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Selected Readings

The Last Wild Food

In this essay, the famous restaurateur and slow-food advocate Alice Waters describes her experience of a bouillabase in France and how it influenced her shopping habits and seafood selection on the menu.

Your Voices

Your Approaches to Eating

Many of us are asking new questions about the food we eat: "Where does it come from?" "Is it nourishing in body and in spirit?" "Are my choices helping others?" Read fellow listeners' approaches and share your perspectives and experiences on the ethics of eating.

Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

1

A meat-eater in a vegan household reevaluates her held and lived values — and her recipe box.

1

A guest contributor shares his reflections about reconnecting to the earth in an urban environment.

Krista reflects on the listener response and skepticism following the 2008 rebroadcast of the Barbara Kingsolver interview.

About the Image

A Vermont couple spent an evening shelling a bushel of peas from their neighbor's garden, with a tabbed copy of Kingsolver's book on the table.

(Photo: Rick Scully/Flickr)

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Comments

I listened to this program with interest. It made me think about what is truly "local". I did some research on the swampy coastal area of Southeastern Virginia where I live to see what foods are truly indigenous here. In order to eat like the original inhabitants, I would more or less be restricted to corn, deer, oysters, clams, pumpkin, and tobacco!

In 1959, I was born in rural Indiana--when this area was truly rural. As I listened to Speaking of Faith this evening with my family, my mom came to mind and I recalled how I never ate a salad made from iceburg lettuce until my early teens. Our salads came from the garden, as did every meal we ate, year-round. Our meats were from local farmers, grape jelly and juice came from the arbors at our home. Our home was on less than two acres with a garden of 1/2 an acre. My husband and 23-year old son talked about how removed we really have become from the source of our food. My mom called later in the evening and we talked about those earlier days... when people gathered young dandelion greens and ate them instead of treating them like weeds. Here is a picture of my beautiful mother and daughter.

I enjoy your show and recently after to listening "The Ethics of Eating" wanted to leave this comment. The reason we don't know where something is grown, what is in it, growth hormone, or what it is, cloned or not is because big business not government doesn't want us to know. Thanks keep up the good work.

I almost choked when I heard today's guest talk about killing a chicken as allowing the chicken to achieve its finest glory. What self-serving rationalization! I've seen people killing chickens and glory is not how I'd describe it or how the chickens reacted. For vegetarians this is unnecessary killing - a form of murder. I hope you have a program featuring spiritual/ethical vegetarians.

RE: Barbara Kingsolver, Ethics of eating episode July 18, 2010 Until recently, Krista, I spent most of my time comparing myself to others and judging my efforts lacking. Once I accepted my personal empowerment on this earth...once I began trusting that the individual "I" had worth within the big picture and could take the actions I was willing to take on my own part to walk with loving grace on this earth as best I could...once I was able to see the Truth about my real job in the material world; only then could I be gentle with myself, relax, and know I was doing the right things. Only then could I accept that the next step I was able to take was 'enough' in order to become an overall part of the healing energy for our earth. I had to realize that to try to do more than I could do was not a good thing for me or for other I share with whom I share this life. I know, if I walk with grace one step at a time in good orderly direction, I can liv e a worthy life within the whole scheme of things. This knowing is the definition success for me. I admire and enjoy Krista and Barbarafor their successes in taking those action steps you are able to take, one step at a time. By doing so you raise the awareness of others through entertainment and add to the vital ingredients that help complete the big picture of the universe. Thank you.

Dear Krista,

Thank you so much for your conversation with Barbara Kingsolver. You and she speak so eloquently about the ethics of food, and summarize beautifully what I have been trying haphazardly to do for years. I have listened to the program twice now, and want to thank you for articulating a way of life that I think, if we thought deeply about it, many of us would embrace and thrive in.

Thank you for your thoughtful programs. You and your guests have gently inspired me many times.

Kelly Daniels

I am normally a big fan of SOF. Listening on Sunday mornings at 7AM, as I travel to care for a colony of feral cats, the show adds a spiritual dimension to my morning. But the interview with Barbara Kingsolver made me angry. While she made some important points (such as how disconnected we've become from what we eat), clearly it's Ms. Kingsolver's privilege that gives her the time and resources to perform (and write about) her experiment in eating locally. While this was (too facilely) addressed in the interview, particularly when talking about giving up non-local foods that have a "shipping toll" (such as bananas),she came across as a hypocrite. Certainly, she's been book tours, and with her privilege, traveled the world by jet? And how does she know that a turkey doesn't want to "grow to be 100 and know its grandchildren?" Her situational ethics and transparent justifications were very hard to take.

