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September 3, 2009

This Wonderful Life: A harvest that’s good for the soul


The common ingredient simmering through all of these books (plus Mark Bittman’s ``Food Matters,’’ Marion Nestle’s ``What to Eat,’’ Carlo Petrini’s ``Slow Food Nation’’ and many others) is the notion that we have ventured too far away from the source of our food and that factory-produced food is bad for our bodies, bad for the environment and bad for the local economies. It may also be bad for our souls.

In his book ``Anger,’’ Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh asserts that the first step toward cooling the rampant flames of anger in our lives and our society is to consume food that was created without violence.

He asks, in essence, if you think it’s physically and emotionally healthy to nourish ourselves with the suffering of others. No thanks.

That doesn’t mean being a vegetarian. But it does mean eating meat that was produced with humane, compassionate practices. But how can you know if the factory farm 2,000 miles away treats its livestock humanely?

You can’t. But you can know whether the farmer down the street treats his cows decently.

And vegetarians aren’t off the hook when it comes to consuming food created compassionately.

Who picked that juicy apple in your fruit bowl?

Was it a woman or man who earned a living wage?

Or was it a 10-year-old child who needs to skip school in harvest season because Mom and Dad’s paychecks won’t cover even the most basic living expenses?

And was the apple grown in a way that nourished the soil from which it came, or is it all red and shiny at the expense of the surrounding environment (and the health of whomever sprayed the pesticide)?

I’m glad I don’t have to rely on my own farming skills to survive the approaching winter months.

But I would much rather live in a world where communities sustained themselves, where people knew exactly where their food came from and where every dollar I spent on food supported a farmer rather than a corporate executive’s monthly bonus.

Elizabeth Trever Buchinger is what she eats. You can connect with her at www.moremindfulfamily.

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