I know – ‘umamification’ is totally a made up word but, as always, I feel I’ve a firm enough grasp on the English language to indulge myself in bastardizing it here and there. Plus I figure if you can get past that, dear readers, you’re probably at least a little masochistic and look forward to being inflicted with the soap-boxing to come.
The second and third sections of The Omnivore’s Dilemma have done very little to quell the fears about the organic food industry I cited in my first post about the book, though I’m not left with the feeling that all hope is lost, either. Like Pollan, I want my organic food dollars to go to the pastoral ideal of the fertile, self-sufficient, organic farm I hold in my imagination, one like the farm my maternal grandparents have worked for an eternity with chickens running amongst the raspberry bushes, happy pigs slumbering in shade of a shed, cows blocking highway traffic so they can make their trek from one grassy range to another. A farm which, for all intents and purposes, would not qualify for the ‘organic’ label, but follows a small-scale, animal-lead production methodology which allows pigs to be pigs and chickens to be chickens and beef to be beef…and that’s probably the message which resonates most profoundly about this section of the book; recognizing the term ‘organic’ as part of the industrial food chain’s rhetoric, contradictory outside of that context and then being called to either re-appropriate it or drop it altogether…which certainly appeals to my quasi-Marxist sensibilities and my desire for passive resistance through stepping around the industrial food machine, but gives me butterflies in practice as it promises to be a fairly large commitment. I’ll actually have to talk to people, question their practices, let them know when they don’t meet my expectations, let them know what my expectations are…become part of the negotiation and actually seek out chickenier chickens and beefier bovines.
Alright, perhaps that’s a bit dramatic. I already do a lot of that stuff; I’m hardly a label-dependent consumer, and I’ve never really fully developed an apathy bone, but remember my corn-fed cow freak-out from my first post? There’s obviously some room for improvement. It’s understood this section of the book is very much about gaining a more intimate understanding of our food’s life cycle, an appreciation for the alchemy of pastoral farming and setting standards for a food chain which emphasises quality over quantity. This really set the little businessy portion of my brain to ticking; it’s not enough for me to rest on the laurels of ‘buying right.’ If I want that ideal pastoral farm to be the producer of my food stuffs then I need to take a vested interest in its health and welfare, go out of my way to invest in it and promote it, and ultimately to make it part of the business that is me because the cost-benefit analysis of the alternative already looks grim and is terrifying when plugged into a spreadsheet. Now I’m wondering about all of the ways one might adopt a farm and am committed to stretching my political muscles a little further.
All that said, I’m really excited for the next section. It’s all about foods from the forest which is a topic near and dear to my little hunter’s daughter heart.