I feel like I’ve been away from here for a month. This past week was madness at work, so many things have happened, and all I’ve really wanted to do is write. It’s funny how one’s sense of time’s passing can be so contextual. Days at work felt rushed and chaotic, like there weren’t enough minutes to accomplish everything that just absolutely needed to be done. Yet, at the very same time, with the days and hours speeding by, the time since my last post seemed to stretch on and away from me, looking like weeks becoming months.
But here I am. Safe and sound in the languid hours of a lazy Saturday. And I want to talk about movies.
I saw two movies within the past week that I’m sure nearly everyone who loves and lives food has seen or will see. It’s been a very long time since I’ve walked out of a theater feeling different for the experience, but both of these movies affected me deeply. Honestly, I feel changed.
So come along with me while I share with you my very different experiences with two very different films. I’m warning you, this isn’t likely to be brief.
Last Sunday, we ventured out into the pouring rain to see the much talked about documentary Food, Inc. I’d read that it was good, if a little one-sided, but I wanted to judge for myself. Surely it would be interesting at least. Going in, I felt like I knew most of what would be presented–the genetic modification of vegetables and livestock, our obsession with fast food in all its forms, and the ridiculous abundance of corn-syrup laden, overly processed fare in the American diet. Pretty standard.
I’ll just say, the experience was very different than I had anticipated. I was shocked at some of the things that I didn’t know, or perhaps didn’t fully understand. I was also surprised by the lump that rose in my throat not more than 30 seconds in and remained throughout the film. For some reason, the familiar images of colorful grocery store aisles stocked to the brim with sugared cereals, liters of soda, and other “convenience” foods struck me. Even thinking about it now makes me feel, well if I’m going to be perfectly honest, choked up. Mere minutes into this film, I found myself asking over and over again, What the fuck are we doing?
I apologize. I don’t mean to be profane, but that’s precisely what I was feeling. I felt enraged and saddened and profoundly motivated. How is it possible that we’ve changed something as natural and necessary as eating into such an unnatural thing? How is it that it got this far? How is it that we’re all so unaware? I mean, on one level, I get the “how.” I understand capitalism and maximizing profits and politicking and all that jazz. I get it. But just like I understand the logistics of how millionaires blow their fortunes and wind up wallowing in debt, I still don’t understand it on a moral, emotional, intellectual, basic human level. How could we have done this…to ourselves?
Gradually, I’ve been changing the way I eat and my relationship with food, mostly because of the gluten thing. I was initially appalled by how many things contain gluten, like deli meat. Really? Meat? The whole transition made me acutely aware that very few of the things that the American population eats on a regular basis aren’t processed. There is gluten, soy, and corn in nearly everything we put in our mouths. From the perspective of someone with food sensitivities/allergies, this is awful.
But it’s upsetting on a larger scale too.
Lately, for my own personal reasons, I’ve been wanting to shop more seasonally, to begin frequenting farmers’ markets. I have been intrigued by old-school butcheries that preserve this dying art and offer only local, free-range meats, and have adopted a more involved attitude toward my food. This was largely for my health, but also because I found it to be interesting and even fun. I knew that I wanted to do these things, but after seeing Food, Inc., I really know why. I have a greater sense of the thing. Maybe it just came at a good time for me, but I feel like it was the kick in the pants that I needed to make these changes happen. I think it could be that for a lot of other people too.
Also, while I do not intend to give up meat…well…ever, seeing this movie made me understand why people make the choice to become vegetarian or even vegan. The points made about the meat industry were some of the most poignant and difficult to digest. Going forward, I’m going to make an effort to buy only naturally and humanely raised, organic meats. Also, I’m going to start participating in a movement that I’m sure many of you are familiar with: Meatless Monday. And I plan on sharing that with all of you here.
I will not give any more specific details about the film, mostly because I hope you will see it for yourself. I will say, however, that there are small changes we can all make, and some of us are in the position to make large ones. It’s about making choices. The more people make local, organic, and natural choices, the more available those options will become. To all of us. This is about our health, our safety, and our future. It doesn’t get much more important than that.
Okay, let me step down off my soapbox here…. I think it’s time to take our inspired-to-change the-world, organic-food-lovin’ butts back into the kitchen.
What can I say about Julie & Julia? This movie felt like pie, like macaroni and cheese on a Sunday, like warmth and goodness and yum.
First of all, though it probably doesn’t need to be said, it’s a given: Meryl Streep was brilliant. I won’t go on. That’s all there is. She was amazing.
I sat through this movie sighing, and laughing, and gushing, and trying my hardest not to clap in utter elation every five minutes. I’m sure many of you who love food like I do will agree. The pleasure, the escape that these two women find in food is something I know so well. In many ways, it was like watching pieces of myself, of my life. I hope it helps others find this too.
Being a relatively new blogger, I also enjoyed watching Julie Powell’s (Amy Adams) journey. Those very hard to overcome moments of who could possibly ever care about what I have to say? coupled with the terrifying excitement of blindly throwing something so personal out to the world and having it feel so right…that’s what this is all about.
And on a personal note, it was fun to see pieces of my neighborhood on the big screen. I took this last weekend:
Go. Go see this movie. I laughed, I cried, I left feeling light and lifted and joyed. And mostly, I couldn’t wait to get back into my kitchen.
I love how movies can make you see or feel things in a new way, inspire you, or even just make you feel warm and wonderful. Food can do this too. And movies about food? Fuhgeddaboudit.
When you think about it, food is such an amazing thing. Before we ever eat it, it has a whole life of its own. And then it nourishes us and has the ability to give us happiness and bring us closer together. I’m discovering more and more every day how important it is to truly know and honor our food, as well as the ritual of preparing it. The cost of losing those things is too high, we’re starting to see that. And the joy of rediscovering them? Well, that’s simply too wonderful to ignore. So go, find it, and bon appetit!