Greetings, Feministe folks. I’m excited to be guest posting here again.
Some of you may know me as the founding editor and publisher of Bitch: Feminist Response to Pop Culture. Since leaving Bitch I’ve done a bunch of different things, many of which are too boring to talk about. But one of interesting ones (if I do say so myself) is that I wrote a cookbook. It’s called Cook Food: A Manualfesto for Easy, Healthy Local Eating, and its goal is to give people who want to eat more local and unprocessed foods the tools they need to put their food politics into practice.
A lot of people who know me from the earlier part of my professional life have been kinda surprised by this turn of events. So I thought I’d start this week with a little background on it all came about.
About six years ago, when food miles and hydrogenated oils were both starting to make news, I had a new coworker who was superhardcore in her commitment to veganism and whole foods (that would be eating unprocessed things, not the union-busting grocery chain with the anti-health-care-reform CEO). As she and I became friends, we talked endlessly about the politics and ethics of food, the connections between those politics and seemingly unrelated social justice movements, the health benefits of unrefined food, and all sorts of tasty cooking ideas.
As my interest grew in the consequences of our industrialized food system both macro (the carbon footprint of wintertime plums flown in from Chile, oceanic dead zones caused by manure-filled runoff from factory farms) and micro (eating sugar and white flour makes me sleepy, and if I eat one piece of candy I usually end up eating 12 and feeling like I’ve poisoned myself), eating locally was becoming a trend and the news was full of stories about salmonella-tainted spinach and tomatoes, melamine-tainted milk and eggs, meat recalls, and popcorn-factory workers getting lung disease from artificial-butter fumes.
A bunch of high-profile writers have been covering this for quite a while lately, so it’s likely not news to you, but it all bears repeating: The average bite of food travels 1,500 miles from where it’s grown to where it is eaten. Monoculture crops and centralized food distribution vastly increase the likelihood of outbreaks of foodborne illnesses. U.S. farm subsidies benefit massive corporate farmers using huge amounts of chemical inputs on their monoculture crops—much of which will be processed into animal feed, high-fructose corn syrup, and other products of dubious value—at the expense of small farmers growing food that can be eaten, by people, without further ado. These subsidies enable the processed, packaged food that fills the middle of the supermarket and derives its nutrition, if it has any at all, from vitamins added back in after they’ve been stripped out in processing. Farmworkers labor under dangerous conditions for very little pay. With only a few hard-to-find exceptions, animals are raised on factory farms under hideous conditions. In short, the U.S. food system—which, through globalization and other related forces, reverberates worldwide—has been designed and built by agribusiness to maximize profits. People who eat food and live with the consequences of this food system (not to mention the animals that are used for food by those of us who choose to eat meat, eggs, and dairy products) lose big.
But knowing all this doesn’t necessarily mean you can put any of it into practice in your own life unless you have some other skills as well. And the chef-worshipping, refined-palate-fetishizing aspects of foodie culture make cooking out to be this rarefied skill set beyond the reach of average people. Nothing could be further from the truth. Cooking a tasty, wholesome meal is easy, and anyone who learns a few simple techniques can do it. I wanted to make a quick tool to teach those techniques.
I’m also really excited by the fact that thinking about food this way intersects with so many feminist/social justice issues, from general and huge ones like labor practices and environmental health to more specific ones like the struggle to relate to our bodies through making them feel strong and good rather than making them look “good” as defined by a dysfuntional culture.
So that’s the short version of how Cook Food came to be.
A few other things I’d like to mention: There’s an interview with me on Salon today, by the ever-awesome Jaclyn Friedman, coeditor of Yes Means Yes and all-around smarty-pants. (Plus, there are already some fat shamers and MRAs commenting there, so feminist support would be much appreciated!)
Also, I’m blogging about food and stuff at www.cook-food.org, where there are also places to talk about your favorite foods, share recipes, and whatnot—I’d love it if you stopped by. And I have also gotten over my social-media aversion and gotten to tweeting, so you can follow me, @cook_food, if you’re so inclined.
Next up: fat.