Saturday, 22 November 2014

Food Revival

When people are into things, they are into those things. When people are into nothing in particular, they talk 'obesity'. There isn't one interest, inclination, field, topic, subject, vocation that anyone's into that is enriched by the 'obesity' monologue.

Take food deserts, there's a story to tell there......but......through the dehumanized narrative of 'obesity'? Doubt it.

Neither the shape nor the tone lends itself  producing fruitful indeed real discussion. It puts people on the defensive. And no, I don't mean fat people, or even slim people claiming to not eat what they eat, until "junk food tax" is mentioned, then suddenly, "Why should I have to suffer?"

I mean people can't seem to locate an honest historical flow-it's like 'obesity' shreds that because it is itself so inherently ahistorical. After all, it starts from denying the actions people actually take because it cannot acknowledge the usual results of those actions.

People ask in their usual disingenuous way: "Why doesn't fat acceptance fight against food deserts?" But to be honest I don't get any connection. It feels tacked on, similar to the insistence on talking about and supporting weight loss dieting.

Trying to get all fat people to support anything that ties them to a fat phobic agenda.

Whilst fat acceptance definitely has a race problem, this isn't intersectional fail. Nothing trades more on white privilege than 'obesity' bullshit. The idea that controlling your food intake is the answer to structural problems is apolitical mind pap.

If you want to talk about why people eat what they eat today, you're going to be talking about cultural pressures both internal and external, lived, memories, intra and extra-migration, then talk about that. Most of all, you'll be talking about people with love, with heart, with soul. Do you hear any of that in the ob monologue? Of course you don't. Why would casting people as disease to be run like objects be about the reality of human experience?

I was sensitized to calories in/out healthy eating from quite an early age. Certain changes in the modern Western model food environment became clearer. 

Supermarkets were retreating from urban centres to the outskirts and suburbs, led by the US. The fashion in business seemed to be highest profit margins.

What struck me over and again was despite Black social commentators, activists, professionals like social workers et al's frequent commentary on things like drugs, the sex trade, unemployment, liquor stores on every corner etc., I heard virtually nil about changes in the food environment.

The attitude to food seemed different, carefree almost. Despite the frequent pretense that middle class people "know more about nutrition."

Whilst I'm more aware of news agendas, I know if the talk had been half as intense, I would have picked up on something. Cultural memes turn up wherever there's a critical mass of cultural commentary. I found it truly odd that more prominent Black people did not seem to be giving voice to this or any potential implications etc., Whereas I, in my nervous earnest soul was concerned, for the future.

I was the kind of kid who felt like they died a little inside, every time I saw an abandoned sofa/fridge/vacuum cleaner. I kept thinking about the earth's resources-how could we carry on like this?

In those days I was more on board with the basis of 'obesity' crisis narrative, because, ci/co. I got that we needed to lessen weight through eating (less) and increase output-through activity. I also got at some early point, that this did not make sense as an individual thing.

Losses of certain things were seen in terms of working toward or against that calorie restriction/expenditure model. The streets used to be played in by children, then they were ceded to the motor car and children went indoors. Our swimming baths and other facilities were being shut down. We stopped being given cookery lessons at school. Provision of school dinners meals went from meals to a replication of fast food canteen.

Fast food outlets were liberally permitted by councils to be within spitting distance of schools. School playing fields were sold off. The "No ball games" sign appeared everywhere and were enforced more and more rigourously. Fast food restaurants appeared in hospitals. Everyone of them sent my anxiety a little higher.

I wasn't so much a food prude as a someone struggling with self imposed restriction. With my schizoid diet and ramped up eating disorder, I often ate there the same calorie dense food as others, along with my "healthy" diet. I was pragmatically self denying- if all this hadn't been there, that would be an assist for me.

In the end it was about intent. If you insist on lowering calories, every decision you make in regards to the food environment- becomes part of or against that process. That's intrinsic to such such a crude methodology. If you weren't prepared for it-completely understandable, it's crap. So pick another route or stop demanding people be slim via that route.

At the same time, industrial food continued penetrating seemingly every crevice. I still remember the shock of hearing that a certain FF giant, directly targeted research and endeavour at the youngest children. Many didn't know. By the time they did, it was old news to me and they still didn't care a whole lot. Though people are making a fuss about that now, most didn't And that includes middle class white people.

But no. By the time FF entering hospitals was lost-and to be fair some did protest-I realised I was done expecting this to be implimented. You cannot fight the will of those who have the voice. I was broken by their indifference, lol.

I really just like this piece. In just over 600 words, it tells me more about a basis of the formation of some food deserts-in this case rural, rather than urban. Than anything tacking itself onto the 'obesity' monologue. What is it? A restaurant (pre-)review.

A guy called Sean Sherman, who's a Native American and grew up on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota plans to open a restaurant featuring his interpretation of pre-colonial first nation cuisine. I was skeptical, is this another one of those return to Stone Age diet fantasies? But I read on and he set it in context of wider historical forces affecting many groups in US society and first nation people in particular.

Change happened as part of what was seen at the time as progress. A shared cultural capital, in this case food. You can see this on a larger scale with, especially US Fast food littering the globe.

When this began outside the US, people spoke in glowing terms about this food. It was it. The cat's whiskers. A shared global breaking of bread. There's a psychology that's not the usual nonsensical faddiction distraction.

In the case of the Sioux, [Sherman's restaurant is to be called "Sioux Chef"] they were not by choice farmers. That became an imposition of colonial conquest and reservation life. Before they were hunters, fishers and foragers.
Growing up on his grandfather's ranch on Pine Ridge, one of the nation's largest reservations, Sherman had regular access to fresh meat and produce. He also learned to hunt at an early age, getting his first shotgun when he was 8 years old. But the chef is quick to admit his upbringing was atypical. "I was lucky," he told Mic. "Most of the families around us relied on canned and 'commodity' foods. There was one grocery store on Pine Ridge, otherwise you had to go into Nebraska or somewhere in Rapid City [South Dakota.]."
That makes so much more sense doesn't it?

Sherman portrayal reminds me of something I complained about years ago, the negativity of the 'obese' monologue. It assaults people, rather than looking at their current skills, recognizing those and building on them. Not to mention those of their elders, parents, grand-parents which may have fallen by the wayside as things can. This could have been a point of exploration of revival and inter-generational communication.
He's spent the past six years traveling the country, however, researching Native American cuisine and learning traditional methods of drying meats, grinding corn and gathering herbs and spices. He's also been active in Minneapolis' local and organic food scene, something which figures prominently in his vision for the Sioux Chef.
Revival and yes, fashion, trends, joined with genuine enthusiasm and love, for food, for history, for culture and recovering what has been lost, what is valuable, for its own sake. 

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