Mercury Food and Wine articles No.5

My January 2011 article.

Romance, Memory and Trust.

As a farmer I have always been interested in the relationship between growing plants and husbanding animals with the experience of enjoying  good food. I recently came across an essay by Organic Farmer, Fred Kirschenmann, that introduced me to some interesting concepts.

Essentially enjoying good food is more than what is presented to you on your plate. He quotes a CEO of a major American food distributor who regarded the experience of good eating as composed of three values, romance, memory and trust.

Romance covers the questions of who grew the food? Where was it grown and how was it grown? It is about the knowledge of how the food was farmed. Were the animals well treated? Has care been taken of the environment? Were no toxins used?

Memory refers to food that is so good we remember it  and wish for it again.

Trust is about the customers access to information and the chain of relationships all the way back to the farmer.

Kirschenmann adds two more values, intimacy and affordability. Intimacy is the direct knowledge of the farmer, the people behind the food. This implies local food. Part of the farmers market experience is getting to know the producers personally. Affordability does not mean cheap. It means food that is accessible to all. It means we can teach our children about good food and good eating.

What this is about is the story of good food. No longer are we content with food as an anonymous commodity. More of us are recognising that the quality of the food on our plate goes back much further than just the kitchen. There is a story to every ingredient on your plate.

Kirschenmann also refers to respect as a part of good eating. We need to respect and honour what we eat. The farmers who grew it, the animals and plants that we eat, the land and the soil, the processors and chefs who prepare it, and those who serve and present it.

If we eat with these values in mind we will ensure through the act of enjoying our food that we sustain a value chain that will ensure that the land and soil are farmed sustainably. That the biodiversity on the land is protected. That farm animals are respected and treated humanely. All the persons involved in growing, packing, transporting and preparing food are treated fairly. And at the end that we have on our plates stunning, healthful and delicious food.

Fred Kirschenmann  Pleasure and Process: A Recipe for Good Eating     http://www.ecoliteracy.org/essays/

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About Rob Symons

My name is Rob Symons. I live in Pietermaritzburg, kwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. MuthiMuthi is my Zulu nickname which means tall tree. I am an Organic Farmer and an environmentalist. I live and work on Broadleaze Farm in the Mkondeni valley on the eastern outskirts of Pietermaritzburg.
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