Famously, the Queen does not carry money.
Just like the deliberate engineering of our financial illiteracy through primary school and high school, this is a marvellous piece of class warfare.
The people who have all the money do not talk about it. It’s somehow impolite. Beneath them. And it’s a behaviour we ape. Which makes it a lot easier to steal from us when we don’t know we’re being stolen from.
And so it is with food.
Promoting dietary health among low income earners is somehow perceived as an attack. “Hey poor people, just eat more salad!” And phrased that way, it certainly is.
However, the notion that access to life-sustaining food is somehow elitist is an insidious form of double-think, an archonic reverse psychology. Because it’s the seats at McDonald’s that are being widened, not the seats in Lear Jets.
Periods of severe economic disruption always impact the food supply and our relationship to it. Anyone who has ever learned about the Great Leap Forward or Mao’s Cultural Revolution knows the truth of this.
But we also have closer, more relevant examples that we are assiduously ignoring.
There is something bittersweet and heartbreaking about reading though the Ministry of Food’s suggested recipes of things to make with wartime and post-wartime rations.
For instance, instructions to turn leftover mashed parsnip or potato into a mock cake for your child’s birthday. Just go ahead and picture that.
During and immediately following the war, our interests and those of our ‘betters’ were in alignment; the robust health and long-term survival of the population. Today, when it comes to food, the interests are diametrically opposed.
Commodity trading is a literal weapon of war, used to collapse entire countries and regions (Arab Spring) or bankrupt historic farming regions so that they are forced to sell their land to transnationals, go hungry or grow drugs. (South America.)
In the developed world, EU farm subsidies go to dukes and princes and Big Corn literally selects the next president. Added to this, it is vastly more profitable to have us all die of eminently curable and/or avoidable diseases than it is to redesign the food supply.
For instance, Type II diabetes has a cure. An actual cure. It’s fasting. In a high-profile documentary about juice fasting from a few years ago, it was pointed out that the cost of a heart attack is more than USD $50,000 versus around $14 a day for a 60 day juice fast. Even treating your kids for ADHD is expensive. ADHD… which French kids don’t get. (Guess why.) A bad health diagnosis is the single greatest cause of bankruptcy in America.
So the discussions need to be had… even if they run the risk of mythologising the poor. Because almost a third of British school kids thinks cheese comes from plants. You may have heard of Campodimele -called the village of eternity because of the longevity of its residents. I tried reading the book but couldn’t get past the romanticising of the noble peasant.
The underlying science is solid, however. Campodimelans remain moderately physically active by necessity and eat cucina povera… mostly greens and vegetables. They still drink and smoke as much as other (awesome) Italians.
However, you’re unlikely to live in a stunning, medieval, hill town. In fact, if you’re not eating cucina povera by choice then it’s more likely you live in a sprawling suburb as suburbs are now poorer than urban areas.
And it’s that suburb thing that has me thinking of a very specific hack. Historically, if one were to suggest turning a suburban back yard into a high yield vegetable plot, you’d get the standard responses that nobody has the time and it’s a very “let them eat cake” response to the challenges of a low income.
However, even that argument lacks historical validity. Prior to the end of the war, if you had land, you did grow your own vegetables. I’ve been to enough stately homes and ruined Elizabethan palaces and Norman castles to know a mind trick when I see one. After the war… growing vegetables in your yard was something immigrants did. Upstanding white people had lawns, pools and flamingoes. Fuck that.
In terms of resistance, you may also get this deceptive little gem: That the percentage of disposable income allocated to food has fallen every decade since the 1930s. Take a look at how this beaming moron celebrates the comparative affordability of American food. But you see, your grandparents and great grandparents didn’t buy bags of potato chips the size of bathtubs and call it food. We are spending less on shit food. It’s the worst of both worlds.
So there are other reasons beyond cost reduction to pray for Tyler Durden’s vision spread across suburban backyards rather than up the sides of skyscrapers. And it’s not food miles. The numbers don’t work on widespread hyperlocalism because there are scale efficiencies in keeping… say… corn centralised rather than randomly distributed.
