THE HUMAN IS AN ANIMAL, and animals need food. The decline in the quality of our food began with the Agricultural Revolution, accelerated with the Industrial Revolution, and has now reached a sad and dangerous low. It is time for us to reclaim the dignity, beauty, and sustainability of real food, our birthright, and a blessing to our children.
Most Americans are now overweight and fully a third are obese. A disproportionate number of the afflicted are poor. Diabetes alone accounts for 10% of all medical care costs in the United States and heart disease 17%. Rates of cancer, stroke, and other diseases that corollate closely to poor nutrition and toxified food continue to rise. Yet the US government continues to subsidize agribusiness and create ever more obstacles for struggling small farmers and food artisans. This perpetuates the flood of corn syrup, dangerous industrial seed oils including corn and soy, and the brutal system of grain and soy fed, confinement raised animals. This is wrong. This must be changed.
We are part of a food revolution, which is part of the broader revolution of our time, a revolution in consciousness, politics, and society. It is meaningless to seek good nourishment while perpetuating an economy that is killing the Earth. It is unjust to insist upon the well being of the animals we eat without also insisting on the well being of billions of humans locked in an exploitative and undemocratic system. We stand in solidarity with the community of life, with indigenous cultures, with true revolutionaries everywhere, guided, in the words of Ernesto Guevara, by a great feeling of love.
- We are what we eat. We are also what what we eat eats. When we eat healthy beings prepared with love and respect, we are truly nourished.
- Real food must nourish. If food does not promote physical and soul health, it is not real food.
- The primary goal of any acceptable food system must be the betterment of the total community. This includes eaters, chefs, artisans, farmers, hunters, gatherers, cultivated plants and animals, the wild beings whom we eat, all other wild beings with whom they (and we) coexist, the soil, the water, the air. Any food system (or anything else) that is detrimental to any of these elements must be rejected, resisted, and replaced.
- Food should delight. Any acceptable food system must value the aesthetic. Elegance and beauty feed our souls and we should strive to reclaim the respect all non-industrialized cultures gave to aesthetics and eros throughout the ages.
- Healthy foods taste good. While some unhealthy foods are addictive, they are never appealing to a palate that knows quality. We must dispel the myth that tasty foods are bad for us while boring, unappealing foods are good. We must dispel the lies about healthy animal fats and salt. The enjoyment of eating is a cornerstone of a happy life.
- Genuine creativity does not compromise ethics. Seductive techniques that require the disposal of plastic, the use of unsustainable energy, the use of chemicals, stabilizers, and enzymes that could never exist as such in a non-industrialized society, should be avoided. With creativity, patience, and a willingness to learn from tradition, we can produce better food sustainably.
- Any business that cannot achieve a profit without harming the community of life has no right to exist and should be stopped. It is necessary to achieve a profit, but this may never be achieved at the expense of the human community or the community of life of which we are part.
- Monetary profits should enrich the human and non-human community. It is unseemly and wrong to market sustainable food (or anything) as a means to hoard wealth, foster greed, or engage in consumerism. True profit is not monetary. As Wendell Berry writes,
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit.
- The industrial food system is irredeemable. It is irredeemable because it requires fossil fuel for transport and processing energy, for fertilizer, for the poison it spreads across the Earth. It is irredeemable because it destroys soil, aquifers, waterways, oceans, and biodiversity. It also destroys traditional societies. It is a war on life. It is irredeemable because it is driven by the lust for ever more concentrated monetary wealth. It is irredeemable because it is controlled by the unaccountable few while pushing vast costs onto the disenfranchised many. It is irredeemable because its cruelty and destructiveness are intrinsic, not products of “a few bad apples.”
- The industrial food system produces bad food. It tastes bad and it is bad for us. It is not real food.
- We are preparing to help our communities survive the crash. The industrial food system is unsustainable, so it will collapse, whether or not we resist it, but we should resist it, and prepare our communities for the crash. The most essential preparation will be the (re)building of sustainable local food systems.
- The monolithic industrial system will not be replaced by a one-size-fits-all sustainable food system. Systems and the food they produce must be as distinct as the landbases of which they are part. Foods and techniques that are appropriate in one place will not be appropriate in all others. We should celebrate the uniqueness of our place in what we grow and eat, rather than deny its character by trying to have everything, everywhere, all the time.
