How often can we identify where the food on our plates is from? If you asked me I would tell you, “Well, the asparagus is from aisle one, the rice from aisle six and the chicken is from the meat counter!” This is one of the many reasons we are so disconnected from the fuel of our bodies. Our food travels far and wide to find its way to us and there are so many environmental implications. However, I would like to point out its affect culturally.
The world was a small place before the Industrial Revolution. Farms were small and family run, trade was mainly local and manufacturing existed on a small scale. People ate what was produced locally and what was in season, but as the Industrial Revolution began everything changed. Innovation brought forth the ability to mass produce and with more commodities came the need to expand. Thus was the birth of the transcontinental railroad.
The railroad did not just change how we traded, but it also changed how we think. Its role in connecting us coast to coast began a wave of nationalism. Its presence caused us to think of ourselves in terms of our place in the nation, instead of our place in town. For instance, the railroad brought about the need for time zones in order to keep track of train schedules. With the institution of time zones a town in the western part of a state now had to sync up the time with a town in the eastern part of a state. Locals had to give up their noon for the benefit of the nation.
So what does this all have to do with food? Well, with the railroad in place, large quantities of food could be moved very quickly to different regions of the United States. This begins a new era of eating. People became disengaged with their food because of the physical distance between them and where it originated. The price of something may be determined from crops in another part of the country, but because we are so far removed from it, we lost investment in what that price means. It has become more important to get the food we want, when we want it and for cheap. But we have no understanding of what must be sacrificed because of the space in between.
The world is becoming so accessible these days, but we sacrifice our locality. Let’s feel more connected to our food. Let’s create a relationship with what we eat by supporting local food businesses.
What local foods are you a fan of?