Real Food is old and traditional. It’s sustainably grown, organic, and local. And it nourishes the soul as well as the body.
That’s because finding, cooking, and eating Real Food is a craft. I once heard that cooking was the only art form that uses all five senses. It engages the whole person, and as such rewards the whole person. Preparing Real Food isn’t just about good nutrition or ethics. It’s about becoming the people we are meant to be, becoming more fully human.
Why do I think Real Food is ennobling?
Firstly, because it helps us be producers rather than mere consumers. From the beginning, the story of Real Food is one of individual agency and competence. You save a seed, sprout it, plant it, nourish it, watch it grow, harvest it, prepare it, and then feed yourself and your loved ones a nutrient-dense meal. You can take pride in that. Even if you don’t grow your own food or care for the animals that feed you, you still experience the empowerment of finding that local source of raw milk or the best deal on eggs from pastured hens. You still experience the thrill of savoring perfectly ripe tomatoes, of eating cucumbers absent wax, of mastering traditional food preparation techniques. You can still know the joy of producing something tangible of value.
It’s the joy of work — the experience of the fruits of our labor, of meaning. Even in 1776 when Adam Smith wrote The Wealth of Nations, he saw what the coming tide of industrialization would mean. He saw how it would separate us from meaningful work and turn us into cogs in a machine, how it would take a nation of empowered producers and turn them into dependent consumers. And most importantly, he saw how this would affect our virtue as a people. Of the worker doing dull, repetitive jobs, he wrote: “The torpor of his mind renders him not only incapable of relishing or bearing a part in any rational conversation, but of conceiving any generous, noble, or tender sentiment, and consequently of forming any just judgment concerning many even of the ordinary duties of private life.”
In contrast, work at this level — the level of the craftsman — requires virtue. When it comes to eating Real Food, a host of virtues comes to mind:
- Patience ~ Whether you’re waiting for the changing seasons to bring you your favorite foods, waiting for the sauerkraut to ferment to its peak flavor, or waiting for your chili to simmer into a glorious and hearty stew, you\’re waiting.
- Self-control ~ It takes a certain level of discipline (dare I say asceticism?) to abstain from eating the out of season produce that’s available year round at your local grocery store.
- Kindness & Gentleness ~ Particularly in the realm of animal husbandry, we now know that humanely raised animals produce healthier, more nutrient-dense meat & dairy.
Secondly, I believe Real Food is ennobling because it is beautiful. Of course, I love Wendell Berry, and he once wrote, “If a thing is ugly, I think we need to ask questions about it. How did it get that way? What else is wrong?” While that applies to many aspects of our life, it can particularly apply to Real Food. What could be uglier than chicken nuggets dipped in a high-fructose laden yellow vinegar sauce that passes for mustard? Oh wait! I know! The factory farm that produced those chicken nuggets. Everything about industrialized food production is ugly. That is a tell-tale sign that something is painfully, terribly wrong.
On the other hand, Real Food conjures up pastoral images of dairy farmers sending their cows out to fields of lush green grass. Real Food is as appealing to the eye as it is to the palette.
I don’t think I need to explain why Beauty itself is ennobling, but for those who want me to connect the dots, the two quotations that leap to mind first are these:
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” ~from Phillipians 4:8
“Beauty will save the world.” ~Fyodor Doestoevsky
In otherwords, God is beautiful, and encountering Beauty is a way to experience the divine. What could possibly be more ennobling than that?
I want to hear your thoughts about this! What virtues do you think eating Real Food inspires in you?
In addition to being much more philosophical than my usual posts, this post is also part of today’s Real Food Wednesday blog carnival, hosted by Kelly The Kitchen Kop.
(photo by abbyladybug)