Food is a political issue: We are what we eat

Food is about class, religion, gender, environment, spirituality, celebration, art. It is big geopolitical issues, it is personal issues.

Cooking shows proliferate on our televisions, cooking competitions become ‘food porn’ as a nation loses its ability to cook a meal. Bread and circuses placated the Romans. Celebrity chefs fill both roles. Master Chef? Yes, mistress.

Who chooses between heating and eating? and who chooses between lobster and caviar?

Is meat a sexual issue (Adams, 1990)? Is fat and weight a feminist issue (Orbach, 1978)?

Are women and girls being denied food in hungry families in order to feed the males first?

Do men prefer to eat steak and women eat salad?

Do Scottish people really eat deep-fried Mars Bars, or is that just a myth? and do the Scottish people have the lowest intake of vegetables in the EU? (No, but Northern European countries consume less fresh fruit and vegetables than Southern countries.)

Who owns the land on which food grows? Do family farms exist any more? or are they all factory farms owned by huge multi-national conglomerates?

Who grows the food? Who harvests the food? Are they paid a living wage?

Are farmers committing suicide as they are paid less and less each year so corporations can give their shareholders and extra cent or two?

Are farmers across the world being driven into bankruptcy by chemical companies that have patents on the seeds of food they have grown for centuries?

Are we importing food from countries with lower wages, unsafe working conditions and grown in toxic fields, because grocery chains have more power than small farming suppliers, and they would prefer cheap food than clean food?

Which multinationals corporations own the brands and which sell the food? and where do they direct their profits?

What food is grown for local consumption and what crops are grown for export instead of food, so rich countries can get cheap cocoa and cotton while hungry people starve? Who decides that countries on the brink of mass starvation will grow coffee, sugar, tobacco, roses for cheap exports? Does the World Bank really decide?

Is chocolate really related to slavery, today, not centuries ago?

Will wars of the future, or present, be fought over access to clean food and water?

Despite enough nutritious food in the world to feed everyone, what nations are in famine, what nations are suffering obesity epidemics?

Is our food grown in our backyard, on our window sills or in a country on the other side of the world?

Does the environment our crops are grown affect our health? The sludge, toxic waste, industrial waste, radioactive waste, lead, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, sewage is this for our benefit, or because it is cheaper than a clean environment?

Does what our food eats affect our own health? Are fish and ocean animals farmed in human sewage? Are herbivorous livestock fed the rendered bodies of animals of the same species that were classed not fit for human consumption? (Is this where Mad Cow Disease evolved?)

Are we growing food to eat, or are we growing food to fuel our cars and stoves or to feed livestock who will become our food?

Which multinational corporations are chopping down the Amazon rainforest to create grazing land for cows for cheap hamburgers, and cropland for soy?

Are ancient forests being woodchipped to create disposable plates, chopsticks and toilet paper?

Which food is responsible for destruction of the orang-utan habitat (palm oil)? and can we eat foods without it?

Why have governments decided that our fields, pastures, orchards, vineyards a luxury, and replace them with Coal Seam Gas wells. In the battle between mining and food production, food production loses, and are we all completely fracked unless we can learn to eat CSG chemicals?

Are our milk, eggs, honey used for food, or going into cosmetics?

Does ‘free range eggs’ mean what most people would think it means, or is it just a meaningless phrase?

Are we destroying our environment for cheap food? Are we mining our oceans for pet food?

Are we eating plastic, formaldehyde, human hair, Styrofoam, coal-tar, tumours from diseased animals because we don’t ask where our food comes from?

Who is food? Why is there outrage over horse-meat in the Swedish meatballs (“scandal“), but no corresponding outrage about the cow meat in the lasagna?

Who lives? Who dies? Who decides and who profits?

Are Wall Street vultures driving up the price of staples so they can make even larger profits? Are starving people good for their business? Are entire nations driven to famine so the 1% can buy up their land in exchange for a handful of beans?

Are Goldman Sachs bankers getting rich betting on food prices as millions starve?

Hungry people cannot be good at learning or producing anything, except perhaps violence. – Pearl Bailey

Who gets to eat and who can’t eat? For cultural reasons, for gender reasons, for health reasons, for religious reasons.

Do we fast for religious reasons (Muslim Ramadan) or do we feast (Christian Christmas)?

Who chooses to not eat (“drop a dress size in a week”), and who throws away food, filling landfill sites with mouldy, uneaten food.

Who cooks the family meals, who shops for the family meals, who cleans up, and who becomes celebrity chefs?

The september 11 attacks on New York saw a resurgence in comfort food, such as mashed potatoes and apple pie, while the Iraq attacks saw steak become a statement of solidarity with the Cowboy president.

