We’re not the people we used to be. Ask anyone. When bible thumpers, politicians, social scientists, and public intellectuals rail on about the ills of our present-day American society, they invariably point to few hot button items: the collapse of our civic institutions, the dissolution of the family, a loss of faith, or a loss of some nostalgic innocence.
Yet, the truth is not so complicated. Simply put, we have lost any connection to the land. We have also lost the secrets that came with living close to the earth. We no longer know what was once so essential to us. As a result, we have lost the ability to live artfully. And, axiomatically, we have lost the abiltity to truly eat.
There is something so Orwellian about riding the New York City subways these days. On every car is the same sight: throngs of people hooked into their blue tooth mobile phones and I-Pods. It’s chilling. When we allow ourselves to become defined by our relationship to technology as opposed to our relationship with food, the source of nourishment, we are lost as a people.
When I see people walking through the city on their lunch breaks, I often ask myself, "Would this person know how to survive in the woods if they had to? Would they know how to find or catch food? If removed from this ultra-modern urban setting, would they know how to live?" So many of us are starved for any real, spritual connection to the land and its food.
As I walk through the East Village's Thompkins Square Park, Allen Ginsburg speaks to me from the ether: I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by fast food and internet pornography.
Our food habits are what sustain us and are ultimately one of the true reflections of who we are as people. The cultures that are able to survive into longevity are those that understand and respect the secrets that food reveals to us, whether it is the art of curing medicinal herbs, or the knowledge of how to plant by the zodiac. We are no longer in touch with the natural cycles all around us. The damage has been irreparable. You can see it in our schools and communities. You can see it even more so in our super-markets.
We need to know the feeling of how to pull vegetables out of the ground, how to gently massage them until they spring forth from the earth. We need to know how to make a camp fire and how to roast meat over a flame, so that it cooks just right, searing the flesh and capturing the juices inside. Who out there knows the feeling of dirt under your fingernails after you've just planted the vegetables that will feed your family weeks from now? What have we lost as a result of microwaves and hot-pockets? We need to learn how to cook all over again.
There is no separation between food and politics. We are a nation born out of the spirit of revolution, yet we have lost that sense too. In many ways, New York City is as segregated as it ever was. Just look at the difference between what kinds of food options are available in a predominately white neighborhood as opposed to a black or Latino one.
When the revolution comes, it will demand all of these things. It will come barreling out of the ghettoes and low income housing projects. It will smash the window of every McDonald’s and Pop-Eye’s joint from Watts to the south Bronx. It will also streaming forth from countless bland, suburban sub-divisions, burning every strip-mall, T.G.I. Friday’s, and Olive Garden to the ground. It will demand good food.
We need to rediscover our connection to the land, its food, and our sense of who we are. Our hope lies there.
Eat your revolution.