Introducing “One Hundred Meals – Building Community At America’s Table”
written by Ellen and Grant
Recently, Grant and I had an opportunity to sit down with some “industrial farming” folks over breakfast, on the invitation of the US Farmers & Ranchers Alliance. The group, which appears to have deep ties to Big Ag, was formed to help American farmers and ranchers of all stripes and sizes connect with the American public.
It didn’t go over very well. But, if you look in the comments, it did, in fact, start a conversation.
We learned about folks who are experimenting with half GMO corn in their field because the corn borer just might be extra virulent this year, since winter wasn’t winter at all. You know, we get that. Really — though we still have a lot of questions about GM crops we’d like to discuss.
We started learning a bit about the finances of big meat from a former board member of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. We might not agree with him — OK, we don’t agree with him — but we started feeling the need to at least understand him.
We got challenged about feeding the poor. It seems no one has any good answer about that, to be honest, but it does loom large over all our heads as the world’s exponential population growth makes the magnitudes of future peoples who will need food nothing short of staggering.
We launched discussions with an industrial dairy man about why we can’t get raw milk and while he talked a lot about safety, we talked a lot about how the dairy idea of safety and our idea of safety are two different things. And we want to know where we can turn to, maybe, get our voice heard.
And we learned that industrial farmers are often terrorized in their homes by “well-meaning” foodies who commit violence, vandalism and other hate crimes in the name of saving the food supply. Scary but true.
In other words, we started learning what the other side is thinking — and that they were, in fact, thinking — and we realized that what seems to be missing in the food dialogue is active conversation with people who don’t agree with each other. This also led to us meeting Just Farmers and we’re thrilled to feel a kindred spirit here that is looking for healthy dialogue and understanding!
We’re not talking about groups of people setting out to educate the other side. We definitely are not talking about getting the propaganda right. We’re talking about actual dialogue. The kind that sparks new ideas, broader thinking and maybe even builds some new communities.
Because in a world where one Obama is greenlighting GMOs while the other is promoting a family garden, we believe it might be time for all of us to take a step back and learn. Time to unravel the crazy contradictions, to wade through the misinformation and disinformation and get to the bottom of the hypocrisies we all have about our food supply.
Our goal is to at least understand where our food supply went off the rails and how we are supposed to live — and make good decisions about what we eat — within the bubbling mess.
After all, it can become a little difficult to make the right decisions when the answers to just about all the questions are murky and complicated. Heck, we’d venture that even the questions are essentially murky and complicated.
So, we decided to start a project
The idea is pretty simple: start sorting out the questions, meet with the people in our food community that can give us some answers, experience first hand the realities of food, and build a platform for people on all sides of the conversation to come together and discuss those questions and answers.
To, really, bridge the divide and build community through One Hundred Meals.
Here’s the rundown:
- We’re gonna eat One Hundred Meals with people who are involved in our food supply. We want to eat with GMO advocates, urban foragers working with the homeless, farmers of all stripes, policy makers, and even some regular folks. You can see here who we have in mind: Meal Plan. Each one of those meals is designed to get us out of our comfort zone and into a learning zone — helping us stand up and face parts of our food supply we don’t want to think about but should probably know about.
- We’ll share photos and stories from the meal, inviting all participants to weigh in and present their ideas and thoughts so that everyone has an equal opportunity to say what is on their mind.
- Our goal is to open up productive discussion. On the website, we are planning an extensive discussion platform and we’ll invite all to participate. But, we’ll also work to keep the conversation civil — so we hope you’ll join in but we also need you to add to the discussion, not just drag it down.
- We’ll share an extensive reading list from all sides, helping our readers learn about topics holistically, instead of just from their own vantage point — an opportunity sorely missed in most everyday discourse.
- Although we definitely have opinions, our goal for the site is to try to approach each topic as neutrally as possible and with as much humility as possible. We invite you to tell us if we veer off course.
- We’d like to be a platform for building a community of food that helps everyone learn, grow, and hopefully, eat.
We had a wonderful Meal One with Natasha Godard and her husband Bill, exploring science and research in the food system. (Who doesn’t love huevos rancheros?) It gave Grant a new lens with which to look at scientific literature and it pushed me to learn more about GMOs and left me mulling over the unknown unknowns of science.
As I wrote on Backyarditarian.com, we both, Grant and I, would like to explore our food shed, for a time, in the spirit of the Nash Equilibrium — an expression of game theory where, in order to win, each person in food needs to make choices that contribute to everyone’s welfare.
After all, food is not a zero sum game. We either all win or, frankly, we are all going to lose.
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Help us! You have knowledge and opinions and there’s no better way for you to help consumers understand farming from your perspective than by joining the conversation! Please follow One Hundred Meals (click the email sign up or watch for post announcements via Twitter @OneHundredMeals) and jump in on the comments. We need to hear from you!
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I have a culinary degree, a sommelier certificate and strive to make everything I consume at home — from homemade butter and Worcestershire sauce to shelf-stable chili, chicken stock and even head cheese.
I used to think I knew too much about food. Lately, I am realizing that I only know food through one prism — and it’s a narrow one. It’s informed by my now 25-year commitment to sustainably raised food (first, organic, then local, then backyard and homesteady), by years working closely with chefs whose passion for ingredients demanded close relationships with farmers, and by a rather voracious habit of reading the kind of studies, books, articles and blogs that confirm my belief that what is in our food supply ain’t, well, kosher. That said, I am realizing that narrow-mindedness leads to narrow ideas and when it comes to the challenges of our food supply what we need is expansive imaginations. I hope to meet a few in the One Hundred Meals project.
I grew up a picky eater, surviving on peanut butter until a year spent living abroad in high school expanded my food interests. My growing love of food and cooking combined with my career choice and I became a freelance food photographer based in Chicago, working with chefs in the top restaurants. For years I chased their styles in my own cooking, creating elaborate meals at home and for friends. But as I became exposed to produce from farmers markets and the thinking behind buying local, in-season foods, without packages and from people with names, I realized simpler is better. I find an heirloom tomato slice drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of salt is so much more nourishing than an overwrought tomato soufflé!
I blog about exploring MyFoodshed, delving into backyard gardening, chickens, small farms and local foods. In the case of 95% of what I eat, I know exactly where it came from, how it grew, how it was raised and by whom. But that is the story of only a tiny (but growing!) fraction of food in our country. We have a complex food system and I look forward to trying to understand more of it on this One Hundred Meals project.