Dear readers,

I wanted to share with you a recent journal entry that I wrote while traveling in Uruguay during our two months off between AMS Phase I and Phase II. I hope that it sheds some light on what we’re trying to do in the greater alternative food movement and how it relates to trends that are occurring not just in the United States, but all around the globe.

I hope you enjoy it!

 

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

December 1st, 2014

My First Foreign Fast Food Experience

This morning I went to a McDonalds McCafé To-Go at a bus terminal in Montevideo, Uruguay. It was such a reminder of how Fast Food can totally degrade the way we eat and the way we treat others. I have to say, although the food purchase went against every bone in my morally conscious body, I wanted to try a foreign McDonald’s more out of curiosity than anything else. I should have known better.

The whole experience was stressful, disappointing, and frankly a bit depressing. And, of course, fast.

Everyone in line around me was cranky. I realized I was standing about two feet from the actual line to buy food (I was in the pick-up line) and when I told the lady standing right next to me what had happened, she motioned me with a scowl to the back of the line. Of course – when we expect “fast food,” we don’t have time for the typical, polite courtesies of ser humanos, human beings. We don’t even have time to sit down, take a breath, and eat the food we have just purchased. Or, if we do, we eat it with a newspaper, magazine, smartphone, or some other kind of distraction mechanism in hand.

When I got to the counter, things got worse. This poor guy manning the drink orders was running around, stressed, trying to go as fast as he could to satisfy the customers’ desire for rapid fire service. Another girl was “painting” the medialunas (a kind of pastry) with some sort of sweet, sugary spread at lightening speed.

After I ordered, it seemed that something was amiss. One part of this factory’s machine was running a little slow. As I waited patiently for my “pan del campo,” a sort of English Muffin type of bread, customers around me got more antsy. They started to scowl at the workers behind the counter.

Fast Food leaves no time for empathy or understanding.

In all the rush, the queso and marmelada was left out of the bag of food. When I went back to ask for it, the same guy serving the drinks gave me a tense look, a mixture of anxiety, fear, and frustration in his eyes.

This is what the fast food industry fosters: anxiety, fear, and frustration…for the animals who are raised to make the food, the workers who are no doubt underpaid and mistreated to grow, harvest, and process the food, the restaurant workers who serve the food, and the clientele who eats the food.

Out of beautiful, compassionate and humble human beings, fast food transforms us into unfeeling, consumptive robots, or worse, bad-tempered, impatient, and anxious versions of ourselves. You are what you eat has never been demonstrated so clearly to me.

My trip around South America for the past month has been so wonderful and so full of beautiful, divinely empathetic people. Traveling has reminded me of our shared humanity and of the beauty of communication through various languages. I have been floored by the overwhelming warmth and generosity of fellow travelers and of the Latin American friends who I have visited. Particularly when it comes to sharing food, I have been met with an attitude of “what’s mine is yours.”

That is why my experience this morning carried with it a special potency. Experiencing fast food in a different country reminded me how much the U.S. continues to export its harmful practices to other nations around the world. Whether it’s our chemically intensive and ecologically fatal methods of cultivating land, our inhumane industrial ways of raising animals for food, or our ignorant and unsustainable consumption practices, the symptoms of the U.S.’s broken conventional food system seem to spread like a cancer around the world.

Many people I have met traveling around Argentina have told me that feedlots are on the rise in Argentina. As it is, when I was traveling around the north of Argentina by bus, it was impossible to miss the hectares and hectares of “soja,” or soy, being grown here. Since the early 1990s it seems that many of Argentina’s traditional cattle ranchers, the country’s famous “gauchos,” have switched over from cattle ranching to growing monocultures of soy, grain, or corn.

When we become ignorant of or unfeeling towards the ways in which our food reaches our plates, or, as was the case for me this morning, our to-go bags, we miss out on the very stuff that makes life complete and helps shape our view of ourselves in the world.

The sacrifices, hard work, and generosity that goes into feeding the human population should instill in each and every one of us a sense of humility and interdependence. Instead, in the rush of making the sacred act of eating as efficient and rapid as possible, the fast food culture breeds selfishness and numbness towards those who make it possible for us to eat.

My experience this morning reminded me of what the greater alternative food movement that we’re a part of is trying to accomplish – trying to help people understand the meaning and importance of food and community. Trying to help others find out for themselves how much food contributes to health and well-being and, as I experienced this morning, how dull and anxiety-ridden our lives become when we forget about or undervalue the food we put into our mouths.

Today my thoughts are with the countless friends, family members, and strangers that I have shared such meaningful, slow meals with. Today I think of how fulfilling it is to plant, nurture, harvest, prepare, and share food together.

Food is the stuff of life. It is what sustains poets, scholars, doctors, and lovers alike. Let us give it the time and attention that it deserves.

 

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