In the last ten years it has become apparent that our food system is broken, unsustainable. In response to this crisis, I had begun to eat more and more organic food and less meat and at one period had given up eating meat for ethical reasons.
In more recent times I have begun growing much of my own food, have purchased land and am in the process of moving to a more sustainable lifestyle. My move to the land will support me in growing more of my own food, raising animals for meat, milk and fiber and working as a Rolfer from my home office. My dream is to live out my days living this life.
I feel like I owe it to myself, my children, my community and to the earth to attempt to live my life with less negative impact. I am just doing what I can. Thanks to authors, Barbara Kingsolver and Michael Pollan among many others who have educated and inspired me to make these life changes.

Having grown up with an Italian American father who cooked and whose mother kept a traditional Italian household, I was exposed to an intensity about food. Moving to the Pacific Northwest, I was exposed to a different kind of intensity about food — closeness to farmland, access to dozens of farmers markets, and therefore, farmers, and 10-month growing season, and an high consciousness about food. A concern for the environment, my health and that of others, and a love of cooking led to a deep commitment to buy as much local food as possible, or grow my own. Out of this has come a personal project tracking my fresh produce expenses for a year to really see if I'm putting my money where my mouth is. I volunteer for our farmer's market and am a Slow Food member, and once you start reading about food ethics, you really have no choice but to go forward. Even if you wanted to, you can't go back. It becomes an almost spiritual effort.

My grandparents (German and Hungarian) had every vegetable and root crop imaginable in their gardens. My father had a 'hotbed' in which he started cabbage, tomato, and other 'sets' about the end of February. These were later transplanted to the garden on our farm near Freeport, MN. Consequently, we were quite self-sufficient except for citrus fruits and a few items in winter. Our garden and orchard supplied us with every kind of food that didn't walk. Consequently, as soon as fruits and vegs were available, that is what we used.

This particular food story goes back to my childhood. On my birthday (July 16), of course we were using local food. A few days before my 9th birthday, Mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday. I responded, "An orange". Which (one) she selected on her next trip to town.

I remember slowly peeling that orange including the feeling of the little mist that hits your face (I had bad eyesight, so things were held close), then slowly, over an hour or so, taking the sections apart one by one and eating them. I can still remember the taste of that orange.

It was great to learn about Animal Vegetable Miracle. Please pass on to her that I am a fan. I have always been a radical "eat to live" person, rather than a "live to eat" person. I see how most of the world ekes out a subsistance living, trying to just put enough food into their mouths to survive. An in contrast I see this spoiled and pampered culture of ours, trying to titillate our taste buds, use food for psychological comfort, or even worse, for status. It's all gotten so out of kilter, and our society is so unhealthy and so many people are obese. As a culture, we literally "are what we eat"....hedonistic and debauched....pathetic. I don't know if we are redeemable. Maybe when their is a total collapse of our society and people have to forage for tree bark to survive.

On a side note, here is a "diet plan" I wrote several years ago, trying to help people to be more aware of their eating.

THE VERA MEYER WEIGHT REDUCTION PROGRAM
---------------------------------------

Harness the power of the individual (YOU) to promote healthy weight loss.
Through personal responsibility and self-discipline you can watch pounds drop
away and change your life for the better...forever.

