FOOD: one of the three essential elements for life, the giver of energy, the gift of the heavens. "Where does it come from How is it made," you ask? Well, here is the recipe:
one part CO2 carbon dioxide, a minor atmospheric gas, and
two parts water, fresh
Cook ingredients under a solar fire deep within the cells of a green plant.
Pour off waste product, oxygen.
Serve resulting sugar with a variety of mineral garnishes to taste.
That simple recipe sustains nearly all life on earth as the great global photosynthesis factories of
a myriad of plants -- from tiny algae to giant kelp and massive cedar trees -- produce foods
under the life-giving sun.
We humans need such food or a further processed version, such as meat, to properly fuel and
nourish our bodies and minds. Without a regular supply of food, our bodies are barren of life
force and eventually whither and die.
The search for food has been the predominant daily occupation of hunters and gatherers since
humanity's birth on the plains of Africa. When some members of our species learned to assure
food supplies by growing and herding it, the knowledge sowed the seeds for civilizations to rise.
But when civilizations grow too large and destroy the land's ability to sustain production, they
quickly crumble and die.
Thus, food, or at least its continual supply, has been the source of historical unrest and crises,
economic and social control and great social inequities. Food has been the cause of wars and
used as a weapon in war. Millions have died of starvation and the effects of malnutrition while
nearby others grew food for their sole benefit.
But food is also a great source of love and fun for many of us. We find recreation in it as we re-create ourselves. Food appeals to all five senses: sight, sound and touch but, most of all, to that
dynamic duo of smell and taste. Great cooking is the proper combination of applied biology,
chemistry and physics carried out with tender loving care. The preparation of food often
expresses the cook's love to family and friends, even to strangers in need. In the hands of a
gourmet cook, food preparation becomes an art form.
Few species eat the wide spectrum of foodstuffs that humans do. Our tastes range from apples to
zucchini, anchovies to zebras with a variety of fungi, yeasts and bacteria as side dishes. We eat
seeds and eggs, mature and immature life forms, and a variety of bodily secretions (honey, milk,
etc.). We toss in some inorganic salts for good measure and taste. And when we cannot get
enough of the real thing, we synthesize a variety of edible tastes by chemical processes to fill our
We eat many foods raw. Others, we boil, bake, steam, fry, saute, broil, grill, roast, poach, brown,
blanche, freeze, juice, ferment, simmer, brew, dry, salt, toast, barbecue, stew, char and pickle.
We argue over which foods are healthy and which are not. We like and we dislike. We chew,
savour, munch, devour, gulp, nibble, gnaw, crunch, slurp, lick, bolt and swallow our foods.
In the process of feeding ourselves well, however, we often sow the seeds of disease. Over-eating in general and over-consumption of certain foods may lead to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and digestive ailments. Chemicals used in the growing, processing and
preserving of foods contaminate our air, water and soil, often finding their way into our bodies
and those of our fellow creatures with unhealthy result.
We have also found that certain foods contain components which promote our health far beyond
our basic needs for energy production and nutrition. Today we can hardly pick up a newspaper
or magazine or listen to TV or radio without hearing reports of the magical properties of garlic,
certain fungi and fruits, broccoli and soy bean products in healing.
The story of food is the story of humankind. Its many chapters are as varied as the individuals
that populate the planet. In Living Gently Quarterly, we occasionally focus on food, but we
cannot even begin to touch every aspect of the relationship between us and our food. Hopefully
this is just the appetizer for this is an
important component of every issue as we strive to live more gently.