Sunday, October 24, 2010

Food and Film

"It's an exciting time to be interested in food!" Marion Nestle opened her talk at the University of Washington's Food: Eating Your Environment lecture series this past week with these words, a burst of energy and a satisfied grin. Suddenly many of our global concerns seems to be connected to food in some way. Major public health issues such as hunger, malnutrition and obesity are related to nutrition which is tied to food and linked back to agriculture and the land. And everyone who is anyone is jumping aboard the new food movement, visiting farmer's markets, joining CSAs, cooking, gardening, canning, fermenting and composting. Yes, it is an exciting time to be interested in food.

It is also completely overwhelming. Trying to say well informed, to keep abreast of all the goings on around the country is exhausting. With access to information only as limited as your internet connection, it can be maddeningly time consuming to keep track, especially since the nature of the movement is so grassroots that it is often highly fragmented. Proponents of the locavore movement consider this a good thing: a more organic way for communities to decide what is best to address their unique circumstances. A refusal to wait for change to come from above, instead fueled by individuals aimed at targeting smaller groups in more effective ways (perhaps a D.I.Y. food revolution, not unlike the D.I.Y. Foreign Aid Revolution outlined this week by Nicholas Kristof) is the hallmark of this movement.

Certainly the food movement isn't without allies in the government. Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" campaign proves an exception to the rule, and she has gained lots of cred with her White House garden. And during the President's visit to Seattle this past week he may have sampled a local favorite Top Pot doughnut, but also sent the public health message "you can't eat these everyday." Potatoes, on the other hand, apparently can be eaten every day, or so says the Executive Director of the WA State Potato Commission who is a third of the way into his 20 potatoes a day diet. It's too bad too, because he's missing out on Seattle Restaurant Week. But his "cause" only underscores the democratic nature of the food movement. Everyone eats so everyone has a say.

I have a say as well. Whether or not my opinion carries more weight because I'm studying food and nutrition is beside the point. I'm fascinated by these stories, of people and food and diets and causes and movements and as the list of food-related items I hope to blog about continues to grow, I am reminded of my days studying film. I had fallen into cinema studies by accident, but fell in love - infatuation really - with the idea that the greatest appreciation of film required an understanding of just about everything else: politics, economics, history, aesthetics. Film, I romantically believed, could provide (or perhaps more accurately, reflect) a theory of everything. But I also learned that over-consumption of culture and media can leave one feeling just as gorged and empty as bingeing on chips and cookies. And that's when it was time to take a step back and assess what was really important. What I've found is that my interest in human narrative persists and was easily transferable from one field to the next. Both film and food provide fertile ground for exploration of the human condition and can be vehicles for social change and empowerment. And with that I begin another week in this foodie paradise that is the Northwest. It's an exciting time indeed!

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