01.10.2011

Sow Reverence

Respect for food nurtures the soul and it's vital that we acknowledge the true cost of producing real food
There is no topic so important in the issue of food as that of reverence and, as I am sure you may know, I'm a very big fan of it. We can rightly define reverence as profound awe and respect and as this has disappeared from our societal culture, so has our personal and ecological health. That everything we need to thrive and live a deeply meaningful life is provided for us by nature is profoundly awe-inspiring. From materials to build shelter, to our use of precious metals in our computers, to the foods that nourish and those that heal, we are provided for abundantly. (I know at this point there may be some who say, 'Well what about places like Somalia and the many who are starving?' I would say it is not nature that has deserted these people, but the play of politics, power, greed and the intervention of 'civilisation' - but that is a huge topic.) I know, dear reader, you've heard me say before how much I love the American tradition of Thanksgiving and even though it has become corrupted and commercialised, it does still have the power to make people stop for just a few seconds and perhaps remember just how much we have to be grateful for.Reverence, and I would suggest, respect, has disappeared from many aspects of our culture today, and I believe this drives the continuing devaluation of life, nature and the food we eat. Only a society that has lost touch with itself and nature could consider the monopolisation and betrayal of our food supply that is the GMO, the ownership of seed and genetic material, the way in which we farm and kill animals and indeed the way in which we farm grain, vegetables and fruits. It is a profound devaluation of life at every single level and I believe it's a major contributing cause to the anger in our young and teenagers - the soul always knows betrayal at some level.

It doesn't help that food and meals themselves have simply become another commodity, not only in how we grow the food itself, but in the manner it is portrayed on the current crop of TV cooking programs. The message in most of them is that it doesn't really matter where it comes from or how it was grown (and sorry, a "free range" egg or chicken doesn't cut it for me) as long as long as it looks tricky and cool, and is "plated" well.

I have to tell you, I was never a Nigella Lawson fan until I met her this year at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, and now I am her biggest fan. She talks scathingly of the celebrity foodie and celebrity chef, and how they are contributing to many good and simple home cooks feeling as if they are not good enough. Her feeling is that, fundamentally, we cook to feed and nourish ourselves and those we love and that this is a deeply profound act. We need to seriously remember this. To be fair, I know some of the shows are trying to include sustainability in its many forms. But that tiny effort is, for me, blown out of the water when I see them cook just about everything in plastic and triumph how a food looks and tastes over how it was grown and processed.

There are many ways we can begin to seed reverence back into our lives and thus culture.

Insist that your food be grown in harmony and with respect for the ecosystem.Insist that your food be grown with respect for life itself - all life, not just the animal that we might eat. Let's include microbes in the soil and bees, for example.Be prepared to pay the true cost of real food. Every time you buy the cheaper home brand (usually imported or highly processed) tin fruit or such, you are diminishing the market for an Australian grower. You can't have it both ways - demand high wages (as we do in Australia) yet not be prepared to pay the resulting higher cost for the product. The loss of many pear trees in Victoria and plum trees in WA is a direct result of farmers not being able to compete with cheaper imports, and the closure of much of SPC Ardmona's activities in Australia.Be prepared to pay the true cost of animal products. An animal or its products that have been grown with respect for its life and death is going to cost you a lot more.Give respect to and value the time it takes to cook. Without doubt, the comment I hear most is the lack of time in a busy life to cook. Cooking, and indeed holding the centre of the home, used to be something that was respected and valued. We need to find some way to come back to this. This also includes remembering that a real meal is not a frozen commercial meal.Eat together as a family as much as possible. Set the table. Remember your meal doesn't have to look like something out of a photo shoot.Find a way to give thanks that sits comfortably for you. It may be a prayer or song, it may or may not include "God" or "Nature", but it's incredibly important.

You'll find Jude's recipe this month for Sticky Chicken and Vegetable Dinner in our Recipes archive

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