The first, and most pressing for Americans, is that the food supply is alarmingly compromised. Watch this terrifying and mercifully brief video about Monsanto and how they test:
The second reason is to strip demand out of the market. A market that, even if it isn’t riddled with genetic modification, is still at the lower end of the nutritional scale. From the New York Times:
Wild dandelions, once a springtime treat for Native Americans, have seven times more phytonutrients than spinach, which we consider a “superfood.” A purple potato native to Peru has 28 times more cancer-fighting anthocyanins than common russet potatoes. One species of apple has a staggering 100 times more phytonutrients than the Golden Delicious displayed in our supermarkets….
Supersweet corn, which now outsells all other kinds of corn, was born in a cloud of radiation. Beginning in the 1920s, geneticists exposed corn seeds to radiation to learn more about the normal arrangement of plant genes. They mutated the seeds by exposing them to X-rays, toxic compounds, cobalt radiation and then, in the 1940s, to blasts of atomic radiation. All the kernels were stored in a seed bank and made available for research.
In 1959, a geneticist named John Laughnan was studying a handful of mutant kernels and popped a few into his mouth. (The corn was no longer radioactive.) He was startled by their intense sweetness. Lab tests showed that they were up to 10 times sweeter than ordinary sweet corn. A blast of radiation had turned the corn into a sugar factory!
Mr. Laughnan was not a plant breeder, but he realized at once that this mutant corn would revolutionize the sweet corn industry. He became an entrepreneur overnight and spent years developing commercial varieties of supersweet corn. His first hybrids began to be sold in 1961. This appears to be the first genetically modified food to enter the United States food supply, an event that has received scant attention.
Within one generation, the new extra sugary varieties eclipsed old-fashioned sweet corn in the marketplace. Build a sweeter fruit or vegetable — by any means — and we will come. Today, most of the fresh corn in our supermarkets is extra-sweet, and all of it can be traced back to the radiation experiments. The kernels are either white, pale yellow, or a combination of the two. The sweetest varieties approach 40 percent sugar, bringing new meaning to the words “candy corn.” Only a handful of farmers in the United States specialize in multicolored Indian corn, and it is generally sold for seasonal decorations, not food.
The third, and it is related to the one above, is to lob your own soil-encrusted chaobomb in defense of what we might call post-apocalyptic biodiversity. Because, make no mistake about it, ‘they’ are coming for your seeds. The aim is to have a limited number of species available from the fewest possible outlets… GM seeds that die after a generation to keep you coming back for more.
In the meantime, we still have the internet which means we have access to awesome companies like Seeds Of Italy (est 1783!). Let’s get crazy and diverse in our underwater suburban backyards.
All of this is a dream, of course.
It occurred to me yesterday while shopping at one of the many independent grocers on the high road that, in the five years I have lived here, there has been close to zero inflation from the independent grocers versus around 100% in the supermarkets a few metres away. To me, this indicates a functioning market. There is clearly a price ceiling. Certainly the type of produce for sale has varied. Five years ago, you’d get French wild garlic and coeur de boeuf tomatoes. Now you get what the nearby farming areas have actually grown to sell. Some years more cob nuts, some years less.
But that’s London. I don’t have to try very hard to get the craziest range of fruits and vegetables. And with a little effort, they’re ludicrously cheap. (The origin of my area’s name actually comes from the Saxon for ‘cheese farm’, ches wick, that once occupied this bend in the river.) The further out from centres you get, the less the range. Call it the Borough Market effect:
Indeed, that’s one of the most common rebuttals to the earnest suggestion that we should be eating purple carrots rather than orange. It’s all well and good in London, but what about Alice Springs?
Except that’s kinda the point. I wish it wasn’t this way but it is. I wish we lived in communities of abundant, varied, decentralised, non-GM agriculture but we don’t. And in the meantime we’re getting fatter and dying of preventable diseases while our food supply is invaded by archon seeds.
We have got here because of class warfare. And it is an ongoing war. But don’t let deter you from making use of some pretty powerful short-term options already in your hands.
Heal thyself. Have the discussion.