“It is not enough to simply explain to the people who label you nostalgic for the good old days or a ruralist who lives in a dream world that a fresh, local product is better than the artificial food they promote or, at least, that they consider as the lesser evil if not indeed the top in “modern” comfort. Even though, in my opinion, good sense should be enough to understand it, complicated discussions are necessary because the global agro-industrial system has now become so pervasive and embedded in our everyday lives. In many aspects it is also mysterious and impenetrable, to the extent that it is not easy to raise documented, wide-ranging objections.
Doing so takes patience, curiosity, time, resources and a very open-mind. The book The Myth of Good Italian Food is an excellent example of this type of work. Collecting and gathering a scattered assortment of information and evidence by combining everyday experiences with serious investigative journalism and a good dose of historical perspective, this work hits the nail on the head. It is one of the few books in recent years that truly succeeds in what is sets out to do.
The battle between technofood and ecofood that the author presents us is a battle of global dimensions, but it concerns all of us individually. We all play our parts in it every single day when we sit down at our dinner tables and therefore, our food choices can end up being the key to tipping the scales in favor of one or the other.
“Eating is an agricultural act,” claims the great poet-farmer from Kentucky, Wendell Berry. When we eat we determine the type of agriculture that is goes on in the world and, in turn, the type of agriculture influences and is influenced by the way our food is processed and then brought to our tables. All of this can have significant repercussions on our quality of life, our health, our beautiful landscapes, on the well-being of animals, on biodiversity, on the condition of the Earth’s ecosystem and on our future.
“Eating is a political act,” I would add. We must reveal the full extent of complicated interests, operations of purely shortsighted speculation, of the fallout on agricultural economies and on our own wallets that succumb to the simple and apparently harmless “ready meals” on the supermarket shelf. This makes up part of a global system that must be reintroduced to the use common sense. That same common sense that has always guided farmers, who, knowing the origins and roots of their food inside out, that is to...