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Power To The Eaters by J Fowler[/caption] So, while I love the wondrous variety of food that is available to me, I recognize that few things demonstrate globalization and Empire more than food. Global consumption of tomatoes, potatoes, and chocolate began with the conquest of the Americas (that’s right, folks…potatoes come from Latin America, not Ireland). When a region is conquered by an Empire, food and culture and people are used for the benefit of that Empire. The next time you’re at your favorite ethnic restaurant, stop and consider how it was that THIS cuisine ended up on your plate. In the case of food, consumption is more than a metaphor. We consume foods from around the world at low costs because of the vast and deep practices of global consumer capitalism. A mango farmer in a warm climate (the mangos for my salsa probably come from Mexico) is paid poorly for a crop that is shipped thousands of miles. The industrialization of the process and the underpayment of workers allows me the ability to eat tasty mangos for about a buck each. That might seem awesome to you. I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy the ability to use virtually any product from any part of the world whenever desired for prices that are cheap. But at what cost? Ours is a system–driven by an “agricultural industrial complex“–separates consumers from producers through a complicated, price-driven chain of processors, manufacturers, packagers, shippers, and retailers. As this complex grows, well, more complex, the middle links of that chain have increasing control over the quality and price of food. In the end, growers are paid as poorly as possible and consumers are kept increasingly in the dark about the quality and morality of their food. So while “first-world” consumers benefit from low prices, we are becoming dependent upon a complex system of controlled foods. Meanwhile, the rest of the worlds social and economic fabric is being re-woven to accommodate our tastes. One documented example is the introduction of nile perch into Lake Victoria as a cash crop for primarily European consumers. In this case, the introduction of the nile perch has caused ecological disruption to other native species. Meanwhile, local fishing economies have been redirected towards foreign trade. There is, in hundreds of such examples, a dark side to globalization. When regional food production is redirected to foreign trade, a region is unable to provide for its own food needs. And, instead of self-sufficient economies, a nation ends up dependent upon cash crops that come close to enslaving them (rather than providing the oft-promised means of entering into prosperity). I believe one ethical way forward is to reboot our relationship with our food. Besides growing one’s own food, an ethical consumer can limit their consumption to their local region. Buy local produce during the harvest seasons, learn to can some food, dry some food, freeze other food. And, for special occasions or in those times when buying a particular crop can be done ethically with minimal links in the production chain, buy certain kinds of produce, grains, coffee beans, tea, etc. The challenge to this approach, of course, is the difficulty of “de-complexifying” the production chain. In other words, we need to learn what crops are actually local, find ways to purchase them locally, and relearn food preservation skills. And that is the reason for this article. Here are nifty web-based resources that will help make this process a bit easier. So, dig in: 1. Want to know what’s fresh in your area? Check out this interactive map from Epicurious. 2. Want to recover the lost art of canning? Here’s some basic info along with a growing list of recipes. 3. Want to explore other forms of food preservation (like drying or smoking)? Here’s info from the National Center for Home Food Preservation. 4. Want to find a local farmer to buy from directly? Here’s a site that has a list of local organic farms. 5. Want to start your own garden? Here’s a starter guide. 6. Want to keep it organic? Check this out. 7. One of the best ways to keep your food purchases local is to learn how to cook with what you have. Many websites have a search-by-ingredients feature. (which is one a few sites I visit for recipes) has such a feature here. [Source: – Thanks Mark!]]]>