MotherTongues: Wear Words, Celebrate Cultures

about words, languages, cultures, travel

Review: Where am I eating? August 21, 2013

A couple of years ago, I read Kelsey Timmerman’s book, Where am I wearing? and wrote about it in this blog post about the different places where our clothing is manufactured. Kelsey now published another book, called Where am I eating? He visited 5 countries where his (and our) coffee, chocolate, bananas, lobster, and apple juice come from.

Once again he did a wonderful job of describing the people who owns the farms, work on the farms, or in the case of lobster, dive for the food we get to eat here in the USA. And once again he made me realize that it is not a black and white world. Food grown in the USA is not always grown in a sustainable way, and food grown outside of our borders do not always mean low wages or enslavement.

Kelsey’s book makes it clear we really do not have a connection to our food and the growers/harvesters/slaughterers of it. Yes, after reading Michael Pollen‘s books, we joined a CSA and try to buy as much from local farmers as possible. But who knew that 86% of the seafood in America is imported? Who knew that nearly 50% of the spiny lobster imported into the US come from Brazil, Honduras, and Nicaragua? Kelsey visited Nicaragua and describes the divers having access to inadequate equipment, no instruction, with disastrous results.

And then, my favorite “foods”, coffee and chocolate. I’ve been happily drinking Starbucks coffee for the last year since we moved and I don’t have access to our wonderful local roaster in MI. Reading about the C.A.F.E. Practices program, Starbucks’ own set of environmental and social standards, and what Kelsey found in Colombia, made me switch back to buying Fair Trade Certified coffee. This case shows again that it is always better to have a third-party certifier.

The chocolate situation in West Africa is appalling. I’m so grateful to organizations like Green America who keep companies like Hershey’s accountable for child labor in their supply chain. I hope someday soon all major chocolate companies will insist on Fair Trade certification for their cocoa sources.

Read this book and become more aware of the “who” of your food. Who grew it, who harvested it, who slaughtered it, and who dove for it? I recently learnt of the Japanese phrase “itadakimasu”. Said before a meal, it expresses gratitude to all who cultivated, hunted, or prepared the food, as well as to the animals and plants.  I hope I can live with some more “itadakimasu”, giving more daily thought to where my food comes from.

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