We live in an era of food judgment...feed your baby organic baby food if you want to be a “good” mother, buy local if you’re a “true” foodie and only invite friends to the trendiest restaurants where you can philosophize over food origins. Large is bad, small is good – in food portions, farm size, business and waistlines. Technology in food production is frowned upon. And anyone with a vested interest in the agrifood system is surely so biased that they can’t be trusted.
Frankly, it’s tiring. Food is food. You eat and so do I. What one family consumes does not make them superior or inferior. The same is true in farming; the way one family farms does not make them worthy of accolades or condemnation. It’s about choice. And like many things in life, not everyone makes the same choices.
It seems we have moved beyond mere concern about our food to judging the soul of food – and those who consume it. What is the soul of food? For me, the soul of food has everything to do with beautiful black and white Holsteins gracing my front yard and neighborhood. The soul of food is about the people who painstakingly care for the land and animals so that you can eat. The soul of food is about the memories made around my dining room table with my family and friends.
Food perspective varies based upon position around the proverbial plate. Scientists look to facts, such as the case when Dr. Kevin Folta, University of Florida Department of Horticulture chairperson, “desconstructed” Food Babe’s response to a student association. Chefs look at the soul of food as how it’s going to add flavor to their creation. Economists look at data, such as Oklahoma State’s food economist Dr. Jayson Lusk did when he conducted a survey finding “over 80 percent of Americans support ‘mandatory labels on foods containing DNA’.” (pssst…all food has DNA).
Iowa farmer and certified speaking professional Jolene Brown sums it up nicely “All types and sizes of agriculture are needed to feed and clothe our families and the world – small, local, organic, conventional and commercial. I want us to be careful not to be selfish with a personal view of food production for there is a higher calling beyond our personal wants and wishes.”
In other words, don’t let “judgment on food soul” trump realism in the “soul of food.” Your choices are likely different than mine. A single mom trying to make ends meet has different wants than a Whole Foods follower. A dietitian concerned with a balanced diet has different food priorities than a middle aged man looking for comfort food. I don’t believe any of those people have a more superior food soul. A Super Bowl ad does not make the soul of food, a celebrity sensationalizing food claims does not make the soul of food, the words on a label does not make the soul of food, nor does a diet fad. All are what I call food soul judgements.
In reality, the soul of food today is largely the same as it was fifty years ago. Food is, in fact, safer – but I recognize facts don’t create the perceived soul of food. If you have a romanticized view of small family farms with crops raised by hand and animals lovingly running free while eating green grass, do some real research with those that were there sweating it out with animals in mud, pulling weeds from crops and trying to eek a living out of the land.
We’ve allowed judgment of individual food souls dictate the soul of food over the last decade. The soul of my food is no different than the soul of your food. Nor is the soul of our food worse than it was 50 years ago. What matters is how food takes care of a family.