yeshaya said: One who purchases grain in the marketplaceto what may such a person be likened? To an infant whose mother died, and they pass him from door to door among wet-nurses and [still] the baby is not satisfied. One who buys bread in the marketplaceto what may such a person be likened? It is as if he is dead and buried. But one who eats from his own (what one has grown himself), is like an infant raised at his mothers breasts. Avot de Rabbi Natan 31:1

In today’s marketplace this is more true than we like to acknowledge. Even fresh fruits and vegetables are less nutritious due to soil depletion and harvesting while still immature. Increasingly our processed food contains levels of toxins that will kill us. The other day I saw a can of soup that contained 45% of the daily allowance of sodium in one serving. There is also something unsatisfying about having too much.

Weight loss counselors have told us that in order to limit our food intake, to be satisfied with less, and thus healthier (in both purse and waistline), we should eat deliberately. Set the table, turn off the TV, set our forks down between bites. I was just reminded of an admonishment to not bring a book to the table. Dinner was a time of sharing our day with one another. Even breakfast was a time of planning the day ahead. Would we need so many communication devices if we just sat down together and listened?

These communal acts of life, have become solitary and thus less fulfilling. If you have ever grown a garden, even one tomato plant, perhaps even just a Chia Pet, you know that there is satisfaction in it. To harvest a garden, or even to bring home deliberately chosen produce, and create a meal, is satisfying in so many more ways than throwing a plastic tray in the microwave. To share that creation with family and friends increases the pleasure.

I am reminded here of how the cats would place themselves on the bench next to my husband and I at meal time. With the kids grown and away, the pets became an integral part of our meal time. Ignoring them for too long brought a paw to the knee or a nose rub to the elbow, and a feeling of appreciation.

Food and sex are part and parcel of the continuation of life. Good nutrition means a life healthy enough and long enough to reproduce. Sex is a communal act, but in our chaotic Western lifestyle, has lost the communion aspect. Like everything else it has been turned into a concern about how much, how long, how often. It has become an opportunity to sell us a product, and that product is too often the sex itself.

Pornography is rampant and becoming more and more violent. My thought on this is that since we are only experiencing the sex act in porn with two of our senses, sight and sound, it requires more and more stimulation to acheive the same affect. Since the people on screen are only there to stimulate us, we accept the violence done to them. Then perversely we accept that violence as normal.

Like eating, sex should involve all of our senses. A long term couple knows each others smell and feel and sound and taste. Even our intellectual interaction is part of the mix. I suppose this might be part of knowing our clan, just as different types of the same beetle recognize each other by their mating ritual.

Our fast food sex is nowhere near as satiating as true communal sex. We may have sex thrown in our face 24/7, it may be more available either for hire or with casual acquaintences, or machines or blow up babes, but it is not as satisfying. Our fixation with oral sex may be a reflection of our hunger for more satisfying relationship.

How does this apply to agrarianism? I think our disconnection from the natural ebb and flow of life is reflected in our attitude toward food, possessions and sex. The constant barrage of advertising telling us we aren’t good enough, what we have isn’t good enough, and what we’re getting isn’t good enough, has separated us from the land, each other and even ourselves. We are constantly trying to make ourselves into what Madison Avenue and Hollywood sell us as good. But like trying to please tyrannical parent we will never be good enough for them.