Eating as political act

I spend much of my Sundays in the kitchen, preparing food for the coming week.

This is not a simple domestic ritual to me, though I enjoy it immensely. No, fermenting my own yogurt, baking my own granola, and cooking all my beans instead of getting them from cans is a radical political act.

Here’s why: By making my own foods from scratch—even just some of them and not all—I am rejecting our industrial food production system and all the dollars they pump into political candidates.

picture of a corn field

Most of our food is made from corn and soy. Photo by Tyler Allen. Used under Creative Commons license. Click through for source.

During the 2012 election cycle, agribusiness donated $90 million to political campaigns and advocacy groups, mostly Republican or conservative. In 2014, the food and beverage industry donated more than $16 million, again, mostly to Republican or conservative groups. I am registered Democrat, though the reasons for this have more to do with local politics and my state’s closed primary system than national politics, but that’s another post.

This is not a blue versus red issue to me, though. It’s a life versus death one. The way we produce food is not only killing the planet, it’s killing us, and (some) Republican lawmakers have shown again and again that profit trumps our very lives. So I refuse to take part.

Or, at least, take as little part as I feasibly can.

If that means I have to spend more on what I buy to get it from a co-op instead of a traditional grocery store and spend four or five hours in the kitchen every Sunday pre-cooking rice, chopping vegetables, making granola and cooking beans, then so be it.

My eating and cooking habits are not above reproach. I still enjoy eating at restaurants, many of which likely get their ingredients from agribusiness and giant corporations. I also eat at fast food places like Subway and Panera. Sometimes I rely on products that I know come from developing countries where the workers are paid barely enough to feed their families.

I am not perfect, but perfection is not the goal. Being mindful and engaged with what I eat is the goal. I read ingredients labels. I try to find out which giant food corporation owns the organic brands of frozen vegetables and canned tomatoes I buy (General Mills owns Cascadian Farms and Muir Glen, for example). I buy all my dry goods (rice, flour, oats, beans, etc.) in bulk.

I will not judge you if you react differently to our industrialized food system or choose different ways of eating and preparing food. What works for me doesn’t necessarily work for you, and that’s okay. We should always have options, and a choice.

The problem is that for many, there is no choice. Plenty of people live in “food deserts” (my own neighborhood in a major metropolitan area is one) where the closest store that sells food isn’t a grocery store but a convenience store, where you’re unlikely to find anything but processed, packaged foods. Plenty of people don’t even know how to cook or even select good produce. By default, they have no choice.

My access to farmer’s markets, CSAs, and a co-op, not to mention my access to information on how to best utilize these resources, is a privilege. I recognize that. And that’s why it’s important for me to talk about the food choices I make and why I make them.

When I decline to eat your hamburger helper casserole, it is a statement, yes. But it’s not a statement about you or your skill as a cook. It’s a statement about our food ecosystem and how utterly broken it is. It’s a statement about refusing to fill my body with “food” made in a factory instead of in a kitchen or on a farm.

Six Years

kellydjkissToday, I have been married for six years.

This surprises people. We married young by today’s standards—I was only 23, and he, 24.

Since then we’ve switched jobs multiple times, lost our first German shepherd to kidney disease, adopted another shepherd, bought a house, gone on many, many hikes, gotten into our fair share of disagreements and fights, and spent almost every night cuddled together in bed.

Our partnership confuses people. It started with the “wedding,” which was really a Wiccan handfasting. We held it in my favorite park, and stood in the center of a circle of our closest friends and family while we said our vows and our designated priestess and priest tied our hands together with ribbon and we jumped over a broomstick (traditionally meant to bring fertility, but we modern Witches interpret “fertility” in a number of ways, not just the “get preggo and have lots of children” way).

We wrote our own ceremony, based on a version of the handfasting ritual in Janet and Stewart Farrar’s Witches Bible, and we used a self-uniting marriage license to make our partnership official in the government’s eyes.

My partner is not Wiccan, or even Pagan, but he recognizes the power of ritual, and that ritual is important to me. We didn’t want a big, fancy wedding with an expensive reception and top 100 pop hits. We didn’t want some person with power vested in him or her by some church or some state. We wanted something that had meaning to us. Something that expressed in action and words the commitment we had already made to each other, and the responsibility we accepted for each other, our furry “children,” and our partnership.

Fun was also a requirement at our handfasting.

Fun was also a requirement at our handfasting. These ladies know how to bring it.

We discussed hyphenating our last names, but ultimately decided we would leave our names intact, the way they’d always been. Of course, people assume that Thomas is my married name if they meet me first, and that my husband’s last name is my last name if they meet him first. We get mail addressed to us in all manner of last name combinations.

But what people call us and what people think of us doesn’t matter so much. It doesn’t change who we are or how we work together. The thing that matters is that we have found, in each other, true partners. We split the housework, each of us doing more or less depending on how the other feels. We work together to solve problems and come up with solutions. We reassure each other when fears and doubts surface. We love each other.

We chose Midsummer, the Summer Solstice, as the day of our handfasting because it is the longest day of the year. The sun shines at his brightest and strongest, and we hope for and work for a long, vibrant life together.

Six is a lucky number. It’s a strong, powerful number. And our sixth year together was wonderful and magical in its own way, even though we faced challenges and hardships—that’s life, right?

As we begin our seventh year as life partners, I am thankful for what we have had and what is still to come. Whatever happens, we will meet it head on, the way we always do: as partners.

Winter blessing Spring

The snow melts slowly over the candle flame, first compacting into slush and then pooling at the bottom of the mason jar. Sakura-scented incense smoke rises and curls above the altar as I hum a chant, my prayer to spring.

When the snow transforms completely to water, I begin the work of planting seeds for my garden—my first garden in my first house. A slight breeze finds its way to me through the open window, along with the sounds of children riding scooters up and down the street, calling out to each other, laughing.

I fill each egg carton cell with soil and carefully place each seed. Tomato, eggplant, celery, radish, turnip, beets, fennel, sugar snap peas, parsley, mint, dill, thyme, basil, lavender, sunflowers, coneflower.

Some of these—tomato, eggplant, peas, the herbs—I have grown before, and others are new to me. I have been reading book after book on gardening and growing food, but I learn best through experience, through working the soil loose with my hands and watching leaves and flowers unfurl.

For a final blessing I sprinkle each cell with a few drops of the melted snow–a promise for renewal, for growth. I place each egg carton in recycled plastic containers and set them on my windowsill. With dirty fingers and a happy heart, I snuff out the candle and offer thanks to the earth, to the sun, for the gift of seasons, of change, of new beginnings.