Culture / Food

The stuff we put in our mouths (or why I’m a foodie)

Venice

PHOTO CREDIT: ALAN SHANNON

Alan Shannon has written for a variety of publications, including Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times publications, Chicago’s Windy City Times, Viva, AAA Living, and several others. He prefers to write about food and travel, but for the the right price will write about anything. His favorite meal – other than his last one – was dinner with his husband and family at the tiny and traditional Corte Sconta in Venice.

 

 

 


The day before this year’s Valentine’s Day, I was nearly marooned in Washington D.C. because of a snowstorm. Hundreds of flights were cancelled, including mine.

I was given a few options: wait several days before I “might” be able to fly home to Chicago, or drive back. Since Valentine’s Day was the following day, I set off in a rental car as the storm barreled up the East Coast.

I haven’t eaten at a McDonald’s for years for two reasons: the food often makes me ill, and I don’t like food that contains—as Michael Pollan describes it—food-like substances. But I couldn’t be choosy while trekking through the Maryland and Pennsylvania mountains. So, I stopped at a McDonald’s and ate a fish sandwich. An hour later, I was overcome with nausea and was reminded why I don’t eat that crap.

When I tell this story to friends, I get some eye rolls. But if you knew what was in much of the food we eat, you might think different.

I work with lots of good food organizations, including farmer’s markets, organic farmers and small food companies. Learning about how much of our food is made and what’s in it has made me much more selective about what I put in my mouth.

Gays have a reputation for having higher standards. Marketing research shows we’re more likely to embrace new trends. We are early adopters. But in the area of food, we seem to be lagging.

Because I’m out and proud about my food preferences, I’ve had many conversations about food. And I’ve learned that for many, spending more on food is considered a waste. I meet many people who don’t mind spending money on a BMW or nice clothes, but balk at the prices at farmer’s markets. Shouldn’t we be more concerned with what we put in our mouths than the cars we drive or the clothes we wear?

It wouldn’t be so bad if Americans were merely missing out on great tasting food because of our tendency to consume processed and fast foods. But the food we’re eating is killing us. In fact, a recent United Nations report concludes that cheap, processed foods are contributing to increases in health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

PHOTO CREDIT: ALAN SHANNON

PHOTO CREDIT: ALAN SHANNON

Particularly for parents, good food seems a no brainer. We want the best schools for our children, the best neighborhoods, and the best of nearly everything, but many of us draw the line at food. If we can buy cheap food for so much less, why spend more for food that sometimes doesn’t seem to taste that much better? But there’s a lot contained in food that can’t be seen or, oftentimes, tasted. Also, if our soil and water are poisoned to produce the food, or animals are mistreated, or there are traces of pesticides in the food, aren’t those good enough reasons to opt for good food?

As friends who created Food Patriots—a film that aims to raise awareness about our contemporary food system—suggest, making a change doesn’t have to be cataclysmic. Perhaps it can involve the simple commitment to purchase 10% local food. Or to buy anti-biotic free meat. Or to participate in Meatless Mondays. Or to shop at a farmer’s market.

Anything counts, and any act helps support healthier food systems. Buying good food also benefits American farmers, many of whom are struggling financially.

You’re likely to have better health and your kids are likely to have better health. And you may find that after you eat good food for a year or so, you won’t be able to eat at McDonald’s either.

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3 Comments

  1. I feel EXACTLY the same after eating McDonald’s and always tell myself I’ll never do it again, but inevitable it happens because often it is the only place open or nearby.

  2. Solidarity. Before kids I had very very healthy local eating habits. After kids I really fell into routines. I have explanation after explanation for why I fall to convenience foods (single parenting, time, avoiding the “I don’t like it” fight). Interestingly now that I am separating from the kids dad I find it easier to manage the shift I want to make. This post is timely!

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