Changing the Value Equation

I first heard the phrase “changing the value equation” at the Family Farmed Expo, a local food and sustainable agriculture event. At the time, it was new to me—I’m apparently the last person in America to hear this phrase, as it pops up on Google in all sorts of contexts (I’m just not up on my jargon), but I think it’s particularly apt when it comes to our food choices. Is it really cheaper, in dollars and time, to purchase packaged, processed poison compared to what we lose?

Cost + Convenience ≠ Health + Heritage + Hospitality.

In fact, Cost + Convenience < Health + Heritage + Hospitality.

Our myths of origin are full of parables about food. Philemon and Baucis achieve immortality because they feed the disguised god Zeus. Jason learns the route to the Golden Fleece because he saves blind Phineaus from the monsters who are stealing his food. Hospitality centered on food rituals is part of every culture. Do we really want a culture whose food rituals are invented by a creative team at an ad agency?

The myths of food preceeds the meal itself. Preparation is a powerful binder of souls–setting small fingers to shelling peas, or measuring ingredients, or mixing batter not only puts families in community with each other, it’s how we pass on the heritage of our food traditions. How many of us have strong, fond memories of cooking with a mother or grandmother? I can’t imagine that it’s the same to remember your mother pulling a frozen entree out of the fridge and plunking it into the microwave. Children shouldn’t to learn to cook by reading the edge of the box.

The idea that our time and our intellect is too valuable to “waste” on cooking is presumptuous, misogynist, and anti-historical. It’s also wrong. It is not less time consuming to drive through McDonalds than it is to cook from scratch.

Many creative pursuits have been described as the “first art”; I’ve heard both dance and communal singing referred to this way. But I would suggest that our earliest rituals and arts centered around food–identifying it, following it, gathering it, preparing it. We’re replacing a rich heritage with a pursuit of perpetual toddlerdom–want it NOW. YOU fix it.

Much has been written, better, elsewhere on the health costs we are paying for our processed diet. But it’s not just about how it’s affecting the health of our individual bodies. By teaching children that dinner comes in a box, we are replacing rich and millennially ancient food cultures with the simplistic ideas of “cheaper” and “more convenient.”

Pass your heritage on and teach your children how to cook.