Traditional home cooking, the new Trend?

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Traditional home cooking, the new Trend?
The Significance of Home Cooking
A Return to Local Ingredients
The Future of American Food Culture
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Fresh Peaches from a Farmers MarketA revolutionary trend is taking over America – a return to traditional home cooking and the preference for organic, locally grown ingredients over commercially processed convenience items.  John Ikerd, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural Economics at Missouri University, takes us on an in-depth look into the importance of the natural food movement and the future of America’s food culture. 

What has interested you in the natural foods movement and sustainable food?

For most of my life and the first half of my 30-year academic career, I never seriously questioned the integrity of our food system. I grew up on a farm and worked for a time in the food industry and I knew where food came from. As a young agricultural economist, I was led to believe that the American food system was the greatest in the world – for farmers as well as consumers. But during the farm financial crisis of the 1980s, I came to the realization that the system certainly wasn’t working for farmers – or for people of rural communities. The more I questioned why it wasn’t good for farmers or rural people, the more I came to realize that it also wasn’t good for the land, for the things of nature, or even for consumers. Our specialized, routinized, corporately controlled industrial food system was putting lots of cheap food in the supermarkets and restaurants, but it wasn’t making people happier or healthier – it wasn’t good for people.

I first became interested in the natural food movement because I saw it as a countercultural movement – something very different from what I had been taught. The natural food movement had its roots in the “back to earth” movement of the 1960s. These people had seen reasons to question the integrity of the industrial food system long before I had. They weren’t simply concerned about their own health, but also the health and viability of both natural and human communities. They produced food organically, not just to avoid agricultural chemicals, but also because they had an organic worldview or philosophy of life. They started farmers markets and local food co-ops, not only to make good food more available to more people, but also to strengthen communities. They shared a lot of my concerns about the integrity of the food system and they were doing something to change it. Over the past 40 years, the natural food movement has evolved into the local food movement of today, but it has always been about ecological, social, and economic integrity – about sustainability.

What steps can we as a society take to return to a more wholesome way of eating and cooking?

As a first step, we can join the new American food culture. We can become a “locavore.” A locavore is someone who shows a strong preference for locally grown foods that are in season and either fresh or minimally processed without using unnecessary additives. The term was coined by some folks who were promoting the “100 mile diet” – a diet made up of foods grown within 100 miles of the eater. However, locavores include anyone who is searching for foods with integrity and has concluded the best way of finding it is to buy from local people of integrity – people they know and trust. Food with integrity must be produced by means that do not degrade the natural resources or the environment; that meet the needs of society as consumers, producers, and citizens; and are economically viable for farmer and consumers. To join this new food culture, we will need to start preparing more of our own meals “from scratch,” at home. This means we will have to learn to cook, if we don’t already know how. We will also need to redevelop our taste for foods that are in season locally. Our menus will have to adjust with the changing seasons – for most of us, more meat and beans and fewer melons and berries in winter, and a variety of fruits and vegetables from spring through late fall. But as we adjust, we will begin to realize that fresh foods in season taste better and are more nutritious. We begin to look forward to changes in season. If we need some encouragement from likeminded people we can join Slow Food, which is an 85,000-member organization with local convivia in more than 100 countries.   


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