When I first began to wonder whether the slow-organic-local food movement is sustainable for and friendly to the larger community of women, I started to notice everything about it that wasn’t.
I started thinking about how we as women feel such tremendous pressure to stay svelte, balance our budgets, keep a journal, send birthday cards, raise brilliant children, work on our relationships and keep our pedicures fresh, and now we must also research, procure, and prepare food that is sustainably produced, locally grown, and in season.
It didn’t seem fair. It made me feel cranky.
Then I asked myself: why do I feel this way, and what is causing it? Over the course of a couple of weeks, this is what I came up with:
The System is Broken. It’s not the fault of the farmer’s market that I feel overstressed. Rather, the game itself is rigged. The workforce rewards people who are willing to put in ridiculous hours and disregard personal health and long-term wellbeing. It does not reward self-nourishment or play or rest. Even more insidious is the fact that our buy-more culture has lured us into a devil's bargain with debt. Even if we’re working at a job we love, it requires an insane juggling act to live a balanced life. That there aren’t enough hours to nourish ourselves properly, or that we have to make a choice between eating well and building our careers is just… craziness.
Convenience Has a Dark Side. Convenience has been our friend, but not a trustworthy one. We can put dinner on the table in 30 minutes or less, but those cans and jars are slipping us toxic additives and chemicals on the sly. Like the friend who keeps borrowing money but never pays it back, Convenience has become a liability. The fault lies with us: we haven’t set proper boundaries. We need to speak out, vote with our dollars, and support products that are healthy and safe.
The Bar is Being Raised. The slow-organic-local movement is putting pressure on the mega-grocers and Big Ag in ways that will confer advantages to all women. I happen to think that WalMart’s foray into organic products and Safeway’s new “O” line are moves in the right direction; the more options, the better. The goal is for more people have access to better food. Hopefully, the bar will continue to rise, and “organic” will just be the starting point.
It’s Not a Competition. Sometimes I read a blog post describing an elaborate home-cooked meal, and I immediately feel stressed. That's a clue that I'm letting my insecurities get the best of me. The fact is that everyone is in a different place, with different time constraints, and different complexities to negotiate. When I remember that it’s not a competition, then I can enjoy reading about what other people are doing, and even be inspired by it, without feeling like I have to jump higher.
It Isn’t All or Nothing. One home cooked meal a week is better than none. One trip to the farmer’s market in a month will introduce locally grown vegetables and fruits into your diet and help support the local economy. Some weeks I’m going to have the time and inspiration to roast my own beets and make my own marinara sauce; other weeks, it’s not going to happen. And that’s okay.
Critical Thought: Good. Judgment: Not so much. Critical analysis is informative and constructive. It makes us think. It teaches us things. Judgment or “snark” is a subtle power play. It might be disguised as humor, but it isn’t helpful in the least. It says: I’m too sophisticated/educated/dedicated to watch Rachael Ray, or buy Safeway’s “O” products, and I want to make sure you know it.
A woman in her 20’s who is working hard to build her career is going to make different choices than a woman in her 50’s whose kids are grown. There are hundreds of thousands of unique situations, and we can’t fairly judge them from the outside.
I met a single mom recently who told me that her kids love to watch Rachael Ray. “People make fun of Rachael,” she said, “but my kids and I can watch her show together, and I don’t have to worry that they’re going to see something inappropriate if I leave the room for a minute. Also, she makes me feel like not giving up. Like I can get dinner on the table when I’m so tired that I’d rather go through the drive-in.” Well, shut my mouth!
The Slow-Organic-Local Movement is a Boon for Female Entrepreneurs. Here in the Bay Area, a new crop of small women-owned businesses has sprung up around the growing demand for quality food products. I don’t have the time or desire to make my own preserves, but June Taylor does, using the best fruit ever. Alison McQuade makes amazing chutneys (Glasgow Spiced Apple + double cream Brie = bliss). Donna Eichhorn and Shirley Virgil make incredible handmade tamales and corn tortillas. No matter where you live, I guarantee that you can find women who are taking advantage of this growing opportunity.
If not for the surge of interest in small, local producers, these women might not be in business. They are, and we all win.
Lastly, I’ve framed this discussion in a feminist context, but of course this is a universal concern. While I still believe that this issue is of particular importance to women, since women have historically been the “nurturers” and therefore the convenience and ready availability of food has been a key factor in the changing landscape of women’s rights, I’m really a “people-ist” more than anything – someone who desires the equality of all people, everywhere. I’m thrilled that the quality of our choices is growing, and that so many people are talking about the myriad ways in which food affects our lives.
I’m still not sure if I’ve answered all of my own questions, the ones I raised in the previous post, but it’s a start. I think this is an issue that I’ll be contemplating for a long while.