I use nature as my guide and model. I see very few cases of obesity out in the
wild. I just imagined myself as a wild animal as well. A consequence of this new view
is that I questioned and then discarded some negative trappings of our society
and culture. We living in modern civilization are in many ways spoiled. We are
rich, pampered and priviledged compared to most other people in the world. We tend to
think that through modern technology we can control nature. One way this is
displayed is the way in which modern medicine now prolongs life to far beyond the
life-spans of people living in less advanced parts of the world. Life in our
modern culture is becoming easier on many fronts. Technology has been essential
in decreasing work and increasing leisure time. Not all of this is always to the
net good. There are some people who bemoan the fact that they will be kept alive
for years, with no quality of life, as a burden to family, just vegetating in bed
in their old-age. Many modern inventions and contrivances strive to make work
easier and help to insure that less energy need be spent, consequently people are
getting lazier and lazier. Soon we will barely need to get up off the couch to
get most of our needs met. There are people who envision a time in the
not-too-distant future, when they fear obesity will be the norm and fit people
will be the freaks. Per capita, we Americans consume 20 times what most people in
the world do. A lifestyle of indulgence has completely permeated our society and
culture. Food as an extension and symbol of our wealth and it has become inextricably
part of our socialization. We gather round the food table for countless types of
social interactions, from family to friends to business. In many social
situations we have seemingly learned to associate having a good time with
completely pigging out. Our taste buds delight in the plethora of sensations that
are available to us in our modern world, fulfilling our hedonistic desires. In that the world has become smaller through globalization we now not only have access to the foods of our own
culture, but to the foods of the entire world, and we take delight in that new
diversity. Because of the sensory satisfaction it brings, food also has become a
source of pleasure which fills many other human needs, like depression,
loneliness and stress. As people acquire more leisure time boredom may become a
problem, and eating is reduced to a way to take up some time. Many human needs and
undefined cravings seem to be satisfied by eating. This is the problem that
needs to be attacked head on; this feeling of having to fill up the depleted self
with food substances can be eradicated. I believe it can be done by starting to
think like a wild animal. We need to eat in response to need rather than in
response to self-indulgent forms of pleasure-seeking. We have to return to a regimen of incorporating food into our lives for the elemental reasons of easing our hunger and maintaining our
survival. There is simply no reason to eat the quantities of food that we eat.
It is unnatural and will serve no good purpose. If thinking of yourself as an
animal seems too difficult then the next best alternative is to try to imagine
yourself living in a third world culture trying to eke out a subsistence living.
My idea is to become in tune with your body and in tune with nature. You must
experience hunger as a vital element to life, and respond to that hunger in a
natural fashion. As pain sends a signal to direct you to seek aid for your body,
so should hunger be a similar signal which directs your actions. Listen to your
body for it is telling you what you need and when you need it. Abandon all
schedules of eating imposed on you by society, the normal framework being
breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dramatically alter your view of the world and your
view of life, for now you must start to believe in the fundamental concept: EAT
TO LIVE rather than LIVE TO EAT. The ingestion of food is to be thought of as
sustenance ONLY, not as a pleasurable past-time or hobby. DIRECT YOU PLEASURE-
SEEKING INTO MORE SUBSTANTIVE CHANNELS, THAT DON'T INVOLVE FOOD.
I have assembled the enclosed kit, everything you will need for PHASE 1 of this new beginning. It's
function will only serve for 24 hours but it is nonetheless the critical first
step in the process of "mind-over-matter" exercises,
through the exertion of self-discipline. The three items in the kit are a
notepad, a strip of duct tape with a hole in it, and a straw. Your immediate
reaction now is that this is an absurd joke, but your amusement at the assembled
"kit" may help to remind you that this is indeed a serious venture. For you must
begin by not eating at all for one entire day. The duct tape over your mouth
will certainly help remind you of this, and the good news is that you can still
communicate with friends with the writing pad. The straw is so you can drink
plenty of water, very important. Water is the ONLY drink
allowed until your weight goal is achieved, but drink as much as you can and
want. Even natural fruit juices contain too much sugar. The worst part of your entire readjustment to life will be just a few hours of hunger on this first day. It it consequently highly recommended that you
begin on a day when you know you will be very busy, absorbed, involved or engaged
in activity, so that your mind will be as distracted as possible when the initial pangs
of hunger begin. The worst part lasts just a few hours. After that, for me anyway, the
hunger pangs tend to subside. It is important to pick the right day to start as well,
like on a weekend, as you don't want to go to work or to a board meeting with
tape over your mouth. Remember: if you get by these first few hours you are
HOME FREE. Then you can cruise for the rest of the day. After that you will
have accomplished the vital goal for PHASE 1 - your stomach will have shrunk.
You will now feel full consuming less food. The quantities you ate before will
be impossible to consume without feeling horribly bloated and stuffed, an
experience you must strictly avoid ever again having. For if your stomach were
too expand again to its former size, you will just have to go through PHASE 1 all
over again, and there is no need for this. With your stomach shrunk and your
mindset now like a wild animal's the rest will seem like a piece of cake by
comparision. Be very sure at this point to not proceed until you have given
yourself a very big congratulatory slap on the back for your successful
completion of this first huge step. You are now ready for PHASE 2 to begin. All
that is involved here is that you stick to the program of ONLY eating when you
feel hunger, not matter what time it is, and then ONLY eat until the hunger pangs
have subsided, and then STOP. Personally, I probably eat something every one or two hours,
like an applel, or a green pepper, or some walnuts. It doesn't matter if it took only three bites for
the pangs to be gone. Eat NO MORE at this time. If you feel hunger again in an
hour then you may eat some more, but again, only until the hunger subsides. One
other rule: no "junk food" or anything that is processed at all is allowed. Your sweet tooth and taste for
fatty foods must go by the boards. Eat lots of produce, fruits and veggies, and
whole grains, chicken and fish. Avoid pre-fab
concoctions. Start with natural foods (remember you are an animal in nature and
Spaghettio's are not available in the wild) and prepare everything yourself from
scratch. As you become accustomed to your "feedings" the will power and
self-discipline that will be required of you will become less and less, conscious
effort relaced by a very natural and habitual routine. But be patient. This
technique will work. You should drop at least a pound a week as your body
consumes the fat which is stored in your body. More heavily fat-laden
individuals may lose more a week. But the key is not to think in drastic terms
and make any fast or sudden moves. Just the lifestyle change and the altered
mental outlook is all it takes. Good luck, and enjoy life as a wild animal. I
think you will agree that the trade-offs were worth it. Yes, you indeed have
given up some pleasures of oral gratification. The amount of time your taste
buds have to revel in the divine taste of chocolate and that your mouth, tongue
and throat have to revel in the velvety textures of creamy substances is now
obviously greatly reduced. However the time is now cut short, the pleasure was
quite transitory, fleeting and superficial. On the other hand, your new form of
pleasure seeking, re-directed into a higher-order channel, is substantive and
permanent. You are experiencing self-control, through self-will, over your body, and
creating a healtier life for yourself in the process. You are no longer a societal drone, where
you health it place at risk purely out of pressure to conform what society considers the norm,
(and this from a vapid and debauched culture that considers carbonated sugar-water as a great beverage, which you're not cool if you don't drink). You may come to find that the pleasures that once seemed so vital, now in hindsight seems rather crude and even banal compared
to other joys you now find in life, whether it be the greater enjoyment you take
in nature, friends, or just feeling healthier, sprier and more youthful. You may acquire a new
sensitivity in other areas, like when a person loses his eyesight, his other senses develop and become more acute.

