Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Part of the World: Eating

For the intro to this series, see here.

Living as a part of the world isn't easy. For one thing, it's not a one-off decision, a one-step process. It took millenia for our human cultures to stray this far from nature; it'll take more than a few months (and a few articles by yours truly) to get back.

A second significant barrier that stands in the way of living as part of the world presents itself when we start looking for how (exactly) we're supposed to do that. My topic for this initial article is eating as part of the world, and for an example of what I mean, read here, here, and here.

See? Everyone has their own idea of what the most natural diet is like. Raw foodists believe that we should eat everything raw, because our most primitive ancestors wouldn't have had the capability of cooking food. Mark's Primal Blueprint advocates eating plenty of meat, because "Grok" would have had to eat meat to fill out his diet through the bare winter months. And fruitarians . . . well, I have to confess that I think fruitarians are a little bit weird. The point is that every one of them claims that their collective lifestyle (because it becomes more than just eating, you know) is the most natural, which is why you should be following it with them!

So what's a neophyte Ishmaelite (Ishmaelist? Ishmaelian?) to do? How do you determine which style of eating is actually the most natural, the closest to the world, and therefore (we suppose) the most beneficial?

Um, I don't think you can.

What you have to do, I think, is determine first what manner of eating is going to make the most sense for you. I, for example, tried to eat raw. It was a mess. I am not going to be able to eat raw all day every day (at least at this point in my life). Nothing wrong with that. You can eat healthy and be healthy without being a raw foodist. Furthermore, there's no reason to assume that you have to agree with one of these pre-fabricated eating plans; you can figure out your own way as you go along.

That said, you need to follow your common sense and your conscience. Common sense should tell you that high fructose corn syrup is not good and natural, no matter what they say. Use your brain (and a little low-key research) to figure out which foods (and food additives, if you must) are naturally-occurring. From there, your conscience takes over. In your heart, do you believe that people really shouldn't be eating animals? Do you prefer only to eat foods that would have been available to your ancestors? Do you draw the line at corn on the cob? Corn meal? Corn syrup? These are questions that need to be addressed individually, according to what you know and what you believe.

In short, I can't tell you how you should eat. What I can do is give you a few broad guidelines as a starting point for eating as part of the world.
  1. Make your own food. You don't want nasty additives (unnecessary sweeteners, flavorings and colorings, preservatives) in your food. You don't want HFCS. You don't want MSG. The best way to ensure that those things are not in your food is to make your food yourself. Come on. This is your first step. Stop buying convenience foods. No more TV dinners. No more 100 calorie bags of snacks. No more spray cheese. No more canned pasta sauce. Do you really need those things? No. Make good, clean food for yourself!
  2. Grow your own food. If you can buy produce, good; if you can buy organic, even better. If you can grow your own, though, that's the best. And you can make it as easy or as extreme as you like. Maybe you keep a few potted herbs on your counter so you don't have to buy dried. Maybe you buy a bison every year, slaughter it, and freeze the meat (I really did know a family that did that). You have options here, you know.
  3. Store your own food. Connect the dots from the last two. You want all-natural applesauce. You happen to have some apples from a tree in your backyard. See where I'm going with this? Canning isn't that difficult!
Sacrifices will have to be made, but you can make them gradually. And you can pick and choose which ones to make. One of the advantages to the advances that we've made, culturally, is that we have consistent availability of a large variety of food. I can eat kiwi. My ancestors wouldn't have eaten kiwi. Grok probably wouldn't have eaten kiwi. But I get to eat kiwi. And you know what? I really like kiwi. So I'm gonna have kiwi, every now and then.

The point of all this "part of the world" stuff isn't to see how tough we can make it on ourselves; it's not an exercise in some survivalist mentality. The overarching purpose is to begin re-submitting ourselves to the laws of nature--those same laws which we've spent years conquering.

Because as long as we willingly choose not to follow the same rules as the rest of the world--exempting ourselves from drought, famine, natural disasters--we won't have a good reason for actively caring for the world. So keep the big picture in mind. What and how you eat is important, but it's about more than simply being healthy.

It's about being part of the world.

Beautiful stock photo by FantasyStock, not me!


  1. I think you are so spot on! As close as you can get to the source, the better. I am going to have to disagree on the canning thing though. I HATE to can. It makes a huge mess, takes a big investment in jars and lids and I always end up paranoid that I am going to poison us with the canned food I make. Instead, this year I dehydrated which I like much better. I plan on investing in a really nice dehydrator next year. Freezing works better for me than canning as well.

  2. I feed my dogs raw. They get a fully home prepared diet of raw meat. I add in some fruit and veggies and a sweet potato here and there. As far as MY diet goes - I eat breakfast every morning, and I try to have a balanced and nutritious diet but omg it's so hard some days. I am a FRITO addict.

  3. I like the dehydrating and canning ideas. Those are quicker and cleaner. But there's something old-timey about canning that I really enjoy. Or at least think is cool enough to expend the time and effort.

    And Fritos, Judi?! Fritos?!

    Maybe we should have an open forum for sharing unclean food sins, because I certainly have my share . . .

  4. I've read a whole bunch of books of people telling me how I HAVE TO eat. I read the Paleo Diet, and found it to be bullshit (or some of the specifics anyway). I read Diet for a New America, and while I would really like to be vegan, it's just not practical in the real world. I read Sugar Blues, and well, the man was a bit miguided. I think you're right that the best thing that we can do is just be INFORMED about what we're eating, and make good decisions on a case-by-case basis. I think the big problem is not just that people don't know shit about food, but that Americans eat too much. Period.

    And does anyone REALLY eat spray cheese? Eew, gross!