The Ethical Act of Eating
There is a certain magic that is attached to the memory of food. It engages all our senses in quick succession, cementing itself into the mirage of memorable meals in our brain. We smell its aromas, the sweetness and saltiness, the almost intoxicating flow of its movement, dancing and fuming in an upwards fashion into our embrace. We see and touch it. We can hear it sizzling and frying and singing. And in abundance, we taste it. Some of my earliest memories are rooted in food. Childhood birthday parties with crumbly shortbread. A slightly lopsided Victoria sponge awaiting demolition at the sticky hands of children. Afterschool toasties with oozing cheddar cheese and crackling bread, bowls of fresh cucumber and snappy carrots. Steaming hot tomato soup on Saturday mornings after freezing football trainings, inhaling the contents of the bowl with golden silence as our fingers and toes defrosted. The reliable pasta salads in sticky summer months, hearty stews as the evenings darkened, and creamy, fluffy potatoes to sooth any bad day. Even now I still think about the final dish of ratatouille served up in Ratatouille or the copious amounts of butter that Julia Child lathers on to anything that might even pass as edible in Julie and Julia.
As humans we revolve around our next meal. Some have the luxury of approaching this as an act of choice, others as an act of survival. Food is not simply food. It can take political form, artistic form, economic form, and environmental form. I love food in all its complexities. Cooking, giving, creating, and failing at it. But I also know that my ability to discuss food in these forms comes from a place of privilege, of being able to have a choice in what I eat and how I eat it. In the aftermath of the recent COP26 conference in Glasgow, our struggle with the worsening climate crisis is looming ever larger and approaching ever faster. The vast majority of our leaders are failing to do the bare minimum, leaving us in the lurch and feeling powerless.
It is in these moments that I try to ground my spiralling mind, re-focusing my actions to the things I actually have control over. How do we contribute to the worsening state of our environment, and in what capacity can we alter our relationship to consumerism? One doesn’t have to be strictly vegan or vegetarian in order to better their relationship with food and the environment, but we do have to start changing the way we eat if we are to provide a healthy and long-lasting future for our eating and agricultural habits. The politics of our plates may not always be overt, but understanding them is essential in enhancing the ethics of our eating.
By 2050 the world’s population will hit the 10 billion mark. As this number increases, the planet’s necessary resources are beginning to dwindle. In order for each one of us to be fed and nourished sufficiently, we have to start paying attention to the minute details of everyday consumerism. The production, packaging, and carbon footprint of our food. The small actions that will enable us to be food heroes, requiring the bare minimum of effort.