- Real food should not be a niche product for the rich but a right for all. We must do all we can to educate people on healthful and sustainable food and build a local food system efficient and varied enough to meet their needs for nutrition and pleasure.
- It’s time for chefs to grow up. Abusiveness and tantrums are not marks of genius but symptoms of immaturity and sociopathy. The long reigning kitchen culture, defined by negative reinforcement, shaming, misogyny, racism, homophobia, glorified substance abuse, callousness toward living beings, wastefulness, and disdain for ethics, must go. The kitchen culture we choose to manifest is defined by cooperation, mutual and self respect, creativity, constructive criticism, traditional wisdom, thrift, and a non-coercive hierarchy in which the more experienced and accomplished individuals earn the right to lead so long as they help and tutor others.
- Food is medicine. Look up any wild food in a good foraging guide and you will find its medicinal as well as culinary uses. Foods alter our bodies. Eating the wrong foods can do us a great deal of harm. Eating well helps keep us well, and when we are unwell, it helps make us well.
- The more raw and more full of life a food is, the better. Raw is generally better than cooked. Cooked less is generally better than cooked more. Low temperature cooking is generally better than high. Raw, fermented, live foods with active enzymes and probiotics are powerful and should be eaten daily.
- Grain production is almost always destructive of soil, under current practices. Small production in a diverse horticulture can be sustainable (i.e. corn as part of “the Three Sisters”), and with proper treatment, namely some combination of nixtamalization, sprouting, fermenting, soaking, and slow cooking, can be made tasty and reasonably healthful. But even then, they remain energy dense, nutrient poor foods. They should be treated as occasional elements in a diverse diet based in nutrient dense foods, rather than the staple of a narrow diet.
- We must strive to create a closed loop food system. This means a system with no waste, as in nature.
- We must learn from the cultures that understand sustainability. Since there are or were indigenous cultures that lived sustainably in dynamic equilibrium with their landbases in virtually every inhabitable place on Earth, we would do well to learn all we can from them as we seek delicious, healthful, sustainable ways to eat wherever we are.
The original Vinlanders were Vikings from Iceland and Greenland, the first Western people known to have settled in North America. They did so in the years following Leifr Eiríksson’s arrival here in 1000 C.E. Though we do not know the precise location of Vinland, and it may have been anywhere from Virginia to Newfoundland, it probably included Maine. We seek to embrace and honor the courage, resilience, and adventurousness of the Vinlanders, while recognizing and learning from their mistakes, the worst of which was their antagonism toward the indigenous.
We are Westerners living in North America. That cannot be denied. As Westerners, we seek to embody the best in our cultural heritage and rid it of its profound flaws. As chefs of the North Atlantic bioregion, we note our particular debt to the new Nordic food movement. Just as the original Vinlanders lived beyond the known reach of the world, we, too, are pushing into the unknown, building on the culinary and ecological ethos of Noma, Faviken, and their kin and transforming it, through contact with this magnificent continent and its indigenous people, into something radical and new, yet, in other ways, as old as the land.
We are seeking to begin again, not as occupiers this time, but as participants. We hope, belatedly, to learn from the rightful inheritors of this land. We hope to honor the indigenous and the myriad non-humans who have been so grievously harmed by Western culture. We hope to earn their welcome as we seek to build, together, a vibrant, indigenous, wild future.
Recommended Books and Talks:
- The Omnivore’s Dilemma, The Botany of Desire, and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
- Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon
- The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith
- Good Calories, Bad Calories and Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes
- Wild Fermentation, The Art of Fermentation, and The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved by Sandor Ellix Katz
- Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price
- Real Food by Nina Planck
- The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain
- Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets
- Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman
- The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch
- Against the Grain by Richard Manning
- Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions by Lame Deer as told to Richard Erdoes
- Walden by Henry David Thoreau
- Collapse by Jared Diamond
- Ishmael by Daniel Quinn
- Endgame by Derrick Jensen
- Dan Barber: Foie Gras Parable (TED)
- Dan Barber: How I Fell in Love with a Fish (TED)
- Willie Smits: How to Restore a Rainforest (TED)
- Paul Stamets: Six Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World (TED)
- Terry Wahls: Minding Your Mitochondria (TEDxIowaCity)
- Peter Bauer on Rewilding
David Levi: Revolution: It’s What’s for Dinner (TEDxUNE)