Well. We joined a co-op. I know what you’re thinking. It has to be one of three things:
1. What the heck is a co-op?
2. ERIN? Joining a CO-OP? What happened to my non-health-conscious, junky-food-loving [friend/daughter/sister/in-law/other-appropriate-relational-title]?
3. They’ve been in Echo Park for more than a year now. It was bound to happen.
If you’re in the camp that was pondering #1, let me explain exactly what “we joined a co-op” means. A co-op–or, a food co-op, to be more precise–is a form of something known as community supported agriculture, or CSA. We join, or subscribe to, a group of local farms from which we’ll receive a weekly box of produce. Our group is called Abundant Harvest. You don’t choose what’s in your box; the farmers fill it with whichever crops are in season and ready to be harvested. It comes just like this:
It’s all organic. And the point is to eat more (as well as a wider variety of) real food that is good for you, rich in nutrients, and grown by people you can actually meet, as opposed to mass-producing farms across the country (or the world, for that matter.) That’s good.
Well now that you know what a co-op is (or at least have a bit of an idea… I would encourage following my link to Abundant Harvest’s website above to find out more), I’ll address those of you who were thinking #2. (I’ll be clear right now: I’m not going to address the #3’s. Valid thinking, #3’s.)
I guess for me, my great awakening came as a result of this book: In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, the tag line of which is “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
The book is by a guy named Michael Pollan; an author, journalist, activist, and professor of journalism at UC Berkeley. It’s a book you should read, regardless of whether or not you care about health and eating. It’s an extremely interesting read about American Nutritionism, the Western diet, and the simple answers to our unending list of questions about what we should eat as a result of our obsession with so-called “health.”
To give you a taste of what this book is about, Pollan makes these five suggestions in his chapter entitled “Eat Food: Food Defined:”
1. Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food. (The idea is that a few generations back, we were still eating real food, not mass marketed “food products” processed and packaged to look like real food, but made with significantly less nutrients and significantly more unnatural ingredients. His example: Go-gurt. Would your great grandma see a package of go-gurt and think maybe it was toothpaste?)
2. Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup. (These are some hallmarks of processed food labels. For example, a loaf of bread shouldn’t have 41 ingredients, half of which you’ve never heard of and/or can’t pronounce. Apparently this is the case with Sara Lee’s Soft & Smooth Whole Grain White Bread.)
3. Avoid food products that make health claims. (The foods with the most license to make health claims don’t have packages to make them on, for one. Also, foods that need to make bold health claims in order to convince you they’re healthy are often making claims off of “incomplete and often erroneous” science.)
4. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle. (You’re more likely to pick up real food here. The most processed foods are typically found in the middle aisles.
5. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible. (Because even the most real foods you’ll find in the supermarket are likely grown and raised in environments that cause them to be far less nutrient-rich as a result of modern industrial agriculture.)
This book has had a profound impact on the way I think about eating, and how to live life in general. We’re a part of a generation that increasingly has no idea how to prepare a meal without taking a trip to Fresh and Easy for something pre-marinaded that we can pop in the oven. We’re lovers of all things easy and convenient, often at the cost of growth and quality. The food that we eat has an impact on far more than our own personal health and well-being. Eating real food is a service to the entire food chain, and a step in the right direction for cultivating a healthy culture, environment, and world. Let’s be wise stewards of what God has entrusted to us here on Earth.