Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Fresh Take on Food at the Byrd

When Tanya Cauthen at Belmont Butchery thinks a food film is important enough for her to sponsor a screening in RVA, I'm there. Which is to say that I was at the Byrd Theater tonight for a showing of "Fresh," presented by Flavor magazine.

The event began with a sampling from local sources such as Manakintowne Growers, who were handing out baggies of micro-greens, each with a slice of watermelon radish. Considering I've eaten their micro-greens in any number of restaurants around town for years, it was great to finally put a face to the greens, so to speak.

The Farm to Family bus was outside and open for business. AnnaB's Gluten Free bakery had samples of bread, chocolate cake and M & M cookies to share. Tanya was passing out charcuterie (and showing off her beautiful engagement and wedding rings). Relay Foods Richmond had various local farm cheeses to spread on crackers.

Given the abundance of local and organic offerings, I saw only a very few people nervy enough to approach the concession stand for faux buttered popcorn or soda. One of the friends I met there did say she felt herself looking longingly at the Milk Duds, but she didn't give in to the omnipresent high fructose corn syrup devil.

Beginning with a dewy morning on the farm, the short film (72 minutes) addressed the issues of the industrial food system that's depleting our land, polluting our environment, promoting obesity and generally just messing with Mother Nature.

There are no mono-cultures in nature and yet our industrial food system insists on creating them, to the detriment of the product and the environment. Who ever thought this was a good idea?

From early shots of baby chicks being callously tossed onto the coop floors like rocks, to shots of pigs penned so closely together that you couldn't tell where one stopped and another started, the film balanced the negative with the hopeful.

Of course, it wouldn't be a food film without Micheal Pollan giving his insight, but the farmers shown, including a Virginian, were articulate, informed and honestly committed to a more sustainable future.

Their assurances that individual efforts by farmers and consumers will eventually make the difference in how things are done and what we eat were the backbone of the film.

And we need to do something soon. The difference in the nutritional value of fresh produce has diminished 40% since 1950. If that's not evidence that we need to change our existing food system, I can't imagine what would be.

And since study after study has now proven that a medium-sized organic farm is more productive than a large industrial-scale farm, we have a clear model for what we need to move towards. One farmer characterized it as a melding of indigenous wisdom with the best of technology.

After the screening, a panel of locals took questions and addressed issues from the movie, including the cloudy difference between natural, organic and local (as well as why many small farmers don't get USDA organic certification: it costs too much).

As one older man in the film said, in his lifetime we have gone from family farming and small markets to industrial farming and supermarkets and we need to use the rest of our lifetime to change it back.

Being the enthusiastic eater that I am, I'm all for anything that makes the food taste better and my oh-so-practical side supports raising healthier food so that I'm getting the most out of whatever I do eat.

Let's just not lose sight of the cardinal rule here: everything tastes better with bacon.

That's my indigenous wisdom for you.

No comments:

Post a Comment