Monday, August 24, 2009


Whenever I go back to the United States I quickly notice the food differences. I go through this each and every time I return, but it never fails to catch me by surprise. Some ways I am pleasantly surprised -here in Germany the food is so meat and pork heavy (which I'm not a fan of), while other times I crave the produce stands and markets that are quintessentially European (and don't get me started on craving the cheeses).

My old roommate, Julie, just finished working with Americorps at an organic farm in Maine. I also worked in Maine - about 7 years ago, which is when I fell in love with it.

Julie would write to tell me about waking up early to go the farmers market and hanging out with the farm dog. I have a slight envy every time I hear about her adventures - not to mention the blueberries, lobster, puffins, and that gorgeous coast line. She has sent me so many postcards and little packages of things to let me know she's thinking of me, which is so very sweet.

If I had to cash in my city life, I really think I'd love to live on a farm. I know I have romantic notions of what it would be like, but the idea of eco friendly sustainability and having my hands in the soil sounds wonderful. I'm sure it's a thrilling feeling to know you can completely feed yourself on what you grow. Fresh ingredients direct from the plant have become such a luxury.

When we travel back to the Unite States, this winter, I would really like to check out the 'slow food movement' started by Alice Waters of chez panisse. I admire her because she has a fire in her home kitchen that she uses to cook and she encourages having an 'edible schoolyard' where she teaches children to interact with their food - to cultivate it and to be proud that they can grow things. It seems so empowering.

After first moving to Germany I saw a TV show here about the school children here that could not recognize vegetables. I'm not talking a rutabaga or kohlrabi (I didn't even know what that was until I moved here) - they couldn't even recognize carrots. It made me so sad to watch the children run up to the table with excitement when the were told they would able to take these fresh foods home. When they visited one child's home his mother talked about McDonald's and frozen pizzas. Nearly every child could differentiate which fast food restaurant something came from and what it was called. Is that not absolutely heartbreaking? To me it's important to learn how to cook, and to teach early on what healthy eating is.

The Whitehouse / Obamas tried to get in on having an edible landscape. It was planted on March 20th on the south lawn and was 1100 square feet organic herbs, fruits, veggies. The idea is great, but the soil was found to have very high levels of lead.

Sometimes I step back and really consider how much progress has been made and how much things have changed in the last century, but it comes with obvious disadvantages. People no longer need as many children to work on the farms. They've traded family for a faster pace of life and even then there are still population issues. Everything has gone prepackaged and people don't even take the time to feed themselves or their families healthily. Foods (meat especially) are injected with growth hormones. I listen to my friends whose parents are farmers and I know that it's not an easy job to be a small town farmer, especially now that factory farming has entered the game.

I really want to see the movie Food, Inc., which addresses these issues and more.

Although my sister, Stefan, and I went to Maine in March 2008, I dream of going back.

I'm very curious what types of foods I will be encountering through the next few months on our trip. I hope I don't come home too skinny!

(image: food, inc. poster - magnolia pictures)


JoernandAllison said...

How did I not know that you lived in Maine? I love it there too, and even considered going to college there.
That is sad that so many kids couldn't recognize a carrot. I think convenience food has taken hold here, much like the US in the 70s and 80s.
Oh, and we have a Slow Food fair here in Stuttgart every year. Another reason to come visit sometime :)

Emily said...

Isn't Maine amazing? I totally need to check out your slow food fair. We do need to make it up there - hopefully early next year. You'll have to come back our way too... we're kind of on the way to Italy!