ColumnReal food isn’t a lifestyle accessory; it’s a necessity.
I was scrolling through Instagram the other day, you know, as you do. I follow a lot of people that are into food. Big surprise there. A lot of them are health focused in some way, shape or form, their focus being on eating whole foods and eating well. All things I can get behind. On the day in question, it occurred to me how “tropical” these feeds felt. A coconut milk smoothie here, a banana ice cream there. Sure there were more local summer berries and greens, but it felt like every recipe or dish I came across had a “zinger” ingredient; the thing that popped out as the “look at me I am a wonderfood! Aren’t I amazing?!” And these were not people living on tropical islands where they could walk out the door and go get all said ingredients.
I like coconut milk. I like ice cream made from bananas (sidenote: the process of making vegan ice cream with a frozen banana is kind of amazing). I like chia seeds. But all of these ingredients are sexy and exotic. Yes, they’re healthy and good for us (we do love the big ole S word, now don’t we?), but so are flaxseeds and a multitude of other really boring foods. Those don’t get the attention they deserve, because we’re busy focused on the more entertaining, flashy stuff.
That’s because food has become fashionable, particularly in the world of the internet. No, your breakfast did not wake up like that.
There was a day and age when all we had were cookbooks, and a cookbook was a collection of words and measurements and not much else. Then came the camera and the proliferation of food magazines and soon we were drooling over appetizing images of foods we dreamed of making. We would probably never get around to most of them, but with the magazine in front of us, we could at least believe that we would. Lifestyle porn at its best (or should I say, worst?).
Nowadays it has all gotten a whole lot worse, most of us obsessed with how things look as opposed to what’s actually in them. But food isn’t a lifestyle accessory; it’s a necessity.
We need to eat to live, but in modern society for so many of us, food has become fashionable. A bottle of cold-pressed juice in your hand is just as much an accessory as the bracelet you put on before you went out the door. It says something about you. It makes a statement.
There are plenty of people who can’t afford real food. Then there are those of us who can, and we’re focused on dousing everything in coconut milk, forgetting how far that can had to travel to get to us. We become blinded by the popularity of certain foods that we forget their ultimate impact. We eat because it’s trendy, not because it’s what sustains us.
I was flipping through a magazine the other day and there was a sidebar on the benefits of eating local foods, right next to a recipe for some mango, lime, passion fruit concoction. The irony was not beside me.
Can we all commit to not being seduced by all the sexy and exotic foods? Use a few exotic ingredients here and there, but turn the focus back to what’s around you.
Because we really do need to get back to the real foods that come from nearby, not just for the environmental carbon footprint argument, but because food grounds us, it gives us a sense of place. Stand in an orchard and eat an apple off the tree and you’ll know what I am talking about.
It may be fashionable to throw in a trendy ingredient, but that doesn’t make it real food. That just makes it something that’s Instagram-worthy.
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This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’ weekly column at EcoSalon: Foodie Underground, an exploration of what’s new and different in the underground movement, and how we make the topic of good food more accessible to everyone. More musings on the topic can be found at www.foodieunderground.com.
Image: Stacy Spensley