YOU CAN DO IT! CONVINCE YOURSELF! PROVE IT TO YOURSELF!

p.s. I realized I didn't really answer this specific question in my last email. My ethics make me aware that we are a completely spoiled rotten culture, relative to most of the rest of the world. I heard a statistic where much of the world spends 95% of their time and energy on survival (food and shelter). We spend about 5% on this, the rest we spend on attempting to entertain ourselves in our leisure time. And we gravitate to lurid crap like sexy Hollywood roll models for this quality entertainment, like girls who are tramps, wear mini-skirts with no underwear and puke all over themselves. And our culture raised these people up for us to admire and envy their lives and lifestyles. OMG! For reasons like this, I try to live as simply as possible, thinking of myself as a peasant rather than as a rich American. As Americans, we have spent the last 35 or so years, spending beyond our means, buying things we can't afford with money we don't have. We are a culture of being in debt and being used to extravagance in return for owing and being beholden in our debt. Now other countries want to emulate us, like China and India! What a horrible precedent we have set, to worship the attainment of things, gimmicks, gadgets, over human relationships and working on human connectedness. I don't think this is sustainable, as we are running out of resources on the planet. I really think The Story of Stuff video is amazing, and sooo important. We need to wake up and have some collective conscience-raising. People over things....please. http://www.storyofstuff.com/

What I mostly eat is legumes, grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.
Lots of stir-fries with potatoes. Also peanuts and seeds.

For 15 years I was a vegetarian for environmental and ethical reasons. A year and a half ago my husband and I bought and started an urban hobby farm and began raising our own poultry and produce. Our 2 acre farm produces fruit, veggies, poultry and eggs and much more. I finally feel justified in eating meat and do the harvesting myself with much thoughtfulness and intention of treating the animal and the land kindly.

Growing what you eat is bound to be a culture shock. But is can transform those high expectations about life and help keep it simple.

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Voices on the Radio

is a novelist and author of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.

Production Credits

Host/Producer: Krista Tippett

Managing Producer: Kate Moos

Senior Producer: Mitch Hanley

Producer: Colleen Scheck

Associate Producer: Rob McGinley Myers

Associate Producer: Shiraz Janjua

Online Editor/Web Producer: Trent Gilliss

Associate Web Producer: Andrew Dayton

Production Intern: Alda Balthrop-Lewis

Supporters of Barbara Kingsolver — The Ethics of Eating

This sustainability feature is supported by the Kendeda Sustainability Fund of the Tides Foundation.

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