Is food sacred? Does it represent our shared cultural heritage that connects us to our community and ancestors through family recipes and rituals?

How do we use food to celebrate and mourn? National tragedies and personal grief, breaks ups and first dates? comfort food and fuel food, holidays and every days? Religious, secular and patriotic days where we eat foods because of “traditions” we have no longer have connections to, other than the advertising tells us that everyone else does.

Can food be racist? An Australian TV ad featuring the West Indian cricket team and the sponsors product (a multi-national fried chicken corporation) was branded racist by commentators in the United States. Since Australia does not have a shared history with the USA, chicken and West Indian cricket teams are not racist imagery, but is the US exporting is racism – or racist connotations – by insisting racism and food is universal? or are the US just imposing their racism onto food around the world?

Does Disney really sell vanilla confectionery with a blonde white princess on the packaging, and a brown princess on the watermelon flavoured version? (answer: Yes)

Is veganism a choice of rich, white, westerners? Or is that just an imposed stereotype from people who eat animals?

Who chooses to be vegan, fruitarian, or Big Mac-eating breatharian?

Why don’t meat-eating “freegans” call themselves something else, something that doesn’t sound like ‘vegan’?

Who are born with allergies that can lead to death upon contact with a peanut or a strawberry, and have no choice about that do and don’t eat?

Are life-threatening allergies really on the rise, or is that just a perception?

Is our food grown in the ground or assembled in a lab? Is it patented by Monsanto, is it irradiated? Does it contain built-in pesticides and/or smothered in pesticides as it grows.

Who washes the dishes? and what are those dishes made of – plastic or bone china (made from actual ground up bones)? What about our cutlery, plastic or woodchipped ancient forests? How many forests are destroyed to make paper napkins and plastic straws, and how many are never used?

What is food packaged in? how is it disposed? And how many plastic bags will be thrown out after being used only to carry groceries from the shop to the car, then from the car to the house?

Are Western countries really having eating competitions, when many people in the world don’t know where their next meal is coming from? Are there really people in the world that happily pay $500 for a burger (http://www.buzzfeed.com/stacylambe/the-10-most-expensive-hamburgers-in-the-world)?

Are there hamburger cafes whose selling point is the heart-attack inducing amount of saturated fat and sugar in their foods? (yes)

Are nations in famine or is it personal self-induced starvation, are there national obesity epidemics (can obesity even be described as an epidemic), are we eating ourselves to death?

How many children will die of malnutrition between the start of this sentence and when I finish typing it? How many adults will die from over-nutrition?

Is there a resurgence in diseases like scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) in the Western world among the poor, the homeless and students? (yes)

Is equal access to clean nutritious food – or access to any food – a human rights issue? or merely something for the free marketplace to work out?

Has health been priced out of range for many people? Cheap fast food full of things that will slowly kill us, or expensive healthy food. Is organic food a status symbol? or is it available to any community gardener who cares about what they eat?

Is bottled water merely tap water in a container that will take thousands of years to break down and choke our ocean life who mistake it for their food?

Are modern luxury apartments being built without kitchens? Just enough space for a microwave, coffee machine, a drawer to hold take-out and home delivery menus, and a bar fridge big enough to hold the alcohol.

Does the trend towards no kitchen – and lack of cooking skills – symbolise affluence, or idiocy as we hand over control of our health (via our food) to corporations?

Are supermarkets selling pre-peeled, cored, and cut apples an advancement for civilisation? Are pre-skinned, chopped, and season baked potatoes, that only need heating the end of evolution and a sign we are now going backwards?

Is our relationship to food totally screwed up by marketing? Women’s magazines that feature ‘sinfully wicked’ desserts then describe people on diets as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Celebrity diets, that are a staple of a women’s magazines, (that coincidentally feature brands that happen to be sponsors), are wedged between articles on what supermodels ate for breakfast and how to get a Hollywood body in 8 minutes a day (the need for your own personal trainer and chef, doesn’t rate a mention) and royal “baby bumps”, and getting your pre-baby body back with the speed of lightning.

Do we starve for appearance and ignore nutrition? Or do we eat for health?

Is it true that models eat cotton wool soaked in orange juice? (who knows, but a search for “models eating cotton wool soaked in orange juice” got 145,000 results)

Are there online communities that encourage / support those with eating disorders? Are there men paying morbidly obese women to watch them eat via webcam?

Is the circle of life transformative? – seed plant food compost seed?
Or is it destructive – born suffer die?

Slow food, fast food, no food, too much food, junk food, clean food, food miles and food deserts, boycotts, meat-free mondays and heritage cattle and pigs.

And once last but important question – where have all the girls disappeared to from breakfast cereal commercials? Busy mums waiting on their boys in every way imaginable, but no girls.

Food is a political issue. We are what we eat.

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