I’ve been lost as to what to post here. The momentum of this blog has been fermented food: tempeh, kraut, nut cheese. However, I’ve come to an increasingly firm belief that I have some sort of intolerance to fermented and aged foods. The histamine triggers a range of symptoms that agitate my physical being. Perhaps it’s my overemphasis of fermented foods that have led to this maladaption. Also, it gives me pause as I reflect on all the diet gurus on the Internet that claim dogmatically to have the answer. For example, I became briefly obsessed with Matthew Kenney, a celebrity raw vegan chef. In raw veganism, the food is never heated above 104-120˚F. Here’s an article that’ll introduce you to his perspective:
Honestly, I haven’t tried a raw vegan diet so I can’t defame his claims off the bat. I would love to explore raw vegan cooking more. However, I’m not about to add another layer of ideology to my contact with food. It is a felt sense that arouses the gut and brain, rippling energy into your body and pleasure into system.
On a side note, I think this is why people think I’m high when we’re interacting: the stimuli of the world are so rich and complex that it really takes a minute to chew and sense them out for me. When I imagine the contact I have with the world through food, the complexity becomes staggering as I begin tracing all the constituents of the dish before me back to the soil, their home. Trillions of bacteria once undulated in the soil around the seed that sprouted in a cozy dark nook and thrust its way into the open air where light from the sun vibrated dizzyingly fast onto complex photosynthesizing cells that bundled that dispersing light into a contained form, apparently static but still vibrating with sugary energy.
When we think about energy production, we ought to consider the fact that photosynthesis produces three times the entire power consumption of humanity. And returning carbon dioxide to the soil as organic matter will counteract rising atmospheric greenhouse gas levels. Plants are power.
Back to the video, though. Vicki is encouraging an unfamiliar way of apprehending one’s relationship to food and the Earth. The interlaced tentacles of advanced nations are so pervasive that its citizens are simply unconscious of their dependency on the Earth for sustenance. We therefore identify things that are more and more alien to the natural world as “food” and eschew most other potential foods as inedible (insects, weeds, even the coconuts that abound in Miami). When we shake the hand of the magician who tended that seed from its terrestrial chambers into the air, or when we actually feel the soil and the plant itself, the fragility and wonder of our food become palpable. I think the aliveness Vicki refers to in her talk is that deep, imbedded dimension of ourselves that is still and always a baby in the cradle of roots and leaves in Nature. And our society’s hubris doesn’t just destroy habitats and whole classes of fellow lifeforms- it severs our ability to feel connected to the planet and simply being alive.
I don’t know where to go from here. I am mildly ashamed that my contributions to healing the disconnect and destructive patterns of society have recently been limited to reducing my meat consumption while exploring the world of gourmet food. After working on a small-scale organic farm last summer in New York, I have felt an aversion in my body to being subjected to more of that kind of monotonous, exposed labor. I also felt a disconnect to the pleasure of cooking and eating the farm’s vegetables, which the local super creative chefs and their diners got to enjoy. It’s too bad that the farmer is subject to unceasing days of toil (though the chef toils in his/her own way) but be absent for the end of his seeds’ journeys. Sure, the restaurants can give shout-outs and the diners can romanticize the farm life. But dammit why can’t we have a bit of dirt in our salad? That’s metaphorical, like a salad a farm-to-table restaurant would serve conveying this bold message. The sharp divide between “farm” and “restaurant” ought to be more porous…perhaps it is. What if a restaurant cooked the vegetables a diner brought to the restaurant? What if the chef gardened, what if the farmer came and cooked, what if the diner was given dressing and a bowl before foraging around the garden to harvest their own salad?
In closing, here are two restaurants I’ve been to recently: the first is called Common Lot in Millburn, New Jersey and it’s pretty much in the same echelon as what you’d see on “Chef’s Table”. It was a privilege and super intense gastronomic experience. I also ordered a dish that included vegetable curry with beet raitha, pickled vegetables, and banana-leaf wrapped baked fish (striped bass, which according to http://www.mass.gov is not overfished, halo hovers intact). The first dish is roasted sweet potato, fermented shishito, mixed nut puree, smoked maple, pecans, the next is ember roasted romanesco, seasonal mushrooms, wild nettle puree, cabbage jus, herb salad, then it’s plain-ol’ pecan pie, and finally peanut butter bavarois, dark chocolate ganache, molasses ice cream, roasted chocolate. Later in the slideshow is a fake fish sandwich at a vegan café in Scranton, Pennsylvania along with some provocative stickers in their bathroom. To be honest, all the emphatic slogans are a bit of a deterrent, and to really be honest I didn’t find the café’s approach in replacing every typical meat-based sandwich with a soy-based replacement to be that progressive or healthy. But, as you travel further inland and have less turn over of people and ideas, raw veganism is not going to pull someone away from their pulled pork faster than an adequate vegan pulled-pork imitation. Not to say that raw veganism is the paragon of healthy, conscious eating. For me, it’s embodied eating (and respect for the body’s stormy impulses!) as we continue to become more and more at home in our body.