Just before I go to bed, I wanted to make some quick notes about the thoughts I had at the Béla Fleck and the Flecktones concert Thursday night. As I expected Béla and crew played at the top of their form. They were outstanding. (I won’t say anything about the support act as I have recovered from the painful death it put me through.)
So here are these four guys playing their hearts out and living the music. I had an epiphany: “What can I do to perform at this level of excellence?” Music is not the way as I lack motivation to practice, let alone the talent. So I wondered how I could teach with excellence at all times. What can I do to make sure that I give my students the best possible experience in the classroom? What would that mean? Don’t get me wrong, I am sure to make mistakes on the way, but I want to try.
Later at the concert one of the Flecktones [sorry cannot remember who] shared a story about Frank Gehry. In a recent biography, Frank Gehry’s therapist was interviewed and was quoted as saying that while regular people come to him to ask how they could be better people, better parents, better investors, better ME Me Me; Frank Gehry came asking how he could change the world.
So can I change the world? How would I want to change the world? If I knew that, perhaps I could find the lever I need to change the world.
Food is the answer. More people should know how their food gets from the farm to their mouths and understand the effects food has on their bodies. Everyone should know this. Everyone should be yelling and screaming that the food supply sucks. Mass produced food is too full of fat, salt, and sugar. Many prepared food lacks flavor and is of poor quality. Until we understand the effect of this food and start to complain loudly, processed food will not improve.
Even though I am a food scientist, I rarely buy prepared meals as I prefer spending the time to make high quality meals at home. Oh, I don’t make everything from scratch. I buy bread and ice cream. I buy chips and salsa, humus and falafel. Given time I could make, and have made, these at home; maybe not the chips and I still often make humus. However, most of my meals are home cooked; usually starting with me chopping onions and mashing garlic. I can make meals in 15 min, including boiling pasta and, for Thanksgiving and Christmas I make meals that need to be started a few days ahead.
Despite Listeria monocytogenes in cantaloupes, food safety is not the issue. Knowing how food is produced is important as it allows us to realize that cantaloupes are grown and processed before reaching the supermarkets and therefore at risk of being contaminated. Knowing that food with a long shelf life has to be treated with preservatives, and probably heat treated to the extent that few vitamins remain is incredibly important. Knowing that if you make your own food you can limit that amount of sodium present and therefore reduce high blood pressure and risk of strokes is important. Rather than complaining about high fructose corn syrup, realize that it is not only cheap but also extends shelf life. Then make your own whatever with sugar or honey; which would taste better anyway.
The Food Industry is not completely to blame for the quality of the food supply. There are many good people working in those multinational corporations who are creating and manufacturing healthy wholesome food. On a mass produced level, this is very difficult with many challenges. We have to accept that a main objective of most food companies is not philanthropy but making a profit. Given the low prices we expect to pay for food, most profits are based on cents in the dollar so the companies make money by selling large volumes. One good thing is that the food industry is not controlling the story on the sustainable locavore food movement like it did for the GMO food. Thus, food manufacturers are running to catch up with the likes of Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Alice Walker and any customer of a local farmer’s market. So consumers and food activists can lead the way and, hopefully, change the food industry.
Béla Fleck and the Flecktones probably won’t tell you anything about food, but you should try and catch one of their concerts. Because of their extraordinary performance, I am going to be the best food science and nutrition educator I can.