Thursday, August 22, 2013

"The Destiny of Nations Depends on the Manner in Which They Are Fed"

Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin
If Brillat-Savarin lived today, I suspect he might join the upper ranks of foodies who shamelessly indulge in food snobbery.  But for all his complex notions and intricate philosophies, Brillat's expertise is rooted in common sense and that's something I have to admire in a man of his era who was also involved in law and politics which aren't exactly synonymous with common sense.

His list of aphorisms elicited a range of reactions from me stretching from almost incredulous curiosity (cheese with every dessert?) to vigorous agreement. Given my avid interest the subject of America's food supply control, Brillat's aphorism III - "The destiny of nations depends on the manner in which they are fed" - intrigued me.  Such old words but so universally applicable.  It immediately brought Marie Antoinette to mind.  Let them eat cake.  A starving working class is not sustainable. Something will always give, death or revolution.

Those uneducated in the ways of food (which represents a sizable chunk of America's population) are provided the Standard American Diet.  A diet rich in synthetically engineered tastes, cocktails of hormones and antibiotics, and nutrient-deficient meals that bear little resemblance to the meals of their food-savvy counterparts.  In my country we have obese people with nutrient deficiencies.  We have children that can't tell a potato from a tomato (as shown in a clip during Jamie Oliver's TedTalks presentation) and we have largely lost control of our food supply to a monopoly that is well known for its compromised ethics.

Conversely, awareness of health, quality, and ethical issues surrounding food has grown exponentially in the past decade.  Community gardens are sprouting on rooftops and demand for clean, high quality food increases.  There is an urban farm movement and a small homesteading movement that is alive and growing rapidly.  Heirloom plants and seeds are making a comeback and there are groups devoted to preserving the biodiversity that genetically modified crops destroy.  These things bode well.  But there is friction in this area of our lives.  And strain.  The future of how succeeding generations feed themselves is still hanging in the balance.  The current paradigm, like a starved workforce, is unsustainable.  And I wonder what the destiny of our nation is?

1 comment:

  1. Laura, if you haven't dived into the next section of our readings yet, I think you are really going to enjoy it. It explores the incongruities that exist, especially with the American perspective of food. I like the quote you chose from Brillat-Savarin's Physiology of Taste, for it reflects the importance of food politically, socially, economically and more, and why I thought this was going to be such a great topic for our Blog Camp group.