Sunday, June 06, 2010


Before this summer, I never would have considered myself a "foodie." Though I did enjoy food that tasted good, I never thought too much about where it came from or imagined new ways I could put food together to make something delicious.

Hours staring at a spreadsheet with delicious, local ingredients and reading even the first few chapters of "Omnivore's Dilemma" changed that for me. Although I still haven't gotten very far in "Omnivore's Dilemma", it's been interesting to see the implications of the corn takeover and how it's affected what we consume. Did you know that North Americans (Mexicans excluded...) have more corn in their bodies than the rest of the world? It's because it's in everything we eat. Farmers grow corn and feed it to cows, chickens and pigs. Even if we aren't eating corn, we eat it every time we eat beef, eggs, bacon, milk or cheese. To take it a step further, consider that corn is used to make most soft drinks (corn syrup), anything processed (corn starch) and pretty much everything we eat.

What's the problem with corn? There are a few. It takes more energy to produce corn than it actually provides, due to the use of synthetic fertilizers. It destroys traditional farms. It used to be that farmers grew oats, vegetables and other grains so they could feed their cows, chickens and pigs. Those cows, chicken and pigs would leave behind the remnants of their dinner, and this would be used to fertilize the fields for the next batch of crops. It was a self-sustaining system. Corn, instead, takes over the whole field (along with soy) and farming becomes industrial.

Anyway, although I haven't gotten as far as I'd like with "Omnivore's Dilemma", that's been in the back of my mind as I spend my days analyzing customer purchase patterns at work. Part of that process has involved going over our product database many times, which has provided me an opportunity to view the plethora of local foods available that were produced without corn. It's also enabled me to be a little more creative in what I'm cooking, and though I still don't feel confident to stray from a recipe, I've been looking up new recipes to try.

And, as part of that whole process, I took the plunge and ordered some very expensive chicken from a place called Polyface Farms. Food at Polyface is produced using the good, old-fashioned farming models, and despite the fact that I slightly overcooked the apple-stuffed chicken I made with it, I could tell there was a definite improvement over the regular chicken I buy.

Is this just an intern-induced fad, or will it mean sustained changes in the way I view food and the food chain? Only time will tell.


Adriano Maesano said...

looks like you're having a great summer. I spent mine next to Arnie and Zach and I envy you.
I'm also reading the Omnivore's Dilemma (among about 5 other books simultaneously) and it's a fascinating read.
Keep us informed about your experience. I may drop by to say hi to the Relay team sometime this week.
Best, Adriano Maesano

JulyDream said...

Very interesting... might have to check that book out when I have some free time. ;)

Hope you're enjoying C'ville!!