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April 11, 2024

  • Poetics of April
    As we enter into the poetics of April, also known as national poetry month, here are four voices from well to lesser known. The Tradition – Jericho Brown Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Brown visited the last American Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP 2024) conference, and I loved his speech and humor. Besides […]
  • Barbara Marie Minney in Perrysburg
    Indie bookstore, Gathering Volumes, just hosted poet and (transgender) activist, Barbara Marie Minney in Perrysburg To celebrate Trans Day of Visibility, Minney read from her poetry book – A Woman in Progress (2024). Her reading depicted emotional and physical transformations especially in the scene of womanhood and queer experiences. Her language is empowering and personally […]
Spring Housing Guide

Food awareness can dominate, if we let it

Fast food dominates American food culture. This sad fact perplexes

me daily.

We’re all aware that a Quarter-Pounder with cheese has more calories than a salad of field greens and fresh vegetables served with homemade vinaigrette, but we still choose to swing by the golden arches for a “value meal.”

What does “value” mean, though? Under-paid employees? Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations that have destroyed thousands of acres of once-viable farmland? An over-reliance on genetically modified foods with little to no nutrition?

Personally, I don’t see the value in these things. I just see disgruntled workers, fear meat and a litany of medical bills and expensive prescriptions.

I’m guilty of loving fast food. My last meal would be a burger and fries. I grew up with McDonald’s; my first Big Mac will forever be one of my most cherished food memories. I survived on Wendy’s through undergrad and had many fourth meals at Taco Bell during graduate school.

But in 2007, after reading “Fast Food Nation,” I stopped eating fast food. That decision changed my life. I had more energy, started working out more, lost weight, slept better, discovered a love of cooking and saved money. That doesn’t mean I don’t crave a burger and crispy fries on an almost weekly basis, but I’ve learned how to fulfill that craving in a healthy way by making burgers at home with grass-fed beef or pasture-raised turkey. Also, I don’t feel guilty or beat myself up when I go to Reverend’s in downtown Bowling Green once a month for a Double-Wide with extra pickles and regular fries or make the trip out to Burger Bar 149 in Toledo for a Short Stuff burger. By not eating fast food several times a week, I can afford to indulge in a quality burger and fries, and I truly enjoy my meal because it’s a special treat.

I admit, freely, I do eat Chipotle, which is technically fast food. However, because Chipotle uses humanely raised animals, supports local produce and graciously accommodates those with food allergies, I don’t feel any guilt eating there — every once in a while. The trick is moderation and self-control. There are plenty of nights I don’t feel like making dinner. What draws me to the kitchen, though, is the drive to live a healthy life and provide one for my family. It’s easier to give in to fast food than cooking, but isn’t it sometimes true that the easiest path isn’t the best one?

After giving up fast food, my palate changed. I started craving vegetables more and salty, fatty foods less. I also found that cooking brought my husband and I closer together — in the kitchen and at the table. There’s a sense of accomplishment and pride when sitting down to a simple meal of roasted chicken and vegetables that a meal out of paper box or bag just can’t deliver. Even more so, cooking has improved my math skills and my ability to guesstimate measurements and be spot-on. In the kitchen, I feel calm, centered, happy and am willing to see the reward in failure (next time I’ll weigh the flour or whisk the sauce more consistently).

If we’re interested in creating a healthier nation, I wonder what would happen if all of us limited our fast food intake to one meal a week. Would the fast food industry take a hint and make an effort to offer lighter, more nutritious meals? Would we feel more connected to our bodies, to each other, to nature and to the instinctive cycle of life? Could it be possible that we develop a new food culture, one in which plant-based diets are popular, home-preservation and canning are habits and we all tried to make good food accessible to every single person, regardless of social and economic statuses?

The problem with fast food isn’t the calories from fat or the outrageous sugar levels; the problem is it creates a disconnect from what food really is, what it looks like and how it should be consumed. Our bodies need food for fuel; it only makes sense that a healthy diet keeps us healthy. Understanding that meat comes from once-living animals rather than factories and that vegetables come from gardens rather than science labs, can help us appreciate the food chain and honor what we’ve been given with care and consciousness. Eating slowly at a table builds meaningful relationships and cultivates an awareness of the present moment; it’s okay to take a break from work and technology to enjoy each other and linger over a very satisfying (in a physical and spiritual sense) meal.

Plenty of cookbooks offer quick, healthy recipes; we just need to read and turn the pages. Plenty of innovative community members are planting neighborhood and urban gardens to make good food accessible to all. During the summer months, some food banks are happy to accept the overabundance of squash, tomatoes and anything else fresh they can work with. Together, we can make a difference; some clichés are just the truth, pure and simple.

I don’t know what the future of food looks like but I know it can be much brighter than a pair of golden arches lit against an evening sky.

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