This is to be a story about the politics of food, and about food as a place to begin the revolution.
I’ve been puzzling for a long time over my intentions for this weblog. I’ve also lately been browsing through various popular online discourses, across the political spectrum, about our future as a species.
There’s a lot of millenial end-times thinking and speech, swirling about these days. Of course, we’ve just come through the turn of the millenium, and so that should surprise no-one. Prognostications of doom are mostly just ceremony; they have little predictive power. Really good futurists are rare (I’d count Arthur C. Clarke as one, and John Brunner as another). However, in the range of futures we can imagine for ourselves, we can at least map out the possibilities.
Though I wish every success to the farmers in this story, I can’t help but be tickled to learn what’s happening in American states like Georgia, where they’ve enacted legislation to drive out or otherwise punish illegal (Mexican) immigrants.
The crowds cheering such policies don’t seem to grasp the subtleties of policy-making, or they just don’t care. The significant economic consequences of anti-migrant legislation are now being felt, and lo, it turns out that Mexicans illegals were doing good and useful work:
Could this be true? I mean, it says on the Internet: that Chinese companies are making fake rice, by mixing pureed potatoes and sweet potatoes with “industrial synthetic resins,” and forming the mixture into pellets the size and shape of rice grains.
Apparently this “plastic rice” does not soften when cooked. Eating three bowls of the stuff, it’s said, as unlikely as that may sound, is equivalent to “eating a plastic bag.” Uh huh. Word is, the stuff is cheaper to make than real rice, and so there’s a profit to be made; but then I gotta think, you’d have to have some sort of a reason. My guess is, whoever they are, they’re not big on repeat business.
is about how to make (non-dairy) cheese substances — analogs for anything from bocconcini, to something that resembles sharp old cheddar — even to the degree that it melts under a grill more or less like the real thing. Amazing.
There’s something quite engaging about the way the article is written; I enjoyed reading it for that reason foremost.
It includes a recipe for fake cheddar cheese. It would be interesting to try to make such a thing.
I just ran across a reference to this fellow Daniel Quinn. He has some interesting things to say about agriculture on a global scale. Quite disturbing. After you watch this, go read some James Howard Kunstler.
On Saturday, I took a one day workshop on urban agriculture, presented by City Farmboy, and learned about a tiny farm embedded in a quiet suburban neighbourhood. City Farmboy’s owner/operator, Ward Teulon, grows fruits and vegetables on unused pieces of his neighbours’ back yards, then sells his produce directly to consumers. He has about 8,000 square feet of land under cultivation.
I’ve often asked myself, why not eat pork? More specifically, why do so many people not eat pork, and believe they ought not to? The first (Christian?) answer I learned: pigs are unclean. They carry disease (trichinosis!). They eat garbage. Tacitly: they eat shit. From Jewish friends and acquaintances I have learned many things about pork as a phenomenon in contemporary Jewish culture and an aspect of Jewish identity. But I’ve never sat down with a Jew or a Muslim and, you know, talked about food. Probably something I should do.
Now, you understand, like many people I love bacon. And I do sometimes eat bacon, and sausage, and even (recently, as a shameful treat) a sausage and egg breakfast sandwich at Burger King. However, I have decided to reduce my consumption of pork, and so for example I don’t normally buy pork to cook, and I avoid pork dishes in restaurants. Of course, given what you’re about to see, perhaps you’ll agree with me that it’s time to stop eating pigs altogether.
Like many people, I’m not unmindful of the fact (as I understand it) that animals suffer before pieces of their flesh make it to my table. And like many people, I’m uncomfortable about that, and haven’t fully engaged with it as a moral issue deserving my attention. With pigs, however, as I have learned more about them, the moral issue has been drawn more clearly.
George Orwell taught us that pigs were clever. I had not thought much about that until I read a story a few years ago about the intelligence of pigs. I am not sure where I read the story, but it went something like this:
A pig farmer had some issue or other with environmental controls for his barn (pigs being sensitive to temperature?). Whatever the problem may have been, his solution was to give his pigs the job of controlling the heat in the barn. Knowing firsthand the cleverness of pigs in manipulating things like latches and handles, the farmer rigged up a lever to adjust the pig barn’s thermostat. The lever’s design was such that a pig could easily manipulate it with her nose (some pig’s noses, it’s said, are quite prehensile — a pig’s nose is also its hand). The pigs, it unfolded, quickly learned that they could control the temperature of the barn, and could be left to manage the setting to their satisfaction, no matter what the weather was doing. The farmer ended up saving on his heating bill, because as it turned out, the pigs preferred the barn a little cooler.
I don’t know if that story is true, nor have I been able to track down its source. If anyone has ever heard it I would be interested to learn its provenance. The story raises some fascinating questions about pig politics (which pig controls the lever, and how did s/he get that control?). However, the basic message for me was, do I want to eat the flesh of a being that’s smart enough to grasp the use of a thermostat? The answer: no. Later on I was inspired to pursue other stories about pig intelligence, and there are many. Among my readings I found one comment which stayed with me, and I paraphrase it here: that pigs are the only animals we eat that are smart enough to understand that they are food.
You know, when you watch that, you will be shown what pigs suffer. And you will see the horrifying brutality visited on these animals by the farm workers. But then I thought: if we make places like that and put people to work there, what do we expect those people to become? What must those people do to protect themselves in those places, from the raw horror of what such a place must be for other sentient beings? This we do not see. I suspect that like every pig, every human we see in that video is in terrible pain.