The only thing I ever really resented my mother for, my entire life, was that she wouldn’t let me eat Oreos.
They were never allowed in the house. If I ate them at someone else’s house and she was present, she would be quite unhappy with that turn of events. You see, oreos had that poison known as “partially hydrogenated oil.” Far ahead of her time, my mom had been pulled into the world of whole and organic foods. We drank Horizon milk, ate mostly organic dairy products, and got our eggs from a friend of ours who raised chickens.
I was always fully behind the organic milk (added hormones/antibiotics to animals food being a bad idea just seemed like common sense) but Oreos? Oreos were delicious. Obviously there was nothing wrong with them.
In college, out from under my mother’s eye, the first thing I did was by a package of oreos and a box of Cheese-Itz (another forbidden food). I joyfully partook of processed foods for about a year. Result: I gained 20 pounds (not a great feeling when you’re just 5’2″), felt unhappy and had extremely low energy. When I went back home for the summer, I cut out the processed food – more to lose weight than anything else – and have avoided them, to some extent, ever since.
Only recently, now that I actually have time to think away from the mountains of work that is college, have I really contemplated what my mom so strongly believed it – and realized she was really, really on to something. I did my vegan for a week challenge at the beginning of this month, and, for the first time, started to question the food principles our culture relies on. Why does the byproduct of a single animal, the cow, constitute an entire food group? How does the meat go from the animal to the nice packaged beef in the grocery store?
Then, I watched Food Inc. Since I’m not morally opposed to eating meat, I was glad it wasn’t an in-your-face vegan manifesto, a la Skinny Bitch. But it really made me question where my food comes from, and ethical farming. Do I really want to eat a chicken that never sees the sun, flaps its wings, or really moves? (Philosophically, one could even question whether it is still a chicken at this point.) Or cows, who are treated with antibiotics because their conditions make them so ill? Cows who are being force-fed corn?
In Michael Pollan’s article Unhappy Meals, (a highly recommended read!) he says:
Further, when the health of one link of the food chain is disturbed, it can affect all the creatures in it. When the soil is sick or in some way deficient, so will be the grasses that grow in that soil and the cattle that eat the grasses and the people who drink the milk. Or, as the English agronomist Sir Albert Howard put it in 1945 in “The Soil and Health” (a founding text of organic agriculture), we would do well to regard “the whole problem of health in soil, plant, animal and man as one great subject.” Our personal health is inextricably bound up with the health of the entire food web.
The conclusion I draw from this is: If I’m eating a sick animal, or a food that is so far removed from it’s original ingredients it’s not really even a food, it will make me sick.
I don’t think it’s wrong to eat meat, or dairy or eggs. But I do think that if I am going to partake of them, I need to check and make sure that what I’m eating was raised well, not treated with anything artificial (including hormones and antibiotics and pestisides). I’m going to try and make the majority of my diet plant-based, with meat and dairy as a side note. I’m going to try to grow a lot of my own plants on my tiny apartment balcony.
Annnd I’m going to call my mom later and tell her that she was right all along.