My theme this month has been about finding creative ways to express gratitude. As we approach the the US holiday of Thanksgiving, I thought perhaps we could examine some creative ways to show gratitude for our food.
This weekend, the weekend before Thanksgiving, is often a big “preparation weekend” in our household.
My husband Pascal is our household culinary artist (one of his early jobs was Head Chef at a health-foods restaurant, and cooking has always been a creative outlet for him). This weekend in particular is especially fruitful for those of us who love pie!
But how, I wondered, would be some good, creative ways to express gratitude for the food we eat?
Gratitude to/for Animals
In some cultures there’s a tradition of thanking the animal that gave its life so a person can eat. Other than saying “grace,” though, how else might people express gratitude, and/or make certain their meal was humanely obtained?
This has been a thorny problem for years, because deceptive labeling practices abound. Recently we’ve been offered some help.
The ASPCA has published guidelines for sorting among the labels you may find on food, as well as a downloadable PDF with comparisons and particulars. If you want to find humanely-sourced meat, milk, and eggs.
Look for the Animal Welfare Approved, Certified Humane, and Global Animal Partnership labels. These are much more well-defined than other, more amorphous, possibly misleading, and sometimes downright deceptive labels.
Did you know that “Grass Fed” can apply to animals that were pastured on grass for a while before they went to the feedlot? Did you know “Cage Free” has no meaning when speaking of poultry meat, since only laying hens (for eggs) are routinely caged? Poultry reared for meat is housed in large, densely packed sheds . . . technically not caged, but also not free to act like a normal chicken, turkey, duck, or goose, and certainly not fed normal food.
Gratitude to/for the Providers:
Migrant farm workers
There’s a meme going around that reminds us someone–most likely a Hispanic migrant worker–picked the crops that provide the food we eat. Even if you’ve seen it before, it seems appropriate to use it for this post.
Migrant workers certainly do provide essential services that are not easily replaced, as the state of Georgia found out in 2011.
They tightened up their immigration restrictions and enforcement–only to find that migrant workers were afraid to come there and work (even if they were “legal,” which of course many of them were not), for fear of harassment due to racial/ethnic profiling.
So much for the myth that immigrants take jobs away from American citizens: crops rotted in the fields. Don’t assume this was a one-off fluke or outlier, either. Alabama experienced the same problem that year. Indeed, we still have examples of this effect happening in 2016.
Don’t be part of this problem! If you’re grateful for the food on your table, seek intelligent immigration reform and fair practices toward those whose labor harvests our crops.
I’ve recently written about the minimum wage issues facing millions of workers–certainly including restaurant workers–all over the United States.
Fair Trade growers
“Fair trade” sounds kind of like one of those loosely defined designations, on the order of “Cage Free” or “Grass-Fed”–but for once it’s not just a nice-sounding logo on a box or bag. It actually means something.
I’m old enough to remember a time when large corporations from Europe or North America practically owned–and in many ways controlled–entire, less-developed nations and pretty much controlled their economies, and provided the only source for many goods.
These “capitalist imperialists” (more recently called “corporate globalists“) monopolized markets to produce raw materials and food products such as sugar, coffee, and–most famously–bananas, in a way that produced maximum profits for the companies, while ignoring the destruction of the environment, the rights of workers, and many other issues in the countries where they operated.
They may not have been “the highest stage of imperialism” as Lenin claimed, but there has been an undeniable link between unrestrained capitalism and imperialistic approaches that persists today.
The Fair Trade movement seeks to give indigenous growers and agricultural workers more leverage against the multinationals. When you buy products marked with one of the Fair Trade logos illustrated here, you know that a list of important standards has been applied, and the producers of these products have passed the certification standards.
It’s another creative way to say “thank you” to the people who produce our food, and vicariously to the Earth, because Fair Trade standards take environmental quality into consideration.
IMAGES: Many thanks to Waldorf Education and The Magic Onions via Pinterest, for the “Mealtime Blessing” image. The label images came from the websites of their sponsoring organizations. Please follow these links to learn more about the Animal Welfare Institute, Humane-itarian-dot-org, and The Global Animal Partnership. Many thanks to Blame it on the Voices via Duck Duck Gray Duck, for this image of the “Thanks, Jesus” meme. I also am indebted to Clay Bennett of the Christian Science Monitor, for his eloquent political cartoon about the inadequacy of the minimum wage. Many thanks to Fair Trade USA and YouTube for the Fair Trade logos and video.