These days, YES. Until the 1950s, all food was local and organic. Let that sink in. Think about it the next time someone accuses you of being an “elitist” because of your food choices. These days, if we want to eat sustainably produced food that’s humanely raised and traditionally prepared, we’re food renegades.
In many places, we’re even outlaws.
In the current regulatory environment, the rules make small-scale traditional food production and distribution almost impossible. Selling home-baked bread, or any food prepared in a home kitchen, is prohibited by most, if not all, health codes in the United States. Livestock for sale (with the exception of pultry, in most places) may not be slaughtered by the farmers who raise them; instead they must be trucked to anonymous factory-like commercial slaughterhouses. Milk and other dairy products may not be sold without pasteurization, which diminishes nutritional quality, digestibility, and flavor. Cider, too, is nearly always required to be pastuerized or irradiated. In other words, real food, increasingly illegal, is being replaced by processed food products. Laws dictating food standards are driven by the model of mass production, where sterility and uniformity are everything, rendering much of the trade in local food technically illegal. Eating well has become an act of civil disobedience.
He then goes on to chronicle a “bread club” that started in 2002 when a local person (kept anonymous in the book) decided to bake delicious sourdough breads and distribute them to neighbors and friends. With time, a sort of local foods underground sprang up around the social event as participants brought homemade raw cheeses to trade, raw milk, free-range eggs, and seasonal produce. The person who started the program (B.) always wondered if or when the health department would swoop in. B. said:
Hopefully we can just remain under the radar, but in other ways, if they do crack down, I almost hope for confrontation, because I think this is a rebellion that might explode in their faces if they try. You just don’t mess with people’s food.
The night before last, my husband sat out under the stars smoking a cigar and becoming acquainted with some new friends who tend 700 acres not far from us. They, too, were under the distinct impression that everything they wanted to do was illegal. The most natural, nourishing, sustainable practices are regulated to such a degree that it’s actually ludicrous. Laws are written with Big Ag in mind, not small-scale producers.
“Growing your own food is a dangerous, revolutionary act,” the young rancher said.
My husband nodded his head.
But herein lies the hope: We are the change we want to see in the world. Despite the law, that bread club exists. Despite the law, I regularly consume raw milk. (I have to jump through a series of minute legal loopholes in order to do it, but I do it.) Despite the law, I have friends raising chickens in their backyards and enjoying the benefits of a regular supply of fresh eggs. Despite the law, I buy baked goods at my church’s bake sale. All this, despite the law.
Like B. said, you just don’t mess with people’s food. They will find a way. And they will transform the world one bite at a time.
This post is part of the Real Food Wednesday carnival hosted by Cheeseslave. For other stories, anecdotes, recipes, and posts relating to Real Food, go check it out!
(photo by cafemama)